A Travellerspoint blog

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Leeches

6th January 2012

overcast 22 °C

Admittedly, the prospect of a 6 hour rain forest hike didn’t quite appeal to me with a dodgy, sore stomach and the prospect of leeches. But that’s what we did.

And leeches, there were plenty.

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They’re disgusting, determined and opportunistic, but luckily my new knee length socks with pants tucked into them (plus Carolyn and Mike to remove them from my shoes) meant that I didn’t get sucked on. I battle to enjoy an experience when I simultaneous have to focus on my shoes and these stupid, ravenous, worm-like creatures trying to get into them.

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When we exited the forest at an incredible waterfall, I could relax and enjoy the walk along the river in the sun. I decided that while forests are undeniably incredible and beautiful, I’m not a forest person. I like to see my surroundings and prefer vast, open landscapes. I also prefer places without leeches.

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Despite the leeches, Ranomafana is exceptional. We’re in a village on a river surrounded by massive rain-forested hills with a cheesy and eerie post-rain mist creeping through. It’s good for mora mora afternoons sipping wine (if you don’t have a stomach bug).

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Posted by JayneHol 03:16 Archived in Madagascar Tagged travel rain_forest madagascar ranomafana leeches Comments (0)

Look, it’s raining. Part one.

8th January 2012

rain 23 °C

Yesterday we drove roughly 7 and a half hours south from Ranomafana to Ranohira, just outside the I’Isalo National Park.

Barr the rainy and grey weather on the way there and a random stop in Ambalavao to see a tourist-oriented paper “factory”, it was quite spectacular. The green hills and endless rice paddies gave way to granite massifs, grasslands and smaller Bara tribe huts.

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We stopped outside Ambalavao at the the Anja Reserve for a little walk and for another bout of lemur spotting. I’m admittedly not taken by lemurs any longer, but the reserve was well worth the visit for the views, the mild exercise after a million post-Makily kily belly snacks and for the fact that it is a community-driven initiative. (Just because I believe it is important and that he was our proud guide, the reserve was started by a dude named Adrien in an effort to conserve the natural environment and create a more sustainable livelihood for the community.)

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Posted by JayneHol 06:33 Archived in Madagascar Tagged road_trip travel madagascar ranohira anja_reserve ambalavao Comments (0)

Look, it’s raining. Part Two.

8th January 2012

rain 19 °C

Today we did a 10km walk through the south part of I’Isalo. It was brilliant and a welcome relief after the leeches. It’s dryer, more rugged and expansive than Ranomafana, and we only saw two bugs the whole day!

Additionally, there were some awesome streams, waterfalls and pools in the gorges between the canyon sandstone mountains - places I’d do anything to visit with more time to spare and without a guide. While I fully get the idea of having a guide, a 3 hour hike tends to take 6 because you stop for every plant and creature along the way, which is accompanied by a full explanation, description and a name in French, Malagassy and Latin.

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It rained. Obviously. But not badly.

(Much later)

It’s raining heavily now, which likely has something to do with the cyclone passing the south-west coast and hitting us directly.

Scrabble.

Jayne: 271….281
Carolyn: 285…275

It’s now 6 hours later. Even Noah’s Arc is offended.

I believe we got in the better half of our trip sorted before the rain got awkward. To put it in perspective, Zina, who has lived in Tana all his life and who has been driving south through Madagascar for 11 years, said that he has never experienced a week of solid rain like this. Normally, (like just before we arrived), daytime temps reach about 40 degrees and “the rainy season” consists of expected afternoon thunderstorms. Right now, we have mid-winter-post-snow-flooding-Cape-Town happening here.

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We’ve decided to skip our planned night’s stop at Ambalavao (3 and a half hours north of here) and head straight through to Ambositra- 8 hours in the opposite direction to the cyclone’s path. Ambalavao only has a paper factory anyway and an amazing reserve (that we-thought-was-closed-but-that-is-in-fact-actually-open-at-this-time-of-year), but that will be washed out and inaccessible now. It also has Zebu market that doesn’t occurr on Tuesdays and Wednesdays like the book says, but only on Wednesday and Thursdays. So be it. We get the message.

The pigs next door stopped squealing. I presume they’re in the arc.

Posted by JayneHol 06:51 Archived in Madagascar Tagged rain madagascar cyclone ranohira i'isalo_national_park chanda southern_madagascar Comments (0)

Cyclone Chanda

11th January 2012

overcast 22 °C

My kind sister-at-home-with-internet confirmed a cyclone ...Not that we needed much confirmation. The sky fell down, Chicken Lickens across the land got drenched and drowned and the wind howled and gusted like there was no tomorrow. There wasn’t. We couldn’t even see it and drove north into perspective as quickly as we could.

It kind of sucked to pass beautiful places when the sky cleared a little, only to head in the direction of what essentially equates to home, but so be it. We stayed in Ambositra for the last two nights. It’s a quaint and picturesque spot on its outskirts and bustling and nudging at its centre, but there’s not much to do other than look at a few wood carving curio shops, eat more Zebu and drink more beer (if you’re too lazy to walk into the country or visit the wood carving villages in the area).

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We relented and took one of the rickshaws (pousse-pousse) back to our guesthouse after another Zebu and Pomme Frite meal. I'm not sure how to feel about this. It ended up being an awkward blend of one part privileged guilt, one part reassurance that we're keeping some Ambositra folk in business.

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We’re now in Antsirabe, the next major town before Tana. It’s unremarkable, but we did experience our first rays of sun in over a week. I have a headache. And a bag full of curios that may not seem so quaint in a few weeks time.

Posted by JayneHol 06:05 Tagged travel madagascar antsirabe ambositra pousse-pousse Comments (0)

Food

24th December 2011 - 14 January 2012

Going against an unfortunate recommendation to avoid Zebu, that’s pretty much what we ate. Zebu is just a misleading name for what look like Nguni cows or the sacred herds in India (from which they are actually descended). They taste fine, if not a little more precise. A Zebu brochette (skewer) with Pomme Fritte (fries) is the safest option and generally quite satisfying (unless it’s yesterday). Otherwise, if you’re me, you’ll eat copious amounts of Cantonnais (I presume Cantonese) rice i.e. fried rice with veggies and your choice of Poulet (not recommended), Zebu, Porc or Crevettes (we are not on the coast), and at times, My Sao, a version of Chinese noodles.

The pizza is disagreeable, we had too much everything-in-tomato-broth on the dhow to opt for Malagassy food and our first three days of solid baguettes and Laughing Cow meant that this option got exhausted.

I have been sick. It’s still a mystery as to its source, but seeing the Zebu at the “Butcher Shops” does make me slightly suspicious. I just pretend that even in the smallest towns, in a country where electricity is an absolute luxury and fridges are as valuable as Zebu, that my Zebu or beef was stored somewhere cold until I ate it and not in a kiosk-style store on the side of the road, covered in flies and fermenting in sticky heat.

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Posted by JayneHol 06:28 Archived in Madagascar Tagged food travel madagascar Comments (0)

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