Monthly Archives: August 2016

Bike Ride

“One of the most important days of my life was when I learned to ride a bicycle. “Michael Palin
That’s a great quote from Michael Palin!

Work was a bit slow this morning so I decided to go out for a bike ride after practicing on my unicycle. I rode out of the housing village and into Toamasina, it gives me a real buzz to ride among all the Pouss Puss, Tuc Tucs, other bikes, pedestrians, chickens, goats, the odd turkey and all while trying to avoid the rather generously proportioned potholes! On the way back, I took the more scenic route, which I am sure you will agree with me, parts of it are rather pretty! Here you go…

 

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Little Nomad turns 6

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!
Dr. Seuss
Well, our international little Nomad turns 6 today. It is quite amazing to look back over the years and just wonder, where does time go!

She is having a fantastic time here, and quite frankly, I can’t really think of a better place for her to grow up in. She can go out and we know she is safe, she can go and do things and start getting a taste of independence but in a safe environment.

So far, Katja has celebrated her birthdays in five different countries in three different continents! While we were living in the northern hemisphere it was a bit easier to continue this as her birthday falls during the summer break. However, now we are in the south, her birthday falls during “winter” school term!

Every year we celebrate Katja’s birthday, we cannot help but wonder what her biological mother is thinking. We all refer to her as Katja’s “tummy mummy”. Cathy and I cannot help but wonder what feelings her “mother” would have the 23rd of August each year. Surely she must think of the little girl she left in a children’s home the day after she was born. I guess this is a question none of us may ever have an answer…..

Tooth fairy alert!

Can her birthday get any better? The tooth which had been loose for a few days finally came out!

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A selection of Kit Kat through the years!

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Weekend

“It’s not that we spend five days looking forward to just two. It’s that most people do what they enjoy most on those two days. Imagine living a life where everyday are your Saturdays and Sundays. Make everyday your weekend. Make everyday a play-day…”
― James A. Murphy
We never really got into the whole thing of Friday Saturday weekends in the Middle East, it is so nice to have real weekends, i.e Saturday and Sunday!
Funnily enough, we kicked off the weekend on Friday night by going to the Tiki Bar (Bar/ Restaurant on site) where we enjoyed a variety of Middle Eastern food. Sadly, there was no Machboos or any Yemeni food which is definitely our favourite Middle Eastern food. Nonetheless, there was a nice variety of food which we enjoyed, of course, these were accompanied by a few beers and chatting with friends.
Saturday, was packed with fun. Starting off at 6am and heading out for a long bike ride. Here’s where I am having to adapt a bit but in a good way. People I have met here so far who are into cycling, are considerably faster than me. I am more used to touring rather than speed mountain biking. It was a great ride, heading out of town and towards the Lemur park. On the way back, we headed through Bazaar Kelly which is absolutely massive. It is packed with people, pouss pouss, tuc tucs, cars, trucks, vans, buses, chickens, people walking pigs you sort of get the idea. Not the best of places to have a puncture, but, such is life. As my riding partner was pulling away from me, I felt the back end of the bike go “funny”, this was followed by that rather depressing hissing noise indicating I had a very flat tyre. I managed to catch my riding partner’s attention and he turned back to make sure all was OK. Well, it wasn’t. My tyre was totally flat, and this was definitely not the best of places for it. From a safety perspective, I had some concerns but then again, rather than wasting time being concerned, I just got on with it. I found a quiet(ish) area, walked the bike there, and proceeded to strip the back wheel off and change the inner tube. Yes, I carry several spares with me, inner tubes being the most important spare of the lot! Interestingly enough, nobody paid any attention to us, a couple of little kids probably no older than 4 or 5 walked up to us, I let them have my old inner tube which they were very happy with. In the midst of all this, my pump decided it wasn’t too interested in doing its job, fortunately we had a spare pump. Soon enough, my bike was the right way up and we were back on the road. We arrived back home at about 9am after a 56 km bike ride. I was covered in mud and tired but having thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

After a shower it was all back to normal again and time to carry on with the rest of the day. Katja had a whale of a time at a birthday party later on.

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The evening was then followed by a second Arabian food evening!

Sunday there is a scheduled power cut for maintenance, power is due to be off for several hours. Not that we really noticed it as the power generators kicked in and life continued as normal. Which is great as we are in the middle of cooking Sunday roast for a bunch of people. Or I should be a bit more specific. Cathy has been cooking since this morning as well as making a delicious cheesecake. I have been busy cleaning my bike!

Christmas!

Yes, I know, it is only August! But, as all our plans involve traveling, we need to book things nice and early. We decided to out on hold our initial plan of going to Australia for Christmas. Instead, we decided to go back to the UK for 10 days, spend Christmas there. Then head off to Bulgaria and spend New Year’s Eve with friends in Sofia and then head off to Spain around January 4th for a week before heading back home to Madagascar around January 14th.

