Antsirabe to Morondava via Tsiribihina River
01.07.2007 - 11.07.2007 30 °C
Well, I have arrived safely in Morondava on the west coast and not quite sure where to start!
Ok, from the beginning but leaving out the boring bits!
Travelled overland to a crazy town west of Tana with a Swiss and an Italian couple. Swiss spoke English,
Italians spoke little English and a little French so that was a bit difficult, but the guide managed to converse in
all three. Stayed overnight there then headed for the canoes the next morning after the delights of registering
at the police station, a dirty shack with posters of wanted errant pousse pousse drivers. They were delighted
at the arrival of 'the swiss bank'!
The canoes or pirogues known locally are the dug out kind, rucksacks are wedged in to use as back rests, with
matting over the top, 3 to a canoe plus two chickens. Those of you with me on the Okavango will know what I mean.
This was a similar trip but not quite so romantic with the tin mugs of white wine, the crystal clear waters of the
delta and the reeds brushing your face. This was more a bottle of water, river half a mile wide, red with the silt
and views accross the mountains. However, the soil here is loaded with quartz so the sand is like gold dust and
the river shimmers. Bathing in it leaves you looking like you have gone overboard with the glitter dust!
It really was quite amazing, especially when the mountains got closer and we were back in Raiders of lost ark
country, towering cliffs each side, erosion leaving deep caves and other geological descriptions of which I cannot
think. Egrets precariously perched on the cliff face and malachite kingfishers showing off their aerobatic expertise
above us, so fast that I never did get a photo of them, emerald green above and amber underneath, beautiful.
We camped at night on the sand banks and watched the sun go down with river chilled beer and rum while
our guide knocked up such culinary delights as zebu with ginger with sauteed vegetables followed by flambeed bananas.
Thought we were going to have chicken didnt you!! Nope, we fed the chickens and kept them comfortable but alas,
they were supposed to be for dinner. The tourists never like to eat the chickens and usually end up buying some fish.
Day two and we drifted along in the heat to a beautiful waterfall where we immersed our hot, tired and dusty red
bodies in the cool turquoise waters below. My first time under a waterfall, it was heaven!
A long afternoon rowing, lemur watching, sleeping and we stop on the bank by a village. As usual, hoards of
screaming kids shouting 'Vosa, vosa' Malagasy for white tourist, yes, like Mzungu in Swahili, disturbing our tranquility.
Our guide wants to buy fish for our dinner. A unanimous.... bollocks, kill the chickens! Well, they would have been eaten
anyway so why prolong their agony tied up on a boat. We just asked that we do not witness their deaths and we were
assured that it would be quick. With the addition of a coconut sauce, boy, that chicken tasted good!
One more long day on the river, the peace marred only with our oarsmans constant whistling and spitting ( the
Malagasy spit a lot;;;yeuch!). Luckily I took my MP3 player and so was seranaded by Robbie Williams and Vivaldi.
We were then taken by ox cart to our hotel.
Imagine if you will, two large zebu attatched to a wooden box with metal wheels. In a convoy of four of these things,
sitting astride our luggage we trundle off for 4km of mud, streams, low branches, screams of 'Vosa' accompanied
by hysterical laughter from them and us as we battled to stay on top as the zebu galloped, yes, galloped along
the path. At one point the river was waist deep so the luggage was suspended over ropes whilst we perched on
the cart sides clinging on for dear life.
The only casualty were my Gucci sunglasses bought for 3 quid in a Tana market. Yes of course they were genuine!
Problem was they were glass and managed to smash in my shorts pocket. I was lucky not to suffer severe lacerations
Our 'hotel' was local reed huts with long drop toilets and bucket showers. Think I have described these showers before.
Strip off behind a curtain and throw a bucket of river water over yourself, emerging dirtier than before, but refreshed!
Following day (still with me?) we set off in 4WD for the 110km over non existant road to Parc National de Tsingy.
It takes nine hours including short lunch stop and two ferries. 'Ferries' consist of two boats strapped together with
a few planks of wood on top and an outboard engine. Three landrovers scrabble aboard by way of a couple of sandmats;
Hey, it works. We arrive at our campsite at the onset of darkness and put up our tents. Luckily several bars around
so cold beer!
Next day we head off to the 'Big tingy'. This is bigger than that at L'Ankerana, a lot bigger. I start worrying when I am
strapped into a harness. Memories of Bungee jumping come flooding back. it was far worse than I imagined. Think after the
bunjee I have developed vertigo or something, I was bloody terrified. Scrambling, mountaineer style up the jagged rocks then
descending via narrow ladders, precariously placed rock 'steps' to deep and narrow caves, bent double then tummy suck in
tight ravines. It was horrible. But a case of no turning back. I have to admit though that the views were spectacular
but this time I did not grizzle over the splendour of it, just the fear of going back down again. I was pathetic!
It didnt help that the guides were useless either. We stopped for lunch in a cave so I went off to explore. It is 'Fady' (taboo)
to pee, smoke, swear or shout in the tsingy for fear of invoking the wrath of the ancesters that died there.
I found myself a nice little cavern, said bollocks quietly to the ancesters and had a fag. Far from being struck down, I saw the
elusive 'giant jumping rat' and some pretty impressive stalegtites. Think the ancestors felt sorry for me!
Feeling better, I bounded over the last of the bastard tsingy and trotted back to the car.
Today, I still cannot walk properly. I must have used muscles that I never knew existed. Muscles I think that
even God did not intend for me to have. I am in dire agony! My pride is also in tatters after I am informed that last week
a nine year old boy quite happily did the treck. I didnt ask the 70 year old man if he did it.
Next day we visited the Avenue de Baobabs, group of big fat bald trees that look pretty impressive when the sun goes down.
Ok, so it was fabulous, trees towering above us, glowing pink in the descending sun, mirrored in the
water lily filled lake next to them. Children gave us lilies for our hair and we all wore cheesy grins.
We are now all safely esconsed in our beachside bungalows in Morandava. I kid you not, I step out of my beautifully
decorated blue and white bungalow straight onto the beach. I even have a proper shower with hot water, a loo and
toilet paper. Bliss!
Tooooo much luxury!
I had intended to fly to Toliara from here but have been talked into doing an 8 day boat journey by a couple of
french canadian nutters!
We leave at 0200 tomorrow morning, board the large wooden sail boat and trust in the weather to get us to
Morombe in three or four days time, stopping at a couple of villages on the way to sleep on the beach, buy
fish and cook our dinner over a fire.
We then get a small pirogue with sails to take us the next three to four days to Toliara. This time however
we pass a huge coral reef where we can go swimming and snorkling etc.
We have bought a large bottle of rum, I think we may need it.
Well, why take an hours flight when you can have an eight day adventure????? Huh??????
The captain speaks no english or french and between us three, all we can say in malagasy is
thank you very much and goodbye. Hah!!!!
Oh God help me.....watch this space! All I can say is, when I get to Toliara, I want the beach 'inside' my hotel room!
Speak to you all in a week or so....or so....