“Follow the narrow path along the Vatolampy,” shared an elder who crossed our way downhill. Distracted by our team’s disarray, I barely listened. I should have exhibited more leadership, but climbing a hill higher than Analamanga’s Town of the Thousand Citadel didn’t excite me. I didn’t appreciate the selfish thrill the peak inspired in some, but perhaps that’s what it takes to grasp a fleeting sense of empowerment. The trail was one of the most challenging physical feats I had faced in two decades. Due to its altitude, Talata Angavo remains one of the most enigmatic oppida of Imerina’s backcountry.

I wish Mr. Rajoharison the best for his present life and future accomplishments. He came from a place of kindness when he headed from his Saonjo fields in the valley back to the summit to where he works as the guardian of the antenna, to help us. Initially, the guardian seemed worried seeing our group of stubborn daredevils. I sensed his anxiety as he watched one of us survey the doany or see some of us point at the fasana—he must have muttered at our disrespect. But then I saw a change in his wise eyes, and he began asking questions we, as visitors and strangers, couldn’t all answer. I felt his eagerness to share more, and when he proposed a longer stay, I knew there would be secrets and facts to uncover. Who knows what mysteries the spirits protecting this land might allow us to unravel? We had only learned from books and hearsay, and the site’s immensity and power left us with assumptions.

For now, I carry the best memory of a lifetime. The pride of being “up there” is matched only by the humility and boldness I now hold in my heart when I think about the challenges ahead. This is but one lifetime among many. I felt privileged to be in this seldom-visited place, as the guardian had mentioned.

I took a rapid 360° panoramic view from a rock in the heart of the Kianja naturally surrounded by stones. I didn’t move and sat there for an hour or less, forgetting the hassle of reaching the summit and embracing the present moment. Living in the now, I felt grateful for the love and wonders passed down by former generations and cherished by those I hold dear.

From the day I decided to witness and experience the wonders of the old Ntaolo heritage firsthand, I knew it would change me. And it did. This is what makes everything magical in Madagascar—the power of kindness among strangers, sharing advice and pieces of ohabolana for good omen.

Photo by Talissa Le Breton

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