Saturday 7 September. Today is cloudy and cold, 16C. I was a bit optimistic about shorts. After a two hour drive we arrive in a small village. A local guide explains about the hike and the local villages. We follow the dirt road into the country side. Not long and many children come out to welcome us. Posing for the picture and laughing out loud when they see them selfs. Traditional houses, two stories high with grass roofs and wooden window frames with shutters. The hike takes us into the rice fields and the crops they grow, like zucchini, beans, spinach and cassava. More children and photo opportunities. After hours we arrive in a small village where people celebrate. Two small boys of about 3 years old became men. The boys don’t look happy, being snipped. The toys as a gift don’t change this. The family invites us at home and have a meal. Several speeches by the house owner are part of the tradition as well. After lunch a few hours walk to the next village to take the bus again and go for Fianarntsoa. A big town in the mountains. Stay at La Rieze. Nice rooms with a view on the valley.
Sunday is windy and drizzling. Temperature is around 15°C, cold. Follow the NR7 to the south and stop to take some pictures of the astounding scenery. Granite mountains and grass fields. At one of the granite rocks or actually three of them, we stop. Meet the guides and go on foot. Two Ringtail Makis, are the first spot. Very cool. Then a chameleon. A bit further a group of Makis is hanging out in the trees. Hard to take good pictures, but beautiful to see. One has a little one on the back. So now and then the youngster looks around. Follow the Maki to the lake and it’s posing for us on a big rock, eat some clay (to neutralize their poisonous main food) and is off into the woods again. We start a walk into the mountains and the Maki are now performing on the ground. A small part of us goes for the walk. The hike leads through the granite rocks to a nice viewpoint. Plants, flowers and at some point we see old tombs into the steep mountain cliffs. In the afternoon the scenery is amazing. We’re in the highlands now and it could be Scotland if it was not for the rice fields in the valley. Beautiful. In Ambaratra we walk through town. Hundreds of people along the road to stare at us. More photo moments and after the impressive mountains the NR7 goes into the plains. Endless grass and in the distance some mountains. The red sky of the sunset makes it even more dramatic.
Monday a short drive into the countryside. From the resort we see mountains and that’s where we go. The minivan stops at the parking spot and instantly many children arrive to sell some clay animals they painted. The local guide takes us into the mountains. We see chameleons and some strange bugs, interesting plants and flowers and hike uphill. Beautiful views of the valley and some tombs at the cliffs. We look at some sticky bushes. Nothing to see, look again and then walking sticks. Quite big as well. Up to 20 cm. They blend in so well. The guide finds us a small scorpion under a rock and we move on. On top of the mountain range another view at another valley. Amazing. See an Elephant’s Foot plant flowering and the hike continues. Down into the valley a small waterfall and a cold pool to dip in. Further to the North, through the waving grass. Both sides of the valley high cliffs. Wow. After several hours we reach a forest. A campsite with a lot of Ringtail Maki. They come for the food and if possible to steal it. A Crowned Sifaka, white with a black head, shows up. After lunch the hike goes into the canyon. See the blue and black pool and several small waterfalls. The hike is beautiful, directly next to the stream and sometimes quite challenging. Back the same way and at the campsite we spot more maki and colourful birds, like the Paradise Flycatcher.
Tuesday, a very early start, 3:30 h we leave and it’s still dark. No one on the road. In this part of the country more villages with just wooden stick huts with a grass roof. Small, like 2 by 3 and 2 m high. No window, just a hole as a door. Sometimes with a piece of cloth as door. More waving children and so now and then a small city. People walking on the street and going to the market. At dawn and at the market someone has slaughtered a goat and is burning the hairs of along the road. Carts with big stocks of stuff are moved through the city. Huts between the cactus and under trees in the middle of nowhere. This part is really poor. We have breakfast in a small village at the bus stop. And off we go again, to catch the boat. We arrive at the harbour of Toliara. But the major has a propaganda parade and we’re stuck. The other tourists are already waiting for an hour when the Zebu carts bring us to the speed boat. One and half hour later we’re at the resort in Anakao. A lovely resort at the beach, nice cabins and nice views. Relax a bit, have lunch and a swim. I take the local boat to Nosy Ve with Ramona and Kevin. On the island birds. Walk on the beach back to the boat. The boat leaves and the engine is not running anymore. The skipper paddles to another boat with divers. This captain has the tools to fix the engine and after an hour we’re on the way again. But not to the resort. With the last drops of fuel we get to the fisher village and fill up for the last kilometre.
Wednesday the 4W-drive takes us at 7 h to the south. 2 hours of driving through loose sand. Dakar style, but much slower. Cool. See villages with huts and some white fancy schools. The French run them and parents has just 3000 ariary (75 ct) to pay per month. More children and after 2 hours we get to the park Farihy Tsimanampetsotsa. The guide steps into the car and now we’re in the park. An hour drive to the first hiking spot. Into the dry trees. We see a lot of baobabs. Very old ones, 800 to 3000 years old. Big ones. Many different species and baobab look-a-likes. Many birds and in the cave white blind fishes. After a 3 hour walk under the sun we’re back at the car and drive further into the park. Small sandy roads through dry bushes. Beautiful. At the lake we see flamingoes and other birds. Uphill they made a viewpoint and it’s a beautiful spot to see the light blue lake. Very cool.
Thursday 5:30 am de boat leaves to Toliara. The sea is calm and it’s barely light. A lot of sailing boats go out into the ocean. Near the harbour of Toliara a thousand small sails are going on to the sea. Impressive sight. One boat has a sail with half of it made from a Grimbergen flag. Everything is used. So many different sails here. We arrive in the harbour and the tide is quite low. So the zebu carts race for costumers. A big discussion between two cart drivers (mostly young boys). Apparently one was cheating. The domestic flight is cancelled for today. So an extra day in paradise. The hotel Auberge de la Table is a very nice resort. Pool, fancy restaurant, a bungalow with wifi and seats outside. A visit to the Arboretum d’Antsokay. A botanic garden with plants of this part of Madagascar, including some baobabs, cactus, etc. is part of the resort. I see them all and a few lizards, a striped snake, Giant Coua, Madagascar Magpie-robins and radiated turtles. At dusk part two. Near the entrance of the park we see mouse lemurs. Small and fast. Many chameleons, a small snake and big head geckos. Tomorrow the flight back home. This trip ends here.