Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Grand Tsingy

August 27

Since we are going to bed so early, I am awake long before the alarm goes off each morning. We headed into breakfast. We saw that José was already waiting for us. There seems to be a pattern here. José is so reliable. He is an excellent driver, keeping the many bumps to a minimum bounce. He apologizes if he hits one too hard. We feel well cared for.

Our table was set up with our Continental breakfast. We got what is going to be the usual of some regular bread and a sweet bread that is like a cake.

As soon as we were finished José took us back down to the ferry area. There we met our guide for the day. He is to take us on a boat ride down the Manambolo River and then off to climb Tsingy. The Manambolo is much smaller than the Tsiribihina. We were poled down the river in two pirogues that are tied together to give greater stability. These are only used for tourists.  It was quite pretty. He showed us two different caves. I experienced the first injury of our adventure when I bumped my head in one of the caves. It was determined that I did not need medical attention.

The area is sacred to the local people and was used as burial grounds. We thought we were going to be shown some tombs, but they were never mentioned. Maybe we were confused and the caves were the tombs. It did not matter, the ride was quite enjoyable.

After about an hour and a half on the river we returned to the ferry area. It was time to head off to Tsingy. Po was asked if she needed to use the facilities. They sent her down the road. After looking for a building she was told that she needed to  find a convenient bush.

The road took us through the village of Bekopaka. I wanted to buy another bottle of water and some bananas. The guide helped me with the purchase at one of the little stores (they are all little kiosks). There were two types of bananas. One is a small one that we have been eating on our trip so far. The other was a really fat one. Neither are the kind we are used to buying in our local supermarkets which have been transported from thousands of miles away. I encountered the big problem with Malagasy currency. You can not get small change. We are running around with 5,000 and up bills, mostly 10,000 Ariary. To get smaller would mean a ridiculous pile of money when you exchange your money, like we did to start with 150 Euros. Remember that the exchange is about 3,000 Ariary to one US dollar. The local people deal with smaller bills of 200, 500 and 1,000. So to give them a 5 or 10 thousand Ariary causes great consternation. I ended getting a loan from José to get the bananas.

We headed down the road. It was bad, really bad. Part of it was over rocks. I thought Newfoundland had rocks, but there is no comparison. We pulled into the parking lot. It was packed.

The first thing was for our guide to strap us into our harnesses. As we started our hike we found out that most of the other hikers for the day were finishing their hikes. They had started a few hours earlier. We would be starting in the heat of the day since we did the pirogue trip first.

Other than the intense heat the first part of the hike was quite easy. But then the hard part started. We squeezed into a small crevasse that required us to hold our pack in one hand and slide along a slippery sandy path. I could barely fit. We crawled under other places. And we started our climb. The path was well marked and the guide would point out where to place your hands and feet. We clipped ourselves onto a line in the very tricky areas. But the rocks at the Tsingy are sharp. You could almost cut your hands on them. And the path went straight up. For a relatively fit 60 something I found the climb both physically and mentally challenging.

I put my regular camera in my pack. I just could not carry the camera and climb the trail. Luckily I had my small camera in my pack. I could put that one in my pocket, occasionally pulling it out to photograph Po climbing in front of me.

We reached the top and the first viewing platform. It was an amazing view. But I had to catch my breath and overcome my fear of heights to enjoy it. Then too soon we started the walk to the other side of the path. Part way we came to the suspension bridge. I had read about this hike for months. And I had worried about the suspension bridge. I quickly made my way half way across, stopped and pointed my camera to one side then the other and took quick snaps without looking through the viewfinder.  I then scurried across.

Although I had made it up Tsingy and across the bridge, we still needed to finish the walk across the top and then do the descent. Every time we seemed to be finished with the hard part, we were clipping ourselves in once again or squeezing under rocks. But we made it.

We were tired campers by the time we bounced back down the road to the hotel. We were given our choice of shrimp or nothing for supper and chose shrimp. We fought with the Internet again. I managed to post one of my older blogs and some photographs to Facebook.

As each day leaves us exhausted, we did our usual early to bed. We were pleasantly surprised to notice a small fan that we had missed the night before. Even with the generator off and the system running on solar it kept going long into the night.

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