Monday, 12 September 2016

Tsaranoro to Fianarantsoa

September 9

We were up for a 7:00 am breakfast in order to get out early on our walk. It was a great breakfast with sweet popovers, warm bread, and fresh fruit. It was one of the best that we have had.

We left for our hike. It was supposed to be four hours. It was a pleasant stroll through the forest. We saw lots of ring tailed lemurs. According to our guide, Faly, it is considered a sacred forest as there are several burial sites. At the end we did a very short visit to a little village.

The walk ended after only 2 hours. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we had discussed another hiking option, this one a real hike to climb to the top of the peak called chameleon. We agreed that we were not really up for that just two days after our last big hike especially as we expected another hot day. But our four hour walk ended rather abruptly. The little tour of the village did not amount to much.

So, although we enjoyed our visit to Tsara Camp and the landscape of the area, the total experience was a bit of a disappointment. I had wondered about this stop, that it seemed like it really required two nights. There are just not enough nights in a trip that has 26 of them. I think the stop was probably still worthwhile as I got some great natural photos of ring tailed lemurs. Hiking here would be much nicer than Isalo where it was a bit too hot to really enjoy. If I was to recommend serious hiking, I would say to do it here.

José picked us up in the little village. We dropped Faly off near the lodge and headed for the main road. I had told Josy that I wanted to stop in the village closest to the main road to take some photographs. On our way in we had seen a merry-go-round.  As usual, as soon as I got out the vehicle I was surrounded by children. I pointed towards the empty merry-go-round and soon it was filled so I could take my photos.

We were then back on RN7. The road goes up and down the hills, with lots of hair pin turns. It was quite beautiful.

Our next stop was the Anja Reserve which I had added the to the suggested itinerary. Anja is a small community run forest reserve. It is home to a large colony of ring tailed lemurs. In my research it seemed that everyone liked the place. But, after staying at Tsara Camp, I had my doubts as to whether it was still necessary to stop there. We did a quick one hour walk and saw many lemurs and chameleons as well as tons of tourists. Overall it was worth the stop for a couple of really great photographs as well as a close up look at the granite peaks that tower over the reserve. But I am so happy that we are not part of a large group tour where this might have been a highlight rather than a simple little extra.

After another turn on the windy road we stopped for lunch in a small town. Before we could get out of the car, the side door opened. Out popped one of our new French friends from eclipse day and Salary Bay.  They were inside having their lunch. They told us that they had done the chameleon hike which we had passed on. That made us feel a little bad, but only a little. I ordered pizza which I shared with Po. The waiter asked what madam was going to eat. I said she would share my pizza. When we were leaving I eyed the cream puffs in the display case. He said, “You can share it.”

As soon as we got to Fianarantso,  José took us to the high town for us to check out the view. He then brought us to the old city. He pulled to stop, asked if we wanted to walk in the old city, and said we could walk with some guys who were standing there. They apparently act as tour guides although it seems they do not have an official status.

So we went off with them. We were a bit disoriented. We had gone from a rural lodge to the hustle and bustle of Madagascar’s second largest city. We were not expecting to do this tour this afternoon. According to our itinerary it was supposed to be tomorrow. We were also not sure about the arrangement with the guides. One guy started out, but another joined us soon thereafter. The second guy did all the talking. The tour went quickly and we returned to where José was waiting for us. At this point we only wanted to get to our hotel. We were really exhausted.

We had to drive through a big market to get there. Our hotel is the Case Madrigal. It is quite charming. Our room, a suite actually, has a small bedroom. There is a second room with a single bed that serves as a couch and balcony with view of city and street life.

We were quite happy with the place, but then the power went out. I went downstairs where the owner and her helper were busy lighting candles. I followed the helper back upstairs with the candles. Then I discovered that the water was not working. Po had already had her shower but there I was with no power and no water, so no shower before dinner.

Po and I went down at 7. It turns out that the owner serves and dines with her guests which tonight was only us. We had a nice visit with her while enjoying her pork stir fry and dessert of fresh strawberries. We discussed the issues with the power and water. Power is generally produced by hydroelectricity and every year there are problems at the end of the dry season with water levels being so low. Tonight was the first rolling blackout of the year. This was quite ironic since we have spent so many nights in places with no electricity (the boat) or only limited hours of solar or generator produced electricity.

She is quite frustrated with the situation with the utilities. I explained the situation with Newfoundland power, about the rolling blackouts of a couple of winters ago and our big dam project that might bankrupt the province. I think it made her feel better about Madagascar, but it depressed me.

We went back to the room. Soon the power came back on. The water was already back on. I had a nice hot shower. I could get our iPads recharged and use the the Internet. I  fell asleep on the little bed/couch in our sitting room, woke up and crawled into bed. I thought that it was really noisy with dogs barking, but the next thing I knew it was morning and really noisy with dogs barking. This might have been the first time that I slept all through the night on this trip.

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