A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: JayneHol

The Beginning

26th and 27th December

sunny 35 °C

The holiday didn’t feel like it had the most promising start: a pigeon chick fell out its nest and splatted in front of us outside OR Tambo Airport. I tried to forget about this and focused instead on our Air Madagascar flight that was delayed by 2 hours, the mouth-watering chicken-or-fish meals, a few lop-sided plane bits and pieces, and 3 hours 25 minutes of toilet stench. We made it though and were greeted by a wall of thick, heavy and hot tropical air, a giant flying cockroach thing and a pretty informal and indifferent immigration system that allowed in almost 80 litres of alcohol between 7 people.

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Two of our crew opted for the comfort of Munga Be Bungalows on Nosy Be, while the rest of us decided to be slightly adventurous and head north for a few days- a mission that quickly accumulated 9 hours of transit: 3 spent waiting, 1 getting to the ferry port, 1 chugging along to the mainland on a “speedboat” that needed to transport 3 scooters, a quad bike and 5 South Africans, 1 to get 3 scooters, 1 quad bike and 5 South Africans off the boat and the last 3 spent riding up the RN6 through tropical, northern Madagascar.

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Besides 120km, a sore ass, metal fingers, hunger and a few veers off the road on the quad bike, the highlight of my day was ending my term as designated quad bike driver and hopping onto the back of Mike’s bike instead. (This also significantly sped up our journey.)

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Posted by JayneHol 10:03 Archived in Madagascar Comments (0)

To Ankarana

27th December

sunny 35 °C

From where I am now, it feels that we’re truly in Africa. We’re currently sitting at a very local tavern – Hotely – in Andilobe, roughly 120km from Ankify ferry port on the mainland.

The intention of hiring 3 scooters and quad bike was to get to Ankarana National Park by afternoon. The tired consensus was to stop here instead and skip the remaining 25km. A late start, the logistics of loading our cargo onto the “speedboat”, the speedboat’s engine failure and my slow driving may not have not worked in our favour and we were hot and knackered, so we found the only recommended “hotel” and R20 (Ar5500) got us some pretty basic, somewhat suspect rooms at Hotel de l'Ankarana.

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Admittedly, I’m humourless. I suspect this has to do with the fact that I am still absorbing my surroundings, coming to terms with being in a new place, what feels like a 50 degree wall of thick, leech-like heat, and the quad bike I drove for roughly 60km and felt quite uncomfortable driving and awkward on.

I do realise that hindsight will reveal good things. I’m still sensing the essence in a beautiful country where, finally, English is about as useless as Carolyn’s beanie and gloves that she brought with for the “chilly” mornings scootering.

While Vietnam was window-dressed and stuffed with Christmas, this place is raw. I believe this is what I have been looking for...though, perhaps not the dinner of deep-friend gypsum board dough things, Crackys and some Tsiky Naks.

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Jayne: I doubt we’ll get Diarrhoea from these.
Mike: No, if anything, they’ll clog you up.
Iain: …Sponsored by Immodium.

A while later after buying some life-saving Laughing Cow cheeses to go with the gypsum board balls:

Julian: What do you s’pose they put in these cheeses to make them last so long?
Mike: Don’t ask any questions.

Posted by JayneHol 05:55 Archived in Madagascar Tagged travel africa madagascar andilobe hotely northern_madagascar Comments (0)

Ankarana National Park

28th December 2011

sunny 35 °C

We took a leisurely 25km drive north of Andilobe to Ankarana for a guided walk to the Tsingy and through the forest.

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The pace was awkwardly slow (so the guide could bug-, creature- and lemur-spot and likely because everything in Madagascar happens slowly). I’m not sure I’m blown away by the Tsingy, I still wasn't used to the heat and stickiness and I can't appreciate snake sightings, venomous or not. But all in all it was a pleasant day, especially since it involved a safe, decent breakfast and lunch of baguettes and Laughing Cow cheeses.

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We went to another Hotely in the evening because the boys wanted proper food. The Hotely was out of food. Personally, I was thankful and didn’t care. I wasn’t eating anything other than leechies, baguettes and Laughing Cow in that town and the idea of the my man having the shits the whole night was nerve-wracking, so I informed the crew that 120km on a scooter after a night of diarrhoea might not be ideal. We were thankfully all in agreement.

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The ride to and from Andilobe was beautiful, however, I’m still contemplating what this means. It feels awkward to have a ‘privileged’ and/or distant view of rural life. I wonder if considering wood and reed huts beautiful and describing the setting as quaint, picturesque, simple and rustic is particularly fair…I doubt that the people who formed part of my aesthetically-pleasing picture consider themselves and their lives in the same way.

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Posted by JayneHol 06:04 Archived in Madagascar Tagged madagascar lemur andilobe hotely ankarana_national_park ankarana_reserve Comments (0)

Back to Nosy Be

27th December 2011

sunny 37 °C

We were told to get to the ferry in Ankify by 9:30am. This required a 5:30am wake-up to ensure this. I lie, it required a 5:30am wake up to ensure this provided I wasn’t driving. We successfully got back to Ankify in two easy hours with me on the back of Mike’s bike.

