Madagascar 2011 - Itinerary

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The trip

Below is a very rough sketch of my recollection of our trip to Madagascar. Some of the exact events may be recorded in the wrong days or missed and places may be confused. But it does provide a broad indication of the visit organised by Nouvelles Frontieres.

Sunday 16/10: Drive from Brussels to Paris Orly airport. Overnight Corsair flight to Madagascar.
Monday 17/10: Arrive mid morning in Antananarivo (Tana) after the exit of some passengers in the Comoros Islands. The 15 of us on the trip met by 4 4-wheel drive jeeps with our driver guides (Nono, Willy, Jaime and Ary). We head directly from Tana south towards Antsirabe. Lunch at Coin du Foie Gras in Behenjy. We continue south, stopping for a while at a local market as well as seeing fresh vegetables at stalls at the side of the road. Check in to Hotel Hasina in Antsirabe, the pousse-pousse capital of Madagasar. Explore the thermal town.
Tuesday 18/10: Visit local crafts activities (embroidery, making tin toys and horn objects, sugar candies) and then pass through the Bongolava mountain chain. On the way to Miandrivazo stop for a hike at Andraikiba, lunching at the Restaurant Dera. Accomodation that evening at the Hotel La Reine Rasalimo in Miandrivazo.
Wednesday 19/10: Pick up our guide for the river trip and take, what then seemed like (but much worse to come), a difficult track to reach the embarcation point of Masiakampy. Finally at the Tsirabihina river we watch even braver souls who have opted to travel in pirogues! Much birdlife on the river. Lunch on board. Visit a local waterfall, where several of our number bathe, and we see our first lemurs nearby, as well as bats in the cliffs on the river bank. Bivoucacs are erected on a sandbank at Anosinampela and dinner on board the boat.
Thursday 20/10: Local children visit our camp early in the morning. Breakfast in boat, set off again and visit several local villages on our way downriver. Lunch and dinner again on bord and tents pitched on the beach at Ambatomainty where some swam and we later visited the local baobabs and were entertained by local dancers by a campfire.
Friday 21/10: After breakfast on board we head off again downriver seeing an increasing number of baobabs on the banks as well as birdlife. After picnic on board and watching basic carferries on the river, we arrive at Tsimafana and meet up with our trusty guides in their 4x4s. See many baobabs on our drive to Bekopaka and take, in comparison with later vessels, a pretty modern car ferry. Eventually we reach our dinner and sleeping location for the night the Hotel Orchidée de Bemaraha.
Saturday 22/10: After breakfast we drive the difficult 17kms to the World Heritage Grands Tsingys national reserve (in English on Wikipedia). Hike in the heat. See white lemurs. Attach our safety harnesses for the difficult parts of the climb. Cross the typical swinging wooden bridge, go through caves seeing the resident mongoose. After a picnic in the park return to same hotel and a relaxing dinner and evening.
Sunday 23/10: We return south and head through the dry forest to Belo sur Tsirbihina. The 4 cars and passengers cross the river in an extremely basic ferry. Picnic in a hotely front porch drinking ricewater. Continue on the track to Morondava where we await the sunset at Baobab Alley. Group split. Main group stay at the Hotel Le Renala. Sue, Renelde, Patrice and I stayed Chez Maggie, both of us in one of the chalets (Rooms 2 in the drop down box on that page), Sue and Renelde in one of the bungalows. A great meal was eaten that evening in the restaurant.
Monday 24/10: After breakfast the town was explored and some lounging in hammocks. A difficult but scenic 'piste' with quite a bit of driving in water. See some salt flats and short baobabs. Arrive at Belo sur Mer, a Vezo peoples fishing village, staying and dining at the Hotel Ecolodge de Menabe in a bedroom on stilts. We find out why in the morning when the tide comes in. We investigate the local village which suffered recently from a cyclone and eat at the hotel.
Tuesday 25/10: Morning swim for Patrice before the tide went out and the sand had taken over. After a picnic lunch (with mangos) on the way we continue the 105km piste, with one difficult crossing, along the coast to Manja. There we stay at a bush camp the Hotel Kanto (some photos from others).
Wednesday 26/10: An early start for 160km (est. 7 hours) of piste. We cross the river Mangoky to get to Bevoay continuing up to Morombe. One jeep sticks in the sand and requires a push from the many locals used to this eventuality. Picnic under strangler tree. Happen on a market with many live turkeys in baskets. Many baobabs along the road. Buy a baobab fruit and sample. Night and dinner at the well located Hotel Baobab - a review.
Thursday 27/10: Continue our journey as far as Andavadoaka, a fishing village on a magnificent bay and the most westerly point of Madagascar. Picnic lunch. Then on through the baobabs, with a slight delay as one car gets stuck, to Salary Bay where we dine and stay two nights.
Friday 28/10: Stay in Salary Bay. The ladies go scuba diving in a catamaran pirogue with a sail out to the reef. A papaya is pureed in evening before our second dinner there
Saturday 29/10: After breakfast again along the coastal route, now a little better through Ifaty and lunch in Tuléar before joining Route National 7, one of the few good roads on the island. From the baobabs and tombs of the southern tribes we ascend to the higher plains more dessert like before the rainy season arrives. Pass through the gem rush towns with many sapphire dealers and seeing the sunset though the rocks at the park before arriving at Ranohira and the Hotel Orchidée de l'Isalo where we spend two nights.
Sunday 30/10: Early start with two local guides to the Isalo National Park (in EN on wikipedia) and a walk of several hours there in the heat. A stick insect pointed out by the guide when no one could find anything on a branch. Burial rites were noted, several people cooled off in a pool, and other insects and plants were examined. After viewing the surrounding countryside from on high headed down into lemur country with several troups disrupting picnics. More ring tailed lemurs present at he campsite but they were more polite. Evening in Ranohira.
Monday 31/10: Started early to head off on the 269km ride to Fianarantsoa crossing the Horombe desert plateau and the legendary gate of the South where we stopped at a locally run reserve and saw iguanas, strange butterflies and more lemurs. Had a slow lunch at Ambalavo and saw the production of handmade paper and silk articles from cocoons. Passed into the area of the Betsileo people. After passing by the studio of a photographer the evening was spent at the Hotel Cotsoyannis in Fianarantsoa.
Tuesday 1/11: After breakfast and purchases of several framed embroideries in the hotel, we visit the old town of many churches. On the way subsequently to Antsirabe (250km) we stop off at a local market and again at Ambositra where the group stocks up on wood carvings and torrential rain signals the start of the rainy season. We continue to Antsirabe and stay again in the Hotel Hasina having the good bowls of soup in the café at the front of the hotel.
Wednesday 2/11: After breakfast we reurn to the craft shops visited early on in our visit. Then to Ambatolampy and lunch before a visit to an aluminum foundry and completing the 170kms to Tana by way of the raffia stalls at the roadside and finally the craft shops of Tana. Stay in the fancy Hotel Tana Plaza and treat ourselves to dinner at the excellent Café de la Gare.
Thursday 3/11: To Tana airport in hectic local traffic. Departure just before midday on Corsair. Good meals. Arrive Paris Orly just at 9.45 p.m. local time. Drive 'home' to Brussels.

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