17 Oct - Ankarana

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16 Oct - To Ankarana
17 Oct - Ankarana
18 Oct - Montagne d'Ambre
19 Oct - Tsingy Rouge
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0515 - Goulam Lodge

Madagascar trail sign
Our destination? Lac Vert.

This country seems to wake up early. Then again, I found myself this morning saying that 5am is the best time of the day. The sun's not up yet. It's still cool. The chickens are crowing. The crows are chickening?

Breakfast is baguette with butter, pink stuff, and honey. Also cinnamon tea or coffee. Perhaps egg would have given us more strength for the day, but I'll think we'll manage [shows what you know, dimbulb!].

On the list for today is a 23 km hike with Goulam. Sounds exhausting. Maybe I didn't want to know the distance beforehand. It's a gorgeous day for it too, clear skies. The wind blew in the thatch roof all last night, convincing Mom it was raining and all of Ankarana would be a mud-puddle. Not so!

Perte de Rivieres. In the wet Dad woud be underwater
Perte de Rivieres. In the wet
season, Dad would be underwater.

[You'll have to forgive my comments in brackets. These are in hindsight, and perhaps rather cynical. I find it fascinating how my writing style changed throughout the day...]

0715 - Tsingy Rary

We're at Tsingy Rary after an hour of hiking, through forest and riverbed and past Perte de Rivieres, a giant sinkhole. We saw a few lemurs, birds and geckos. A magnificent [start to our massive grueling disgustingly tiring] hike.

Tsingy Rary is a massive field of limestone. We can't walk out on it, it's too spiky and has many gaps, but it looks amazing from the viewing platform.

0830 - somewhere in the forest

What a hike! It's a beautiful forest, with lots of shade but not too much undergrowth, so it feels open. The trail is quite good as well.

We finally saw some crowned lemurs, a troop in the trees. I think it's too hot now for many birds to be out flying around, but there are lots of birds singing in the trees around us.

Impressive, spikey Tsingy Rary
Impressive, spikey Tsingy Rary

We've stopped now, "mora mora," to have a rest and a snack. Goulam brought some sun-dried bananas, which are sweet and sticky and good for upping blood sugar again. My legs haven't worked so much in ages. This is even more hiking than our 'trek' in Thailand! But it's a beautiful walk, and at least we're in the shade. [See how chipper I still was after only 2 hours of hiking??]

0945 - somewhere else in the forest

We're stopped beside a little stream now for some biscuits and water. We walked through a hot dry area but seem to be back in a bit of shade now.

1015 - Green Lake

Way down to Lac Vert. No way
Way down to Lac Vert. No way

I'm just about walked out [see! told you!], which is really a bad thing because we're still on the 'there' part of 'there and back again'. But seriously, that last trek was hellish. In the hot sun, with dry scrubby plants around only enough to make it a difficult path and give no shade. The rocks on the path didn't help either. In my head, I got quite annoyed with Goulam - it seemed like he was charging ahead, not paying attention, and we were always hurrying hurrying to catch up but never getting there - but I refused to ask him to slow down. Stubborn stupid me.

Now that I've been sitting in the shade a while I feel a bit better. But I wish we were actually AT the lake, not just looking down at it. I'd die for a swim, but it's in a big canyon like yesterday's bat cave. Though even if we had the option to go down to it, I wouldn't. It'd just be too much for me.

I'm sounding like a pessimist [yup. Good of you to notice!]. It really is quite a spectacular view down to the lake. Apparently it's about as deep as the distance from the tsingy up here down to the surface. It's fed by the stream we saw earlier and it flows out somewhere underwater.

Ugh, time to move again...

1145 - Back at the stream

Crowned Lemur
Crowned Lemur

We walked out to the other side of Lac Verte, which turned out to be a huge tsingy. Goulam said we could have fifteen minutes there, but I think we were all tsingied out. I would have sat and rested, but there was no shade.

We made record time back here, where we knew it was shady and had cool water. I had dreams of dunking my shirt in, but there are two other local guides here so I don't think I'll do that. Instead we dunked our feet and had some lunch. A crowned lemur kept watch over us from a crook in a nearby tree.

1250 - back at the first bench stop

Hiking, hiking! We're finally back in the cool forest, with the birds and lemurs. We're having mangoes for a snack. My feet have that been-too-long-in-shoes feel...