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Now for the ferry. Previously we paid roughly R1000 (AR240 000) to get 5 people, 3 bikes and a quad bike from Nosy Be to Ankify. This is probably not advised...at least taking a quad bike on a speed boat. The “Speedboat” we paid the excess for took over an hour because it ran out of speed and simply turned into a mora mora (slowly slowly) boat.

The ferry we got today took an hour and a half and cost half the first trip i.e. only a 30 minute negotiation, a 30 minute period thinking we’d lost R400, another 30 minutes being herded during new negotiations, 20 minutes watching our inconvenient luggage being carried and lifted onto the ferry, another 20 minutes waiting for other cargo (chickens, people, more people, chickens, bags, chickens in bags, food and more people - some with chickens in and out of bags) to be carted on…and then we left not having lost R400 after all. The nap took 15 until I thought I’d doze off into the water. Offload took 5 minutes. Voila!

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We’re back.

Showered, swum in 40 degree water, bee-stung, fish-of-some-sorts stung, chosen food from 2 French menus, eaten Poisson which-is-not-chicken-after-all, organized a messy mass payment and opened the first box of Woolies wine (average).

I believe they sell Namaqua wine here. I’d rather be dead, precisely because Namaqua kills you anyway, just slowly. And painfully, I might add.

That’s not important. Or interesting.

I’m finding my experience here difficult to describe. It’s a somewhat uncomfortable situation to be in, but I’ll try anyway.

We arrived at Ankify port an hour before the recommended time. I believe this was unnecessary since:

A: There are plenty boats, ferries and 'things' that are willing to take the most savvy, literate and fast passengers to the other side- chickens, pigs, quad bikes and all.
B: We only passed the real ferry at 11:30am half way across the ferry route (it was meant to be at Ankify port at 9:30am).
C: You won’t get on a ferry immediately and if you do, you’ll wait on it for ages until it is full (of chickens, pigs and Vazas' quad bikes).

While we were waiting for our bikes to be carried onto the ferry, another packed one arrived with a thousand people and many things. Like getting on, there were serious logistics getting off. Nothing happens fast. “Mora-Mora”. Anyway. There was serious commotion. Slight panic from the Vaza group. Step aside. Sweat (more). Panic. What's going on? Shouting. Jostling. Screaming. Hustling. Grabbing. Frantic. What on earth is that bag?

Perfume. Who would have thought?

It got sprayed. It got laughed at. It got celebrated. It got shared amongst a hundred people. In fact, I smelt surprisingly pleasant on the sun-baked ferry trip home.

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Posted by JayneHol 04:58 Archived in Madagascar Tagged travel madagascar ferry scooters ankify nosy-be Comments (0)

Eat. Sleep. Fish. Swim.

30th December 2011

sunny 35 °C

That’s all we do. It’s that simple and I’m quite fond of it. When we’re not doing that, we're drinking some of the 78kg of alcohol we hauled over and playing cards. Or feeling the sway of the boat. Or getting diarrhoea. Or waiting for the next monstrous storm to arrive. Or spraying Tabard and Peaceful Sleep on every inch of exposed skin. Or squashing Sand Flies. Or eating Malagasy rice. Again.

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All in all, life is good.

We’re on day 3, I think, of our Dhow Trip.

Day one was uncomfortable. I drank too much wine after getting back from the north and dealing with the mental stress of getting a ferry back with 4 other people, 3 bikes and a quad bike in a very third world country. Therefore, I was hung over and didn’t quite find peace with a boat rocking from side to side for hours. I pushed on through and we stopped for a brilliant snorkel and swim at Nosy Tanikely. I was sorted in a split second.

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The night was spent at Lokobe in a tented camp. I woke up shaking (apparently) after the loudest blast of thunder I have ever heard erupted directly above us. So did everybody else. I believe some of the shakes were due to sun stroke though.

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Day two involved a 3 hour boat ride to Mahalina, which was relatively pleasant considering I decided wine to be a bad idea the night before and because bedtime is usually earlier than 9pm. The camp consists of traditional beach bungalows on a long beach on the mainland.

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Day three, today, was spent sailing from Mahalina to Ankazbiravina Marine Reserve to snorkel and then on to Russian Bay where we’re “docked” for two nights. Snorkelling at Ankazbiravina was compromised by a thousand jelly fish and a million crackling, stinging things in the water.

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Tomorrow we’re going to fish in the morning and then we’re heading to “South Africa” Island to snorkel.
I believe New Year will be quite festive. The locals from the small village here are set up with what sounds like a pretty efficient sound system and some jamming reggae.

This is our view overlooking Russian Bay:

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I need to sleep. It’s 8pm. My stomach is playing up like everyone else’s. I’m sticky and I’m tired of being bitten by everything with six legs.

Posted by JayneHol 10:38 Archived in Madagascar Tagged madagascar nosy_tanikely russian_bay mahalina ankazbiravina_marine_reserve lokobe Comments (0)

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