“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.”
― William Shakespeare
Money is a big issue here. I am not only referring to money for survival, but also estimating how much to take. We don’t use cards here so we have to guesstimate how much to take. Too little and it can get a bit awkward, too much and you can also be in trouble! This leads to a further issue. The biggest Malagasy note is 10,000 Arirary which equates to a little over 3 US Dollars. A further issue we had was towards the end of the month, finding a cashpoint machine which actually had ANY money! After trying the fourth ATM, we got lucky as it had some money. All it had was 5,000 Ariray notes which is approx 1.5 US Dollars. We made several withdrawals which meant we had several inches of cash in our pocket! Which in fairness isn’t worth a great deal but takes up a lot of space!
Madagascar is famous worldwide for being a totally unique place, an island which harbours unique wildlife which cannot be seen anywhere else in the world, unless it is a zoo or special exhibition. We are so lucky to be able to spend time here and to be able to explore this magnificent place.
We set off relatively early (for a Saturday morning) and met up by the edge of the Pangalanes Canal which luckily for us, goes past the outside of our housing village! Our destination is only accessible by boat, it is approximately 60km from home and would take approximately 3 hours. As it happened, it took a little over 4 hours but nobody really cared as it was a fascinating trip!
Along the way, there was plenty of traffic. The canal is connected to a series of enormous lakes and runs up to Tamatave which is, the commercial hub. So, when sailing along the canal, you will come across many river buses carrying people as well as livestock, bamboo boats pretty much submerged under the enormous loads of wood, fishermen as well as sand pirogues which is something I really want to expand on as it is fascinating. As we were chugging along the canal, we came across several pirogues laden down with red sand. By the way, a pirogue is a long, narrow canoe made from a single tree trunk. The sand is delivered to local destinations and it is used to make bricks for houses. As you sail along the river, you come across pirogues held in place by sticks in the water. To get the sand, there’s a person which dives to the bottom of the river, fills a bucket and empties it in the pirogue. He will do this until the boat is as full as possible, usually just a couple of inches above the water!
As we continued our trip passing village after village and river boat after river boat as well as numerous fish farms, we made a comfort stop. Or shall I say, we stopped in a beautiful place with white sandy beaches. The purpose of the stop was not to admire the sand but to try and find a tree or some bushes, I shall leave the rest of it to your imagination!
Once we finished on this stretch of canal, we headed across the interconnected lakes and eventually reached our destination.
We arrived at the hotel in time for lunch. Our cabins weren’t quite ready so we ordered food and waited….. and waited….. and waited. Eventually, after two hours, our food arrived. In the mean time, we were kept entertained by lemurs wandering around the place freely and enjoying the interaction with humans as well as all the attention, not to mention the lovely bananas too! Our food arrived and I must admit we were pleasantly surprised by how good it was. It certainly exceeded our expectations. After food we were briefed on our rooms which were now ready.
Lights Out at 11pm
Quite literally, lights went out at 11pm. The only means of electricity here is by generator. This means that there’s only electricity at certain times of the day….and night. We were told that the generators were switched off at 11pm until 6am. There was also intermittent electricity supply throughout the day. I must say, it didn’t really bother us all that much.
We spent the afternoon admiring lemurs and wandering around the lush gardens as well as admiring the local wildlife!
Some Malagasy wildlife
We pre-ordered our food well in advance, in (vain) hope that we wouldn’t have to wait as long as we did for lunch. At 7pm we had the local village choir? (I am not too sure what to call it really) who performed songs and dance for us and of course, we all joined in!
After all the singing, dancing and laughing we went through for some food, yup, it was another long wait, but the food was great, and the banana flambe was amazing!
We went to bed and made ourselves as comfortable as possible, I must admit, it wasn’t too bad…not bad at all! By 11pm, as promised, we were plunged into total darkness. We woke up relatively early but late enough to have electricity again. It was a beautiful morning and the lemurs were in full swing, quite literally! We popped over to the restaurant for breakfast at 7, the lemurs just wanted to play. They were jumping all over the place and demanding attention…OK, more like demanding bananas!
We pre-ordered our lunch for 11am as we needed to head back as we were stopping at a fishing village on the way home. Of course, lunch didn’t arrive till 12 but once again it was lovely and well worth the wait. Sorting out the bill was another interesting story as it was totally disorganised and all the information had to be put together along with who had had what etc etc. It wasn’t quite as bad as when we went to Sri Lanka in which to pay the bill by card meant having to borrow a card machine which took two days to organise! Eventually we paid up and we were on our way.
I have cycled past numerous villages but never actually stopped and had a wander around the place, it almost felt disrespectful to do so. When I was told we would be stopping in a fishing village on the way back I was most excited to hear this as it is an opportunity to meet people as well as see what life in a village would be like. We pulled into what can only be described as a picture postcard setting, somewhere you can only ever dream of. The reality for the people who live there is very different to the dream location on a photo.This place is located between the lake/ Pangalanes Canal and the Indian Ocean. They live on a strip which is probably a mile wide….. if that. There’s a train station…..of sorts. It is actually an abandoned building which most of it has collapsed. I think the correct word for it is derelict! We had a warm and very friendly welcome. Of course, within seconds we were surrounded by children who followed us around. Even though life is tough for them, no running water, no electricity, poor and very basic medical help, these people are smiley and happy. Yes, I am sure they would love to live in better conditions but they are not miserable due to their hardship. They were very happy for us to wander around their village though I must admit I felt a bit uncomfortable doing so. Not uncomfortable because of safety but from their perspective. Imagine having people walking around your village looking at how you live, that sort of thing. The kids were ever so friendly, I only wish I had had a football with me and we could have had a kickabout on the beach. We walked up to their primary school which only recently had had a roof; courtesy of a parents and school association. The village is pretty well stocked up which I was quite surprised. There was a butchers, a baker, a shop that sold various ointments and herbs as well as several other little shops. We walked across the village and to the beach where there were several pirogues which are obviously used for sea fishing. This is probably one of the THE most dangerous jobs in the world. These pirogues are flimsy little boats and the waves in the Indian Ocean are pretty big, not to mention the strong current and sharks! Katja played on the beach with a few of the kids but unfortunately we couldn’t spend much time there. On the way out we bought several necklaces which were made by the women from the village, so that’s quite a few Christmas pressies sorted! I would love to go back there without having to rush off, spend time with people and get to know them.
Katja decided that she would sleep most of the way back!
Here are a few more photos!
We arrived back home just before attending a site BBQ but already planning and looking forward to our next adventure!