Diego Suarez to Ankarana
19.06.2007 - 27.06.2007 25 °C
Oh my goodness I hardly know where to start!
Ok So I met an American couple in Diego who agreed to let me come on the excursion to L'Ankerana with them, not sure if I have told you this bit already.
Anyway we all met up to go to the three bays around Diego which was quite superb and Tyler and Cassie were great (and I am not just saying that cos they are included in the email!!!), not your usual americans but they live in the Marshall Islands, dont like Bush and like beer. Perfect!
So I wont bore you with the beaches even though they were spectacular cos I have so much more to tell you!
I dont know if you knew already but having just finished a book about a female doctor who went to Ankarana on an expedition, I just had to see this place which is why I went to so much trouble to get there.
Well, the place lived up to expectations and more.
We arrived after a short 2 hour drive from Diego, staying in very basic huts, just a bed, no electricity and minimal water. Showering consists of stripping off in a cupboard and throwing a mug of water over yourself!
That afternoon we went to see the 'Petite Tsingy'. Hard to explain if you have never seen it, pinnacles of limestone, sharp as razors. Much more impressive than I expected and we walked accross it, yup, there is me in a pair of shorts and my crocs tentatively making my way accross this evil terrain, honest, if you slipped it would be serious swear words, incredible pain, air lift, stitches and plastic surgery! But the crocs didnt fail me!
On route we had a brief glimpse of a crowned lemur but even he was not as spectacular as this Tsingy stuff. It was awesome, with weird baobabs, endemic just to Madagascar, like great splodges on the landscape crawling out of the limestone. From the viewpoint we could see the forests, caves and voilcanic flows beneath us.
We descended down, and down till we were approaching the caves. Honest to goodness I expected Harrison Ford to be there to meet us with the Lost Ark, it was incredible. These great gaping caves surrounded by the limestone cliffs adorned by vines and creepers, we were like lemurs ourselves descending, swinging from one tree to the next, lowering ourselves down.
We then entered the first cave,where the small bats were. I was terribly brave and went all the way in! it was gihuge! Bats flying everywhere, disturbed by our torches. There were even some old bones in there, remnants of the ancestors who hid there from the bloody french (now wouldnt we all like a cave to hide from them in!). Reemergiong it was to the big cave with the flying foxes. There was a small river running through it, opaque green, really eerie. The banks were quite steep and my feet were already sweating so didnt want to slip down into the dark river so I stayed outside. Actually I was dying for a piss and it is 'Fady' (taboo) to piss in the caves, but I admit, I relieved myself behind a rock and whispered apologies to the ancestors, I am sure they understood and probably pissed there themselves. Hah! Didnt know that did you C and T!!
The following day we went trudging off into the forest. At the point when I was thinking, OK, had enough now!, we saw a pair of Sanfords Lemurs, beautiful with their white collars bounding around ther trees. Happier now we carried on up,and up, and up... to the top of a hill with a 360 degree view. And there, before me, were the Grande Tsingy. Miles of miles of Tsingy hundreds of feet high, sheltering its pockets of forests and troops of lemurs. It was breathtaking. I had only ever seen small snippets on TV and a picture on a postcard of this stuff and there it was in all its glory rtight in front of me. I sat down and cried, much to the amusement of our guide, no one has ever cried looking at the tsingy before! But I was utterly gobsmacked and realised at that point, right there and then, what a bloody lucky individual I am. I may be poor as hell and a prime candidate for bankruptcy at the moment, but my goodness, what amazing experiences I have had. I have a wealth of memories that no one can ever take from me. This one was right up there with Maccu Piccu and Dune 17, it even topped the pyramids, the delta and all that other stuff. Stunning.
Ok, enough adjectives. That afternoon it just kept getting better, we came accross a tiny Lepilemur in its tree hollow, the most adorable creature ever to walk on this earth. Then, passing through, over and under more tsingy, we got up close and personal to the big stuff.
We sat, precariously on top of the rocks looking over it it as far as the horizon as the sun went down. Our guide, Angelda had joked on the way there that I was going to cry again when I saw this, but even my tear ducts were stunned.
Finally tearing ourselves away it was back through the forest, wonderfuil in the semi darkness, a pair of lemurs following us and calling in the trees. As darkness fell we got to our final treat. A dry riverbed at the point where, during the rainy season three rivers join to cascade down a hole a good 80 feet in diameter to
join the underwater river. More Raiders of the Lost Ark stuff! This hole was deep deep! I am sorely tempted to return in the rainy season just to see the spectacle of this massive whirlpool in the middle of this crazy forest.
There was so much more too, but I dont have the time to relay everything! Suffice to say we saw four lemur species, evidence of Aye Aye and had the most fantastic time all round.
Beer all round that night!
Next morning previous nights dinner rumblin, rushed to the loo accross the field. Yes, there is also a loo in a cupboard, no seat or water, but a loo and paper. You have to flush using a bucket from the well.
Anyway, just as I was going in with the first bucket, to my horror I thought I had seriously misjudged my squatting position as I looked upon this splodge on the rim. Torch revealed it to be a small brown tree frog, who made a leaf of faith into the bowl to dodge my bucket! Noooo! Dare not contemplate the consequences of him making another leap and ending up in the digested remains of bean and zebu stew, managed to grab him mid leap and saved from the noxious goings on below! Hah!!!
The next day welLeft the reserve and I was dropped at the next town to catch a bus to Mahajunga where I have decided to make a detour to visit another reserve...solo! Feeling all adventurous now! Said goodbyes to Cassie and Tyler? I shall actually miss those guys!
This was at 0830 ish. Bus due to leave at 1400. Luckily it was independance day so lots of processions going on and the whole town was alive. peering over the sea of children (actually made one cry... never seen a white woman before.. or maybe the faces I was pulling, dunno. Anyway, a young lad starts to speak to me in his broken English, ended up parading me in front of everyone he knew that spoke even just two words of English, dragged me off to the river to see where the great battle was fought which was now filled with large penised males bathing themselves. A case of up yours Ramena???
We then joined his other friend whose english was really quite good and I spent the afternoon being paraded around the streets. Michels, the second guy was really very sweet, gave me his necklace, almost cried when I revealed a photo of his home town on nosy be and I think we shall remain friends. He is only 20 bless him and desperate to get out of Mad and to France to study. Mad!
Bus finally left at 1600. At some point I lost my phone, no idea what hapenned, buit determined not going to let it get to me, even though it harbours the only photo of me in front of the pyramids, the theme tune to madagascar and the video clip of the gazelle running into a tree. No matter.
It was a bloody long journey. Road fine for a while then disintegrated so much that it could not longer be called a road. Gullys 3 feet deep; Eventually arrived at 0630 where I had to change buses. The next 140km took 3 hours. I turned up at a hotel filthy dirty having not had a proper shower for three days, covered from head to foot in red dust, tired and hungry.
Hotel cheap but fab. En suite with hot water, even a bidet! TV and verandah. Immediately washed all my clothes, my crocs, me. Left the bathroom all muddy and went into town.
Have booked my buses to get me to the reserve tomorrow plus one to Tana on Saturday evening. Another overnight drive. Ugh!
There is so much more but really have to go and buy a new phone plus the luchtime beer is wanting out. So, shall speak to you all in a few days with my trials and tribulations of the Parc National d'Ankaranfantsika and the journey to Antananarivo.