Sunday, 11 September 2016

Isalo to Tsaranoro

September 8

We did not have an early get away this morning as the drive was not long and there were no scheduled activities for the afternoon. After breakfast we found José waiting for us. We headed out on the RN7.

The landscape changed quite dramatically from the highlands to a flat plain. For North Americans we were now crossing Saskatchewan or Nebraska. It was flat, with no trees in sight. Jules had told us yesterday that the land was once covered in trees, but a few hundred years of slash and burn had turned it into a prairie. For the first time I had a hard time staying awake during the drive. There was not a lot of traffic and only a few small villages.

As we approached the town of Ihosy, the landscape changed again, and again quite dramatically. The road twisted and turned down into a valley. I had José stop so I could take a photograph. Just then a bicycle raced past down the steep highway. He yelled out, “Vaza” as he flew past. I am sure happy that Newfoundlanders only call us Come From Aways and never take to shouting it out as we walk past.

Ihosy is a busy town. It seemed more prosperous than other places we have been. There were no bicycle pousse pousse, only motorized carts which José said were called bajaj. We needed some more Ariary so José pulled into a bank. Po went in do the transaction.  About 45 minutes later she came out. She was waiting behind some business person depositing lots of cash. Considering the fact that $300 Euros is about $1,000,000 Ariary, it would not take much to get a big pile of bills. Eventually she came out with the money changed.

We carried on. I was no longer having trouble staying awake. The views were outstanding. I tried to capture a few scenes through the windshield and had José stop a couple of times. When we were in what seemed to be the middle of them, José turned off towards the south on a bumpy little road. We were mesmerized by the views. I knew that I wanted some photographs but elected to wait to see what I would get while at our lodge and then try to get some on our way out tomorrow.

We arrived at Tsaro Camp. I think in North America this place would be considered glamping since the rooms are tents, albeit permanent tents with attached washrooms. The showers are at the back and are open to the sun or stars (depending on when you take your solar heated shower). We were told that as a remote place we would only have electricity for limited hours in the evening and morning. After some of the places we have been, we were not surprised by that.

It was lunch time so I decided to take up the offer of having spaghetti. It turned out to be zebu spaghetti. The zebu burger was nicely spiced. There was no tomato sauce, but the combination was quite good.

We chatted with a Dutch couple we had seen at Isalo. They complained about the road down to Tsara Camp. Of course I had to brag about the roads that we had been on. But is was true. We thought nothing of today’s drive down from the main road. During our talk the discussion evolved into general travel. They have been to over 50 countries. I am so jealous. They have made a few trips to Southern Africa. He mentioned the name of an agent who organized his self driving trips to the area. Since Po has said that she is now ready for the Nambia-Botswana trip, I asked him to send me the details.

We spent the afternoon sitting in the shade on our little veranda with a cool breeze blowing over us. When it cooled off a little we went for a short walk behind the lodge. There are a few houses and rice fields. It is quite beautiful the way it is set into the mountains. I suggested that the place reminds me of Lesotho, a place we both visited back in our Botswana days.

We went into the dining room to meet with José and our guide for our walk tomorrow. We are going to do what is supposed to be the easy one. The other is a big climb and would take about six hours. We are happy to do the easier one that takes you through a village and a forest. It should take about four hours. In the afternoon we will also be visiting a small private park where we will walk for about an hour. After going over the plan for tomorrow, our guide then took our order for drinks. It turns out he is also our waiter.

There are three different couples that have been sitting together all afternoon and are now sitting together at dinner. They are all speaking Dutch. We watched the waiter trying to sort out the seating arrangement since they were originally set to dine at their own tables. It was just like the Entremer when we sat with the Polish couple. It took several minutes to get the seating sorted out. It turns out that the group did not know each other before getting to Madagascar. It is a strange coincidence that three different Dutch groups have arrived at out little hotel at the same time.

Supper was coconut chicken. It was tasty, but a typical Mada chicken, very tough. You know these birds were not factory raised. We retired to our room and Po was already in her PJ’s when the music started. Some local traditional musicians and dancers were putting on a little performance. The music was quite familiar. It was what we listened to all night long on the river, the night we could not sleep. Po got dressed, and we went down to the dining room to watch for a few minutes.

Then we were back under the mosquito netting (not sure it was necessary as we hardly see mosquitos). I was concerned about how cold it might get here (and I do not have my sweat pants) but there was a heavy blanket on the bed. We were planning on an early breakfast in the morning and then a walk.

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