Driving through Toamasina

Here are a couple of videos I shot on my Go Pro driving into and through Toamasina, quality isn’t great as I was holding it in my hand and the road, as you can see, is bumpy! The night before and not long before we had set off, we had a lot of rain!

 

Ocean 501 Tamatave

“Looking at beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind.”
― Amit Ray, Meditation: Insights and Inspirations

We are so fortunate to live not only in a unique place, but also one which is surrounded by beautiful places.

We popped over to Ocean 501 for a bite to eat on Monday. It was a religious holiday here, something to do with the Assumption of something or another. Important bit was that it was a day to chill out. What better way to get there than a good bike ride! I asked our driver to follow me as I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going. Yes, he followed me. Whenever I needed to turn he would beep the horn and indicate, a system which worked a treat! On the way back I actually followed one of the other drivers back part of the way. Problem with doing that is that they tend to drive too slowly for my liking!

Ocean 501 is a lovely restaurant in unequaled surroundings just outside Tamatave. I arrived at 11 am and requested a table outside which they duly set up for us. The views are pretty amazing! Cathy, Katja and a couple of other people joined me about an hour later. This gave me a chance to chill out and have a beer!

We had a fabulous meal which at 20 GBP for a three course meal for the three of us it is extremely reasonable! Riding back took me a little longer than riding there!!

And for the rest of the afternoon? What else other than practice my unicycling skills while Cathy chilled out for a bit and Katja played!

Foulpointe

“The seeker embarks on a journey to find what he wants and discovers, along the way, what he needs.”
― Wally Lamb, The Hour I First Believed

Wow, what an awesome extended weekend that was! One of the amazing things about a new place is exploring, discovering, learning and creating memories. This weekend was a three day weekend, we started off by heading off to a place called Foulpointe (I am reliably informed it is pronounced Fall-point). Unfortunately, we were unable to get a hotel room so we had to come back the same day. Roads in Madagascar, are…to put it mildly, pretty poor. So a 70km road trip, took us over two hours (it didn’t help having a travel sick six year old!).

Tapakala to Foulpointe

Tapakala to Foulpointe

Our drive took us through Tamatave and then along route 5 which is part of the route I did on my bike on the previous weekend. The road is bumpy and narrow in places, the scenery is pretty amazing. The road takes you through numerous little villages with huts at either side of the road. Villages time has forgotten, villages where life is about daily survival. With all that in mind, one think which has really struck me is that having just moved from one of the wealthiest countries on the planet which is Qatar to the 10th poorest country in the world; where people experience real hardship, people here are smilier and have a much nicer aura if that makes sense. People don’t seem to have that look of permanent constipation like so many do in the Middle East. People have a kind face and in general seem to be good natured. Yes, of course, there is a wide mixture of people but I am generalising.

We arrived in Foulpointe relatively early, our traveling companion who had invited us to tag along had already been here before and had numerous contacts. As soon as we arrived, our drivers dropped us off in the car park of a rather luxurious looking resort where people were enjoying themselves in the pool and the great party atmosphere which included fairly loud music. We cut across to a public beach. As soon as we hit the beach, we had some sun loungers with a table and a parasol. A local contact came to us and we proceeded to order lunch. Of course, they had fish, fish and more fish! I was a bit stuffed as I don’t do fish, at least they had chips too. Food was ordered at around 9am and was to be delivered for 1pm. Lobsters and whatever the catch of the day was, that’s what was ordered. Apparently, they will then go and catch it, cook it and serve it, certainly can’t get fresher than that!

For the first hour or so, we were not accosted but offered every product and service under the sun. Yes, they were persistent (remember, this is about survival and not as an extra bit of income). Anything from necklaces with shark teeth (yes, I did buy a couple), massages (yes, all three of us had one), beer (yes, we did buy some after our own supply dried out), fishy food which we had no idea (no we didn’t!) and a whole lot more. After a while it calmed down and we all enjoyed our time by drinking beer, playing in the sea with Katja as well as chatting with the family next to us who were a large Malagasy family who had traveled from Tana for the long weekend. There must have been around 20 of them.

Lunch arrived at 13:00 hrs as planned and even I, as a non fish eater was quite tempted, in fact, I did try some lobster and thought it was pretty good!

After all this, Katja had her hair braided which I thought looked amazing, sadly after a day she decided she didn’t like it…

After we had had enough of the beach we tried again (in vain) to find a hotel but we kept getting the same reply, all rooms are booked! We will book into La Cigale which is a very quaint hotel with its own private beach!

We headed back home after a very relaxing day and chilled out for the remainder of the evening, we still had a further two days left!

