It's been a while since my last post about our amazing Malagasy adventure. Life, work, social & environmental advocacy and more travelling got in the way of finalising this post. So, finally here is week 3. If you have missed weeks 1 and 2, click here.
Day 15: Mer d’Emeraude
Departure at 8.30, we took a shuttle boat to a point where we had to walk to reach the other, due to low tide. We were 6, and there were 5 workers with us including skippers & cooks. Though the weather was not perfect, the sea was bright turquoise (or Emeraude!), like a pool.
It was quite windy on the island where we stopped for lunch. Once there, our hosts were busy preparing the freshly caught crabs and fish. The ladies were busy preparing salads & coconut rice, made with fresh coconut milk. We really enjoyed the meal, especially the crabs, yum!
30 mins after lunch, we were back on the sailing boat. The sea was very rough, even if it was in the lagoon. The boat rocked so much that I had to hold on the the mast (I was quite scared despite being used to the sea). There were a lot of waves and everyone on the boat was soaked and cold by the end of the trip, which lasted about an hour. We would have preferred a hot shower, but not available where we stayed. In hindsight, the last part was a fun!
Day 16: Ramen
We spent the day in Ramen, walking on the beach towards Diego Suarez. Very windy, the sand hitting our skin hurt but worth it - the view was beautiful at low tide.
We were back at the hotel on time for the Sunday musical buffet. We ended up eating too much, as always when there is a good buffet! The beach towards the village was lively on Sunday evening, especially around the Jetty night club.
Day 17: Mer d’Emeraude – the 3 bays
Long walk from Ramen to Sakalava Bay with Nora, a traveler we met at Ankarana. Still on budget & adventurer’s mode, we went without a guide, defying the recommendations. Passing through the military base we had to pay a small fee. The path is not always clear, but we managed, following the coast. The bays are beautiful and reminded us of Rodrigues island.
During this period of the year (Winter in Mada), Sakalava bay is a Kitesurfer’s paradise- we saw a few making the most of the wind and the relatively quiet spot. After a drink at the Sakalava hotel, having no other choice, we hired a taxi back to Ramen.
Day 18: Ramen – Diego Suarez
The owner of Badamena was heading to town and we were lucky to catch a ride with her. In Diego, we stayed at Belle Vue Hotel. We wanted to rent a scooter from the hotel to explore the area, but we could not start it and the mechanic managed to start it only half of the time, so we abandoned the idea.
In Antsiranana (Diego Suarez) there are some ancient ruins dating back to colonial era, tuk-tuks all over, and a market where all sorts of things are sold from vegetables, pickles, hens to clothes and gadgets. We booked a 3x3 (tuk-tuk) to visit the Salt pans which were recommended by the owner of Badamera. Most of the journey was on gravel road.
We saw a lot of people of all ages, including children, breaking rocks into gravel, but did not feel at ease to stop for photos, as it seemed like such a strenuous job.The view of the Salines is quite nice just before sunset. Back to town, we dined at Melville: nice environment and good food.
Day 19: Diego-Suarez to Antananarivo
The Taxi-Brousse for Tana- booked with Kofmad- was relatively on time for the 24 hour journey. At the beginning of the journey, the driver stopped several times to buy provisions: rice, charcoal, pickles (achards). After the first 12 hours, despite several stops for food & WC, we start feeling some pain in the bum! We were also a bit cold at night, sitting just behind the drivers (we had 2 who relayed each other) who had their windows open.
Day 20: On the Way to Tana
When the Taxi Brousse stops, it is common that people (men), eager to move, jumped out of the van from the windows, instead of waiting their turn. My friend tried it, but was not lucky the 2nd time as he ripped the window which got caught in his jeans! He sat, with the rims around his waist, waiting for the drivers (who were very unhappy and started talking to me in Malagasy) to help. I had a very hard time to refrain myself from laughing, and asked a lady what the drivers were saying, “you must tell him one should not go through the window”, she replied.
The situation was extremely funny though a bit worrying, as we still had at least 8 hours before arriving in Tana. It would have deserved a photo, but I knew that at this moment, my friend and the drivers would not have been happy about it. The drivers seemed to be used to the situation as they knew exactly how to tackle it- with the help of a rope, the window was back in after 15 min! Maybe not the first time something like this happened, but their first with a “Vaza”! (foreigner).
On the way, we passed by a big lorry, overturned in a bend, and some kilometres later, our drivers thought it would be a good idea to change the brake pad again (the first change a few hours before… not surprising considering that they use it a bit too much!). We arrive in Tana, at 11 am, after a total of about 27 hours in the Taxi brousse.
In Tana, we booked a room at Hotel Moonlight, from which we had a nice view over the city. It was basic, but the hotel was relatively modern and the staff very friendly. After Lunch at La Terrasse du Glacier, we get back to the hotel to catch up on sleep to wake up just on time for dinner at the Ile rouge restaurant, close to the hotel. The meal was very good.
Day 21: Antananarivo
We walked to the “Haute Ville” of Tana, and around the city town to the local artisanal market near the Northern station, where many of the shops were closed. We managed to find some paintings for a bargain. I was disappointed that there were no “achards”: we should have bought more in the North.
Day 22: Antanarivo- Airport
On our way to the airport (shuttle booked the previous day), travelling back to South Africa, we had mixed feelings of gratefulness for this amazing trip, happiness to go back to the usual comfort, and willingness to “do it again.” It was a wonderful experience that definitely marked me forever. I will back to explore other regions of this amazing country!
After Madagascar, I travelled to Namibia, and (again) Lesotho & South Africa. Check my blog about Namibia here! I will try to write more about the latter 2, soon. Follow Nomad Nia on Facebook for updates!