The Brawl


05 October 2011 | NW Madagascar

When we first arrived in the Honey River Village, we walked up to the fighting ring (a 100ft radius circle with walls made up of chest high tarps) and were surprised to see not a fight, but a bunch of little kids dancing to crazy techno music. We were relieved to hear the fight would start later, so we swung over to the local bar for a few beers. After an hour, we came back and the fight was on. There was a bookie taking bets…which I think we mistook for a bouncer with a cover charge and essentially bet on nothing. Anyway, the scene was pretty interesting. The entire village fit in this little ring and stood in a circle around the fighters with a dj crankin out this wild techno and 2 skinny 19 year old guys throwing haymakers and kicks at each other. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on either of the fighters and they’d break out into a chaotic tornado of punches and kicks until one of them landed something slightly solid or one of them stumbled at which point a referee would jump in and deem one of them the winner of the round. The fights were best of three and at the end of fight the fighters would laugh and hug each other and then get mobbed by all their respective friends regardless of win or loss everyone was happy…being such a small village I don’t think they had the luxury of holding a grudge.

Now this is where it got interesting…after each fight everyone that wanted to fight would walk/dance around the middle of the circle shaking their fists in the face of everyone that they wanted to fight as they passed by in front of them…egging them into a fight until someone agreed to fight. Alex and I immediately started trying to decide if this was a good idea to join in the fun. On one side, we were thinking that there was a possibility we could really hurt these guys if we got made (this was mostly the beer talking since they were pretty tough looking guys)…on the other side, we realized there was a very low risk (again the beer talking) that they might get extremely lucky and hurt one of us. Growing up with four sisters would in most cases make me think I was ill equipped to jump in a fight, but this wild tornado style was mysteriously similar to the defenses that my sisters used…the kicker being that the hair pull was the end all in our fights and since all the fighters had buzzcuts I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up.

We decided to have another beer and make a decision…at which time the fights all ended, making the decision for us and probably for the best (although making for a fairly anticlimactic story…sorry). The dancing began and after 5 minutes we had exhausted all of our moves and we headed for the boats. Kirk cooked up the fish our great hunter, Christine, had shot and it fed all 6 of us with leftovers.

The next day we sailed for Nosy Kalakajaro which ended up being a cruisers paradise. This remote island had a tiny fishing village (~15 huts) just off a nearly white sand beach, dramatic cliffs just behind, and a perfect protected bay with crystal clear water. The first thing we did was rush to shore to see if there was a trail to hike up the backside of the mountain. After miming our intentions to one of the villagers, he yelled to a guy on a boat who immediately dove in the water swam to shore and walked past us giving a signal to follow him. For the next hour, we nearly died trying to follow these two shoeless islanders up jagged rocks to the peak. The death march was very much worth it as the view from the top was priceless. We took a few pictures and on the way down swung by the little fishing camp and were pleasantly surprised to find a bar that was perched up on a little cliff over looking the bay. We grabbed the rest of the crew and everyone headed in to enjoy a well earned sunset beer.

Since we hadn’t paid our guides anything for the leading us on the hike up the mountain, we grabbed a gift off the boat (money likely doesn’t hold much value for these subsistence fisherman). Alex had a nearly brand new cordless drill that he thought would be a great gift. I pointed out that they didn’t have power in their shacks to recharge the batteries, the plug was a US plug so even if they have access to electricity they’d need a converter, and from what I had seen, their entire shacks and boats were built without screws (wooden nails/plugs were holding everything together). Regardless, we decided it would probably have some type of trade value and was taking up too much space on the boat…if nothing else they’d have fun until the batteries went dead at which point it’d probably be something cool to sit on their coffee tables and talk about.

When we came to shore we walked up carrying the plastic case that held the drill. After staring at each other for a bit with all the rest of the villagers wondering what the heck could be in the box, I slowly opened the case and the initial smiles on the faces of the guides turned to confusing grins (but still happy looking). Alex pulled the drill out of the case and fired it up. I highly doubt they saw it as much more than a toy, but they both looked super excited to show it off to their buddies. We clamped the case over and handed it to the ~50 year old guy and he couldn’t have had a bigger smile on his face (reminded me of the priceless ecstatic look on my 4 year old nephews face when he got the lego set he had been wanting for his birthday). He promptly shook our hands, spun around, and walked off (nearly skipping) towards his hut like a happy businessman with a briefcase. I was pretty convinced walking in that this gift might be quite a dud, but I couldn’t have been more wrong and Alex couldn’t have been more right as our guides got mobbed and congratulated by the rest of the village as they showed off their cordless drill.

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