Of Nocturnal lemurs and Corrugated rocks

Trip Start May 18, 2011
Trip End Jun 26, 2011

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What I did
Rode the Dust Road
Walked in the rockes

Flag of Madagascar  , MG.03,
Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sat June 11

Rija had arranged for us to eat across the road from the hotel -  a
place owned by Michel. We had met Michel back in Tana the day we
arrived and had a cup of tea at Rija's house. Now here he was in his
small town. A politician, in a country with troubled Politics. A tall
gentle man with a beaming smile. We were introduced to his wife and
children and he joined us for a beer over dinner with Rija. Three
Horses "Fresh"- the premixed shandy we had enjoyed so much last
time. Shrimps, bbqed  or cooked in garlic - delicious. We were made
to feel part of the family, playing in the street with his kids. Not
quite CS but in some ways even better. We had walked through the
market area, constantly greeted with Salama by friendly locals who
smiled with bright eyes. It felt so welcoming. In the grounds of the
cathedral there was amplified music and a large crowd. Chris became
enthralled with a small girl who played peekaboo from behind her
mother's skirt every time Chris tried to take her picture - to her
mother's hilarity. Then another equally small girl chose to dance
for us every time we pointed the camera, with huge giggles. All this
is so typical of this country - we love it.

Sun June 12

Breakfast is at Michel's - banana fried in batter. A Malagasy
delicacy. More time with Michel and his family.

But - there is a problem! Yesterday's rain has caused issues with the
road we are to travel on to the Tsingy. We are going to be
travelling by 4X4 on a dirt road and there has been a washout. To us
a major! But this is Madagascar and nearly all the roads are dirt.
We were delayed a while, so shopped for some Malagasy sarongs and
National day decorations, and watched the passing parade.  Families
dressed immaculately for church, stall holders setting up in
yesterday's grubby clothes selling hot food, cold food, clothes,
household items, chickens with legs tied ...... People dressed in
the most amazing array of colourful clothing, seemingly busy.

We were off - on what turned out to be a 4 1/2 hour journey over an
increasingly deteriorating dirt road. We had seen pictures of
vehicles stuck on Malagasy roads on the internet, this was no joke.
The 90 km took 270 mins. But we had come to experience more of the
Malagasy life - no problem. The washout had been temporarily fixed
with some logs, so we could detour round the missing road. We
stopped for lunch by a small river - very pretty setting, and of
course someone was doing the washing there. I walked down and engaged
the lady and gestured if I could take photos. She showed the delight
usually expressed by children, when I played back the video. Then
she pointed to her ragged skirt that was torn in several places and
appeared to ask for a new one. After eating the mouth-watering
"sandwich" Michel had prepared for us - of shrimps, tomato, salad
and dressing in french bread, Chris and I went back to the lady and
gave her one of the clothing wraps we had bought and some of our
left over lunch. She absolutely beamed with gratitude, then went
back to her washing.

We had to cross a river at the end of the trip to reach our hotel,
and enjoyed the excitement the local children get from a captive
audience of tourists as they wait for the barge to arrive. Some
locals crossed with us, once again fascinated by the movie replays
of themselves.

The hotel was stunning. We could have had a camp site and permanent
tent, but no. Rija had booked us into a beautiful place with
individual bungalows, each with a fibreglass moulded shower! And a
lovely restaurant with a waitress/receptionist who speaks immaculate

June 13

Up at 6.15 am for breakfast - served to us on our front porch, then
off for the visit to the Tsingy. The Tsingy are limestone rocks
which are unique in the world. Instead of the horizontal layering of
Waitomo or Punakaiki, these rocks are mainly vertical with a very
unusual weathering pattern which produces a corrugated iron look,
with rather sharp tips. We were guided through this area for 3 hours
and the formations never ceased to capture our attention. We climbed
ladders, balanced precariously on fallen rock as we made our way
along a labyrinth. And as an added bonus, we saw lemurs. We
photographed them until our arms ached from holding up the cameras.

This afternoon has been a chance to rest and write the blog. Time
seems to be racing, a week ago we were in church with Valerie. In 3
days we will be back in Tana preparing to depart. I am wondering
"why was it so important to go to Adelaide for the Cabaret Festival"
when I did the planning and booked the flights!!!!

Last time we travelled the 2 main tourist routes. This time we feel
away from the main stream and experiencing what we felt we must have
missed in that initial taster. If Sth America felt "sanitised" then
this is getting close to living with the locals.
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