Thursday, July 9, 2015

Backtracking to the Avenue of the Baobabs.

Two of the men working the ferry.

I woke up so refreshed this morning. Yesterday's hike through the Big and Little Tsingy's no doubt tired me out but also last night, I slept outside the mosquito tent with the window opened.  It was the perfect sleeping temperature for me.  George insisted I go under the tent (No, George, the tent is NOT my friend) so I wouldn't get bitten by mosquitoes but it's been so cold at night, I figured mosquitoes are nowhere to be found. I was bite free this morning.


Breakfast.  We're up so early, even the sun was still asleep :-(

It was another early wake up call.  The alarm going off before 6am has been a daily event since we've been in Madagascar.  Flash forward  and we're starting our roadtrip to the seaside city of Morondava.  It would be a full day's journey.  Along the way, we would stop at the Avenue of the Baobabs to take in the sunset view.

By 7a, we were back at the ferry dock.  It was a quiet place - even the little cluster of huts showed no sign of activity.


But, that didn't mean that people weren't out and about.  We had to wait for a ferry to come over from the other side of the river.  We watched the people get off, followed by the vehicles.

Not everyone can afford shoes and winter jackets.

SUVs were already lined, ready to board.  No doubt, all were carrying tourists.


Somehow, Faly had made his way to the top of the line.  Not complaining as it meant we could get on the road sooner.



Our destination on the opposite shore.

On the other side of the shore, the local eatery was doing a brisk business serving up breakfast. 


A young Malagasy girl had ridden over on the ferry with us.   The moment our ferry dock, I watched her leap off and make a beeline for the eatery.  By the time we disembarked, she had come back with what I presume was a small bag of food.  No doubt, she would be back on ferry for the return ride.

Clutching a small bag of food and staying warm wrapped inside her blanket.  That's my shadow on her blanket.

Luckily,  we both had had a light breakfast and more importantly, neither of us suffers from motion sickness because as soon as we got off the ferry we were back on bumpy roads.  This is offroading in Madagascar!!  Honestly, you're tousled a lot - makes it difficult to focus on the scenery whizzing by.


When there were smooth stretches of road, I focused on looking out the window.  I didn't want to dwell on it but we leave Madagascar the day after tomorrow and I want to take in as much as I can before then.  Who knows if and when I will ever be back.  I would love to come back to this amazing country.  I feel like I just got a taste of something truly wonderful and I want to experience more.

In any event, one of the familiar, albeit a bit sad, sights was burnt land.  I fully understand the need to create arable for people to grow crops on and for their animals to graze on but this also represents lost habitat for all the endangered fauna and flora species that Madagascar is uniquely home to. 


When we were climbing Big Tsingy yesterday, my plastic water bottle, picked up at a Gartner conference I attended years ago, fell to the ground from quite a height up.  As a result, the cap was damaged and for all intents and purposes, the bottle was no longer usable for me.  We had noticed how villagers had been asking for our plastic water bottles . I had thought it was because they either reuse them or get money for recycling them.   But according to Jean Claude, the villagers actually want them simply because they are items used by foreigners - something different for them.  Knowing this, I kept my water bottle to give away.

At some point, we spotted a group of children by the roadside.  I asked Jean Claude to have Faly stop so I could give them my bottle.

I passed the bottle to Faly who handed it out the window.  I've never seen children fight over a plastic bottle like this group did!

They curiously checked it out.


And then returned to the car to see if we had more.  Unfortunately, we didn't realize the bottle thing until yesterday otherwise, we would have saved all of them up.   I have to remember to train George to bring along a water bottle.  He ended up buying a lot of 2 liter bottles of water and that really a lot of waste.  Plastic doesn't disintegrate and as responsible tourists, we need to be mindful of not contributing to another countries non-biodegradable waste....especially in places like Madagascar where recycling is not done.

Cute and curious munchkins.  That blue plastic in the middle left of the photo was my Gartner water bottle.

I got out of the car for a few minutes, just to snap a few photos of the children.  I had to squat so they could all huddle around me to see their photos.  One of the girls motioned for me to take a photo of her and the baby she was carrying.  Physically, she was so small, I mistook her for a young girl and maybe she is - they do have babies at a very young age here.


We had another interesting moment when Faly and Jean Claude spotted a snake on the road.  It spanned a good part of the road so there was no way we could pass without killing it.

Of course, we had to get out and take a look at it.   I am not fond of snakes and even knowing that none of the species in Madagascar are venomous does not make them that much more likeable.  

In any case, the markings on this creature identify it as a Madagascar ground boa (Acrantophis madagascariensis).


They hibernate over winter which July still is but perhaps the weather is warm enough that it brought the snake out, presumably to either mate or hunt for food or both.


George found a stick and used it to prod the snake to move off the road and into the grassy area.


By noon, we had arrived back in to the town of Belo sur Tsiribihina and it was time for lunch.  It was our lucky day, we were back at the Hotel Karibo and the grilled shrimp, that we had enjoyed two days ago, were still on the menu.  This time, George asked if we could get 5 shrimp instead of 3 and they gladly obliged.  Look what showed up!!  Seriously scrumptious!


We continued our journey after lunch, driving a short distance through the town to reach the ferry dock.  Like all the other towns and villages and even cities we've been to in Madagascar, Belo sur Tsiribihina is far from being an attractive place - there is nothing remotely quaint or charming about it either.  This is the type of place where people live to survive.  It functions and that's all that matters.

I shot some video on our short ride.  I'm not sure where all the sound is coming from - maybe it's the echo coming from the side of the car since I was leaning out a bit to shoot the video.


Back at the ferry dock and it was back to a familiar sight. This was now our fourth and final ferry crossing.  We knew the procedure well.



I stared at the engine contraption for a bit of time - partly fascinated and partly befuddled that this rigged up thing actually worked!


Standing next to the motor was a noisy and smelly place to be so I didn't hang around too long.



All day long, boats of all shapes and sizes ply these waters.



There were a few larger boats.  I think these are boats, chartered to take tourists for *cruises* on the river.


At one point, a very enterprising man hitched his boat to ours.  Why not?  Saves time and energy.


He just kicked back....even relaxed enough to roll and smoke a cigarette :-)



At one point, I turned around and saw Matthias climbing up the back of their orange colored SUV.


I'm sure it was a wonderful vantage point for taking photos. 


While I was busy soaking in the views and taking photos,  George was chatting with another pair of tourists.  This twosome was on vacation from the UK.


Our 40 minute ride seemed a lot shorter than that.  Before I knew it, we were approaching the dock.



On shore, the next group of passengers was waiting to board.  The ferry is a nonstop business!



Matthias and Trini's SUV was the first to disembark.  Dock workers had to push the vehicle up the sandy hill.  According to Jean Claude, their car is actually not a 4x4 and therefore, lacks the rear wheel power needed to get up the hill.  Whatever it is, it needed help up.


We were okay on the wheel front but we needed help getting in line with the ramps.  The man is signalling we need to move a bit to the left.


When we got the two thumbs up signal, Faly moved ahead and we made it up the sandy hill with ease.


We're on our way to see the baobabs!