 

First Bike Ride in Madagascar

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring” – Desmond Tutu

One of the big things I have been extremely keen to do since even before we arrived is to get on my bike and explore! I was advised that the safest thing to do is to go out with a group of people. I waited patiently until Sunday as there was a group going out for a ride. As it happens, it was only just two of us that went out. What an awesome experience that was. Yes, I have been driven around Tamatave numerous times and seen the sites as a passenger in a car but going out on a bike was a totally different and amazing experience.

One thing worth mentioning is that cyclists must carry ID (passport or certified copy) as well as a cycling permit! The permit cost all of 30p but we must have one as there are many police check points all over the place!

My Cycling Permit

My Cycling Permit

Oh yes, I think you also need to carry a copy of the receipt for the bike too!

Anyway, we headed out of the housing village straight into town. We cycled to Bazaar Be (Big Bazaar) where we did a quick stop to say hi to someone my cycling partner knew. While cycling around town we went past several churches where there was standing room only with quite a large crowds spilling onto the street! We cut across town and past Ocean 501 which is a lovely beach Restaurant / Hotel where we had lunch the first Sunday we arrived.

View from Restaurant

View from Restaurant

After Ocean 501 we headed out of town along route 5 and past the “new” Hospital, past the local Airport (which is more of a glorified bus station) and past a busy market area. We then headed off road and along the bumpy track which leads to Ivoloina Zoo park and along a wide river (I cannot find the name of it, but it is a fairly big river as you can see below!). As we rode, we went past a couple of small villages where people were busy going on about their daily life. We also went past the local church which was broadcasting its hymns through loudspeakers at full blast to ensure the whole village and surrounding area shared in the experience!

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We reached Ivoloina and had a quick break in stunning surroundings!

After our break we headed back to route 5 and then headed towards a massive market area. As a bit of an adrenaline junkie, it was such a buzz cycling in the midst of totally disorganized chaos. Pouss Pousses left right and centre, cars, trucks, bicycles, pedestrians carrying chickens, turkeys and goodness knows what else. Simply awesome! After some time the crowds thinned out and we were leaving town along route 2 which heads towards Antananarivo. We peeled off the main road and ended up heading back to the housing village.

I then headed off to the beach and met up with a bunch of people to enjoy cooling off in the pleasantly refreshing  waters of the Indian Ocean!

First Weeks in Madagascar

I’ve read somewhere that when you’re writing, you should stop while you’re doing well so you always want to go back to work. Glenn Frey

Here’s a whole collection of pics from leaving Manchester to arriving and settling here in Madagascar. Enjoy 🙂

The last few photos are of an area where we have marked out a BMX track for kids (and few bigger kids like me!). We are hoping to get permission to get this done, it will be awesome!

 

Ivoloina Tamatave

Exploring the unknown requires tolerating uncertainty – Brian Greene

One of the most exciting parts of living in a new place and a new country is to explore. We didn’t come to Madagascar to live within the walls of a compound. We came here to live, explore, experience and learn. We are so fortunate to have a wonderful driver who knows his way around the place, it certainly makes life so much easier! So far we have done a couple of short tours around the area.

First proper visit was to Ivoloina Zoo which is not really a Zoo in the traditional way in which you have a whole bunch of animals in cages or pens. This is more of a nature park with rescued Lemurs and a couple of other species of animals which are being taken care off. Anything else within the area is roaming free. As most people reading this will know, Madagascar is home to a vast diverse range of animals, plants and trees which is unique to the island.

To get to Ivoloina is pretty simple but like most things here when it comes to traveling, it takes time! Most of the road is tarmac except for the last 4 km which is a pretty bumpy track which takes you past a couple of villages where you will see people smashing rocks which they will then sell for roads or building.

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Things you see in Qatar

“If idiots could fly, the sky would be like an airport.” – Laura Davenport

Qatar is a funny old place, you see things and have to do a double take to make sure that you are not seeing things.

One of the common ones is seeing kids jumping around in the car without any form of restraint. After all, most of them are being driven by drivers who the kids themselves treat like something stuck to their shoe, quite sad and upsetting to see really. We were shopping once in our little supermarket near our old place and there was this kid which can’t have been much older than 8 or 9, he was having a massive tantrum because he didn’t have enough money to buy more sweets and the driver wouldn’t give him any more. Poor guy, he probably gets paid a pittance anyway. The kid proceeded to shout at him and then start kicking him and hitting him. I hate to imagine what that poor guy would have to put up with in private!

doha idiots

Cycling

Qatar is building a fabulous infrastructure for cyclists. If only they would keep drivers off the cycle lanes it would be wonderful! I have had several incidents in which I have nearly been knocked off my bike by imbecils driving on the bike lane. Not just driving but absolutely flying!

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Why not teach your kid to drive?

Yeah, great idea, teach your kid to drive, it would help if the spoilt little brat could even reach the pedals and didn’t have to sit on his mother’s lap. Even better still let’s do it in the city centre, where it is nice and safe!

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Nothing makes you feel as welcome as having one queue for locals and one for foreigners!

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