Friday, 9 September 2016

East to Isalo National Park

September 6

Since our drive today will not be hard, we were not leaving quite as early as other days. We arrived at breakfast at about 7:30. Again, we were the only customers. We sat down at our table and were pleasantly surprised to find yoghurt on the table. We suspected that Josy was up to his tricks again to get us things that we had said we were needing. Last evening we asked if we could buy some yoghurt to eat before leaving town. So Josy arranged for some yoghurt, along with the regular bananas that have been appearing as well. Plus there were croissants.

We had two waiters worrying about us. This place has been like the boat with so many staff there to wait on only us. Another customer finally turned up as we left.

We left the hotel and headed for a regular grocery store. Josy said he would take us to one so Po could buy a bar of laundry soap, we could buy some yoghurt and we could stock up on water. Apparently we are going to need lots on our hike tomorrow. So we stopped at a store called Score. It was fun to be in a regular store.

We headed back down the busy Tulear streets. We drove a short ways out of town and stopped at the Arboretum Antsokay, a private botanical garden. It was a marvellous place. We were given a great tour by a lady named Fara who really knew everything about the place. It has dry forest plants and trees, mostly from Madagascar but a few other places, mostly from Africa. A Swiss man began the garden as a labor of love back in the 70’s. He is buried in the garden. His son is carrying on the work. The place was also alive with birds.

We can not begin to remember all we were told. The most fun facts were about the plants that are quite dangerous if ingested or if the sap gets on your hands or in your eyes. Many tend to grow right next to the ones that can provide the antidote. Of course the first one is likely to get you before you have the chance to use the second one. It was most interesting to be told about the many plants and trees that we had been seeing as we drove down the coast.

We continued our drive. We were on the national road number 7. It goes all the way to Antananarivo. It was busy, especially with the taxi brousses. There were stretches that had been repaved, but others that were full of pot holes. In some places there were children throwing dirt into the holes. They were doing the thing that we had encountered on our drive on the coast whereby they fix up the road and want to get paid something. Unfortunately for them, they cannot block the road, so do not get the same steady revenue from the vehicles that the folks on the coast had, since they put up the barriers.

We were stopped at a police road block. We have been passing these all along our trip. Until now we have been waived through. They tend to stop the taxi brousse and check their papers. At one yesterday we were stopped and had to show our passports, while Josy showed the papers for the car. Today the man just wanted to see the papers for the car. We had been warned that we need to have our passports with us at all times in case we need to show them to the police.

We passed several of the tombs of the Mahafaly. I had thought that we were going to stop and get out to look at them, but last night Josy said that was not proper, that he would stop the car and I would take the photo from inside. I was a bit disappointed in that we did not see any of the carved posts called Aloalo up close.

We passed through the sapphire mining area. There were gem buying businesses in the small towns. This area was like the Wild West several years ago. But the mining has become more difficult and moved several kilometres away.

Shortly thereafter we came to our hotel. It is quite nice. Again there are separate bedroom units. They are thatched. There is a beautiful view of the highlands. Hot water is abundant. There is wifi in the office. What more could you ask for?

We met Josy before supper. We are going to leave early tomorrow for the park to get our hike going before it is too hot. Since breakfast starts at 6:30, we will be there right away and grab a quick bite and then try to head out by 6:45.

We headed into the dining room. There were two choices for the main course, one was chicken, so I took it to avoid having fish or zebu tonight. Po had fish. The chicken was tandoori chicken with rice. It was quite good. And it wasn’t zebu or fish.

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