Jack's travelblog

Salama Vazaha, Welcome in Madagascar

Sunday 1 September. Two weeks Madagascar. First stop is in the city center of Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Visit the old train station and have a walk through town. Some colonial buildings, a fenced park and taxis from another century. The streets are quite empty and just some baggers. Especially children asking for candy or money. First stop is a viewing point. After lunch a kind of zoo with chameleons, frogs, geckos, snakes and one crocodile. Amazing these chameleons. So many different big and small ones. Easy to take pictures, when you spot them. Luckily the local guide points them out. Some tomato frogs show their bright colors and some tiny ones complete the frog show. The craziest geckos are shown, looking like leaves or just like a branch. Astounding. A snake with a nose like a leaf. All animals living on Madagascar. Impressive. A bit more driving on winding roads before we’re at the campsite with nice cabins and pool. Tonight we go to Andasiba park and see the nightlife. Several species of lemur show up. They can be so loud calling each other. A leaf tail gecko and a small chameleon near the parking are our first encounters. A butterfly in the form of a leaf and small frogs. In the forest more cameleons. Quite cool.

Monday, a short drive brings us to the starting point of Andasiba-Mantadia National Park. A ranger and two guides go with us into the park. Start with a chameleon, a nice yellow bird and a black robin. But then lemurs. They’re as loud as beautiful. Sometimes hard to take a picture high up in the trees against the bright sky. After 3,5 h hiking we see two Connard Night Jahr birds on the ground, looking one bird with two heads. And just before leaving the park a giraffe neck weaver. Strange creature. Have lunch along the road and go to the next park. Visit Lemur Island at Vakona. Some lemurs are waiting for us and climb on top of you. Good fun. Of course, they just do it for the banana of the guide. See bamboo lemur and others. At one moment I spot small creature next to the path. It’s a Tenrac, a little yellow spiked one. A Lowland Streaked Tenrac. So cool.

Tuesday, a long drive. Today we have to drive back to Antananarivo first to go to the south. A four hour drive before we’re back where we started. Along the road local life. Farmers in the rice fields, plowing with oxes, planting rice and letting water flow on the fields. The road is bumpy because of the many ditches and holes. People walking, cycle, tuk-tuks, trucks, busses, all on the small road. Using the horn is a must. Taking over trucks at any possibility or every time there seems to be a possibility. The landscape is beautiful, although at this part of the country most trees have been cut down. After lunch we stop at a factory, a courtyard, where they melt aluminum to make pans and small objects. We see the whole process. The air is full of aluminum dust and smoke. Not very healthy. But of course the children can play here as well. On the local market they sell meat with a lot of flies on it. Let’s skip the meat here. At 18 h we arrive in Antsirabe, a city with more than 300.000 people and a lot of factories. The working day is over so everyone is on the street. Basically the street is a market, with a lot of traffic. Crazy. We drive a bit further to check-in at Residence Madelief. A quite beautiful resort south of town. The resort is run by a Belgium lady, explains the Dutch text in the bathroom. We have a big dinner and I watch the Milky Way.

Wednesday. The waiters bring out every egg one by one. Strange, like the fruit salade with avocado. Then on the road again. Visit a workshop in town where they make miniature bicycles of cans. Impressive. See how they make table cloth and a shop at the end. Next door is the Zebu, the cow with the humpback, horn shop. They explain the process and show it. More souvenirs. Out of town the road meanders through the countryside. Nice small villages and rice fields. We stop at a broken bridge that was destroyed 20 years ago because of an internal war. More pictures of people walking along the road. We leave the main road to have lunch in Sandrandahy. The very windy road leads along Zebu herds and people coming back from the week market in town. We have a big lunch with lots of vegetables, rice and zebu. The house is like a farm in town. After lunch a short walk to the silk factory. The ladies explain about the local silk. It’s more like cotton than the Chinese silk. They cook the shell for a week and then spin strings of it. The last lady shows how to weave. Last bit of driving today is back on the bumpy road, waving to all people and stay the night at Ambositra.

Thursday. Breakfast and a small walk to the monastery to buy some cheese. Should be the best in the country. Let’s try. A walking tour into town. A branch marks the big hole on the junction and for us the sign to go right. Visit some wood shops. Children are waving and shouting Vazaha Vazaha (white men). Route N7 again to the south. In Ivato we visit a local week market. Colorful and crowded. Still a lot of locals are not used to white people. Lots of food, small fishes and vegetables, colourful cloth, medicine and so on. On the road endless walking people, this is the place to be. Take some more pictures and then a young lady wants a picture with her and me on her mobile. It the other way around. But fun. More driving and lunch Ambohimahasoa in a hoteli, a restaurant, not a hotel. Not much further we leave the N7 for the N45. An even smaller road to the east into the mountains. Beautiful views and a waterfall in the tropical rainforest. We’re in Ranomafana National Park. Stay at Chez Gaspard in Ranomafana. Nice lodges again. This evening we visit the park and walk along the main road to spot the mouse lemur. A cute tiny one and a lot of chameleons. Very small till a decent size.

Friday. Take a hot shower and go for breakfast. Back to the entrance of the park. The guide and spotter of yesterday will lead us. First spots are other groups along the path. Lemurs in the top of the trees. The golden bamboo lemur and the greater bamboo lemur. See some geckos and the leaf tail gecko in the wild. A paradise flycatcher, black with a long tail and a brownish one. A nice 4 hour hike in the rainforest. Have lunch in town and back to the national park. Now a small hike to spot gecko, the giraffe neck weaver (bug) and a robin. Back at the hotel, we have a walk into the small town. It’s Friday and the girls are ready for the weekend. All dressed up. At the other side of the river the hotsprings are. A pool for the lucky ones and at the other side of the road the local ladies and their children in a small pool. The suspension bridge is the main attraction into. Doing the funny walk.


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