22-Jan-2006 Réunion to Madagascar
The flight to Antananarivo (say that ten times, quickly), Madagascar, or Tana for short, was uneventful. I sat next to a Frenchman who works for an Emerald mining company; he's lived there for 8.5 years and loves it. He gave us a few recommendations. As we were flying into Tana, we saw a very odd cloud pattern, which might have been what they call Cyclones, basically monsoons - it's the season for them. Tana was reasonably cool; it is at about 1000 meters altitude. We were met at the airport by a driver who then pitched his company's touring services which we may use. We drove through the countryside to our very cute hotel, the Residence Lapasoa. Along the way we saw fields with rice, many people walking, storks (this is where they go for the northern Winter), and many old Renault 4 cars. This excited Roswitha because a Renault 4 was her first car.
|Au Revoir á La Réunion||...and its fine food (which this was not)|
|A cyclone brewing?|
|A village||On the outskirts of Tana|
|Antananarivo||Look! It's a Renault 4!|
|Crevettes, Fillet de Zebu|
It was time to get serious about booking a trip. We had spoken yesterday with Patrick, who runs the company that picked us up (Tanala Horizon Tours), and his proposed tour sounded attractive. (Although we normally prefer to do this stuff on our own, Madagascar is foreign enough - and we are illiterate enough - that we decided to hire a car and driver.) But, we wanted comparisons, so we set out after breakfast to check to see if we'd gotten internet replies (no), and to hit a few other agencies. The first one was in walking distance, except that it was not there. The next one was in the Grill la Rova, right near the queen's burned-out palace. Except that the grill was closed until April. We finally did find one open, and got descriptions and prices, which were pretty similar to what we'd gotten from Patrick, so we decided to go with him.
|French breakfast in the Lapasoa||Feeling watched?|
|Almost the same color as Roswitha's||Headed to a non-existent travel outfit|
|800,000 Ariary, about US$400|
|Rova palace sits on the highest hill|
|Closed for repairs||Repair is way behind schedule||It's pretty much gutted|
|Jumble of houses||Church of the martyrs, where Christians were thrown from cliffs|
|A meat market||This one specializes in organ meats|
|The lake below||Rambling stairs||Houses built from rich, red earth|
|Everyone wants to be a tourguide||Views everywhere|
|Some have fallen|
|Greek-style structure||The museum is on the next peak north of the Rova|
|National Museum, originally the Prime Minister's Palace (built 1892)|
|Inside the museum|
|La trone||Ranavalona I and her
|Models of houses from around the country|
|Inside an earthen Tana house||Carvings on windows & fire pit||Column detail|
|Grande Sur route (red dots are where we stayed each night)|
|Lunch at a snack bar||Chinese chicken soup, fried rice, cheese & egg sandwich|
|Checking in||A church over the city center|
|Coconut chicken, duck confit with ginger||Ms. Salt & Mr. Pepper check out dessert|
24-Jan-2006 Madagascar - Fly to Ifaty
During breakfast, a cleaning lady was cleaning up the restaurant. She had a half coconut shell on the floor, and she kept kicking it around to keep it with her as she swept and wiped down the seats. What could it be for? Was it a marker of where she was? Or a dust pan? Was it some sort of mystic talisman? Was it a pet? Suddenly, she put one foot on it, and started doing a rhythmic dance as she scrubbed the floor with it - it was a dry mop!
Our flight was not scheduled until 2 PM, so we wandered down to the lake to see the flower market. A group of Pompiers (firemen) were clearing trees on the side of the hill, and one of them was interested to know who we were and where we were going, so we chatted a bit. The west side of the lake seems to be where the mechanics hang out, so there was lots of banging and welding. Next to them are the barber stalls; most called out to us to cut our hair, and then laughed. We continued on around the lake and saw various impromptu vendors selling a handful of items that often made no sense together. A woman with several children was selling kids' nutritional biscuits - it makes sense: she either had a surplus or could use them if she could not sell them. Lots of people were just hanging out, and were happy to be entertained by two velazy carrying big cameras. The flower market was not there, but there were several cranes in the water to distract us. So, we headed back to the hotel, stopping at Le Sud restaurant for a zebu steak with green pepper sauce (again) and a green salad - probably our last chance for one since washing in the countryside is risky. Both were tasty, and the restaurant was neatly designed as a desert theme.
|Down by the lake|
|Museum and Rova from down below||French WWI Monument in the center of lake Anosy|
|Barber row||Need a haircut?|
|Nap time||But not for everyone|
|Snowy egrets in the lake|
|One arriving, one leaving|
After a short ride to the airport through stork-infested rice paddies, and a confusing and longer-than-expected wait to board our MadAir flight ("mora-mora" means slowly-slowly, or more accurately, patience), plus no X-ray machine or metal detector before getting on board, we flew to Toliara by way of Port Dauphin.
|Scott & the Tanala Horizon boys|
|View out the window||MadAir snackbread, cheese, water||More of Madagascar|
Our driver, Patrick (not to be confused with the tour agency guy), drove us into Toliara in his Renault 4, and pulled into a gas station. "You pay for gas," he said. I made it clear that this was part of his fee, and paid 20K for his tank and an extra can. We then headed off into a traffic jumble of pedestrians, pousse-pousse rickshaws with big bicycle wheels, zebu carts, bicycles, Renault 4s, trucks, taxi-brousses (sort of a regional bus service, always overloaded with people and luggage), and 4x4s. Much honking ensued. The traffic thinned out as we hit the dirt road. Or, more accurately, the dirt and stone road. Tourguide Patrick had said that they needed enough time after the rains to put dirt on the road to make it driveable, and we soon saw what he meant; a work crew was spreading red sand over the very rough road surface to make it smoother driving. It would last, no doubt, until the next big rain. Driver Patrick slalomed back and forth across the road trying to find the path which would rattle his car the least. He avoided zebu carts and honked at just about everything else. The road would smooth out for a while, and then become a string of craters. Some parts had been paved at some point in the past, although that now just added to the bounce. It was just like the dune bashing in the UAE, but without the expensive 4WD, but with the possibility of a permanent breakdown, and much cheaper. Every 2 km or so, a policeman jumped out of a hut and demanded paperwork. Patrick pretty much just yelled at them and drove on. After a bone-jarring 1.5 hours, we pulled into the Vovo Telo, our hotel on the beach in Ifaty. "Une cadeau," requested Patrick as I paid him his 40K.
After a bit of name confusion, we checked into our bungalow, but did not find it to our liking. They had a bigger one with a fan (it was hot) available (for 70K AR instead of 50K), so we moved into that one. We threw on our swimsuits and went into the flat, calm water (Ifaty is protected by a reef, so it is flat and almost walkable almost 3 km out), only to discover that it was almost as warm as the air, and not the least bit refreshing. So, we instead took a cold shower.
|Ifaty sunset in front of the Vovo Telo|
|Happy hour, with taro chips||Cucumber salad, Pizza, something else|
|Lemon crepe and Mousse aux chocolat||We even saw a green flash|
|Thatched, porous bungalow||Note the zebu horn towel hangers|
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How was the ride to Isalo? (Part 2)
On to Mauritius
On to Mauritius