Ambalavao is a town about 50 km away from Fianarantsoa on the edge of the southern highlands. It is located directly on the RN7 and has about 35,000 inhabitants. A landmark of the city is the Zebu (humpback cattle), which can be traced back to Madagascar’s largest cattle market. People from all regions of the country bring their zebus here for sale and purchase. Some people, especially from the south, walk hundreds of kilometres to get good prices for their cattle.
The big zebu market takes place every Wednesday. Thousands of cattle and people gather for the big event. Ambalavao has its own large hill on the outskirts of the city with a roughly fenced area. At the edge are some small houses, into which interested buyers and salesmen can withdraw to negotiate about the zebus. Basically there is a chaotic order on the humpy terrain. Everyone brings his zebus, registers them and then sets them up in a row. Every now and then an animal escapes and is caught again under loud screaming and yelling. If you want to come here at noon, you should be in good physical condition, because you have to jump away from one or the other zebu.
The humpback cattle do not only change under keepers, in Ambalavao zebus are also bought up for the slaughterhouses of the country. The selected cattle is put into a large fence. A narrow corridor of logs leads to the next truck to be loaded, in which the animals are then tied up and transported to the next slaughterhouse. Catching the cattle by young men is a great spectacle for the visitors of the market, because the lassos used for this are enormously thin and like to tear. And of course it serves the show to let the bulls – there are very rarely cows among the sales animals – run again before they are finally loaded.
Zebu rodeos are also held time and again between the many trade and barter transactions, in which the young men of the city prove their courage. Who remains on the back of a young zebu bull the longest, reaps the greatest recognition. On Wednesdays you can also visit Madagascar’s largest herbal and healing market in Ambalavao. From bizarre medicinal herbs to fragrant spices you will find almost everything that Madagascar has to offer. However, if you are looking for something for certain ailments, you should visit a healer first. Because he has to assign the right procedure with the right object to the patient (or the one who is looking for happiness for love). At Ambalavao’s markets you are sure to find the right finds: Be it buttons, nuts, tree bark, various bundles of branches or pieces of shells.
In Ambalavao you can also watch the production of Antemoro paper. Only 13 km away is the Anja Community Reserve, a municipally managed protected area that is always worth a visit.
Historically, in the 19th century Ambalavao was the scene of war between the Bara, Betsileo and later Merina tribes. Today you can visit the tomb of King Rarivoarindrano.