1450 - The Biggest Baobab

1530 - Goulam Lodge

Well we're back and we survived, if only barely. The last walk through the forest was okay, we saw more lemurs and even a whole bunch of sickle-billed vangas. Cool birds with awesome bills.

Can't believe I was still smiling!
Can't believe I was still smiling!

We passed the way to Tsingy Rary, then turned off to Tourelles de Tsingy. If we'd been coming back to that spot I would have stayed and chilled [what, all walked out?? Already??] but that wasn't in the cards. So we went, though as I said I was a bit tsingied out.

This wasn't like the other tsingies though - it wasn't a flat (spiky) plane of limestone. Instead we walked alongside it and through the big fissures in the rock. It was pretty cool, but actually very very hot.

Next was the biggest baobab in the Ankarana National Park. Impressive. Five of us could not get our arms around it. It wasn't very tall, though, and seemed to grow right out of the rock.

Mom and I were zonked by this point, but Goulam said it was maximum one hour to get back here. It was, of course, much less than that THANK GOODNESS [aw, were Mandy's feet sore? Poor thing...]. I was ready to melt into a little puddle.

1715 - en route to Diego Suarez

Never been so happy to see a sign!
Never been so happy to see a sign!

Well I got something to drink - that was the first order of business. Then I got my shoes off, and then I took a shower. After that, I felt almost human.

Goulam had offered to drive us to Diego Suarez, but situations changed with the tourists he was supposed to pick up there. So here we are, bouncing around in the back of a big truck. Sitting sideways on a HARD bench, my feet up on several big bags of... potatoes? Mangoes? Who knows.

There are no recognizable tourists onboard, but several duffels are shoved in front of the potatoes. A well-to-do man is sitting up there with an American flag wrapped around his neck. One woman across from me is nursing a baby. The baby is covered with a cloth, so the only way to tell is that we saw her daughter earlier. Very cute.

A chicken just came aboard, with a family (of humans). The only way to tell there was a chicken was because it squawked as it was carried in... in a suitcase. Like, what? It's quiet now, but makes me wonder what's in all the other duffels...

Mom's talking to Boris, a tour guide recommended by Goulam, about seeing Montagne d'Ambre. He only speaks French, though, so we might not go with him.

Just before we froze on the Taxi Brousse
Just before we froze on the Taxi Brousse

Hm, getting dark now, and very cold. I think I'm going to put this away.

2055 - Jardin Exotique, Diego Suarez

This is quite a nice hotel, actually. They gave me an extra bed in Mom and Dad's room, which is fancy-schmancy with fridge, fan and aircon. Ah yes and a flushing toilet and shower.

I can't believe it's so late! What a long ride! It got really cold when it got dark, and of course the wind was blowing hard. Mom and I huddled under our sarongs until I finally put on long pants. Earlier, when it was still light and people were talking back and forth, I thought I'd be the source of great hilarity and amusement if I tried to put my pants on over my shorts, in a bumping rocking truck. Good sense finally prevailed, but my next complaint was that there wasn't enough padding on the seat.

It's a pity it got dark so soon - I could vaguely tell we were passing lots of villages. It would have been nice to stop and take photos.

Like a lemur - snuggled in for the night.
Like a lemur - snuggled in for the night.

It was easy to tell we were getting into town, because there were lights and real buildings. Boris told us where to get off, and showed us to the hotel.

2225

Mom and I just got back from an awesome dinner - though I guess we're closer to a midnight snack. Dad has an upset stomach, so he stayed here. It was kind of fun, girls' dinner out. It was a cute little upscale French restaurant just down the road from the hotel. They didn't bat an eyelid when we said we would like dinner - but then the owner and his wife sat down to eat just after us. Mom had a nice snapper in white sauce with green peppercorns (not green capsicum) over rice. I had a zebu steak in a honey and ginger sauce with spectacular fried potatoes.

The only problem with the whole meal is that they brought out a plate of bread with a pot of ...garlic butter? I smeared some on, took a big bite... no. Not garlic butter. Chilis. Lots of ground-up chilis. But the rest was ok.

Now, for a shower and BED.

Up | 16 Oct - To Ankarana | 17 Oct - Ankarana | 18 Oct - Montagne d'Ambre | 19 Oct - Tsingy Rouge

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