Tuesday, July 7, 2015

On The Way to Bekopaka. Part 2.

Taking in the sunset at Hôtel L'Olympe du Bemaraha, Bekopaka.

Continuing from the previous blog post.  After lunch, Jean Claude wanted to go the town's market and I was more than happy to go again.  This time George came along.  We entered the same way I had except this time, we walked into the produce section.  This may be one of the poorest countries in the world but they can grow enough produce, of good quality, to feed themselves.


Beautiful looking vegetables!

They grow quite a variety of leafy greens here.  I have no idea what these.

Zebu is the meat of choice here.  Of course, it's sold in the open, sitting out unrefrigerated. 

Fruit juice is poplar.  This is noni (Morinda citrifolia)

We passed a woman selling salt which here is sea salt.  I took a close look at the mound in front of here.  The grains were of uneven size but it was very clean salt - no bits of dirt in in.  I picked up a grain and tasted it.  Very clean, salty taste.  I decided I had to have some.  For 200 ariary, which comes to about 6 seconds, I bought one tin's worth which I estimated to be about 2 cups worth.


Next to the salt vendor was a young boy standing next to a makeshift wooden table.  On the tabletop was a lump of something. It appeared to been wrapped in banana leaves and then cooked.

He was selling what I later found out is called koba which is short for kobindravina, a dessert or snack that is made from peanuts, brown sugar and rice flour.  The mixture of ingredients is indeed wrapped inside banana leaves and the entire thing is steamed until I presume the rice is fully cooked.


Jean Claude asked the boy to slice off a sliver for us to try.  Indeed it tasted of rice and peanuts.  Not bad and if I knew how long I could safely keep this stuff unrefrigerated, I would have bought some more.  Truthfully, it's not a bad snack - good substitute for a nut bar.

Hard at work selling koba.  I love the Malagasy faces - part African, part Indonesian.

From the fresh produce section, we made our way to the seafood section.  Jean Claude loves fish and as you would expect it's cheaper to buy it here than in Tana.  It would be three days before we would be back to Tana so I was a bit surprised to think that Jean Claude would be buying fish now but in actuality, he was just checking out the offerings.  At the same time, it was giving George and I the opportunity to see the market.

If you're wondering what all those black dots are, they are indeed flies!

Next to the fish vendors were several vendors selling shrimp.  They looked to be the ones we had just eaten for lunch.  I took a closer look at them and they were extremely fresh.  How can you tell?  You look at the eyes.  If they are full and round and tightly attached to the head, the shrimp is fresh.

Walking about the market, I had noticed that none of the vendors were using scales or any sort of of weights to weigh anything.  I wondered how they sold the shrimp and according to Jean Claude, it was by *bunch*.  The shrimp had been been bunched together by size.  For the size that Jean Claude was looking at, which was just slightly smaller than what we had eaten for lunch, the vendor was asking 200 ariary.  6 US cents for about 8-10 shrimp!  Size wise, my eye tells me these are about 8-10 count shrimp which in the US are classified as colossal shrimp and would easily go for well over $20 a pound!  I am going to be eating as much seafood as I can while I am here!  No more guinea fowl unless I have no choice!


Watching us.  Looking at their happy faces, you can't help but smile back.

We didn't spend all that much time in the market as we had to get back on the road and continue our journey - we still had quite a ways to go.

A church I spotted as we made our way out of town.

Back on the road, it was back to views of grassland, villages and lots of people.



I quickly got into the habit of waving each time we passed by people.  It was nice to see folks waving back!  As you might expect, I could count on the kids to return my waves.  Had we been able to touch hands, we would've.



We were also back to *Rutsville* as far as the road was concerned.


Poor Faly.  He really had to concentrate on driving.


On one particular stretch of road, we were going so slow that a young boy was actually able to jog alongside our SUV and easily keep pace with us.  At first, I didn't understand what he was shouting out but after a few cries, I figured out he was saying, "bonbon".  That's the tourist code word for *candy*.  Had I had any candy, I would've handed some to him but I didn't.  Soon enough we were able to pick up speed and left him behind.


Our dusty road turned to a dusty road that was a brilliant shade of terracotta orange.  Unlike the soil on the east coast, the soil here is not good for growing crops - it's much too hard and full of iron.


Every now and again, we were blessed with flat road.  Faly sped to take advantage.


By late afternoon, we reached another river bank.   We had to cross to the other side to continue our journey.  There was no bridge in sight so it was another ferry crossing!  There was no ferry docked when we arrived so we had to wait for the one and only ferry to return from the other side of the river.  As we stood around, I took the opportunity to take a few photos.

The rock cliffs on the other side are part of the Small Tsingy formations of Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park.


The local riverside *cafe*.

Bringing in the boats for the day.

Still fishing.  Here, the man was using a net to catch fish with.

After the arriving cars and passengers had disembarked, it was our turn to board.  This time, for some strange reason, I decided to get back into the car and ride as Faly drove on board the ferry.  I continued to shoot a bit of video as we rolled on board.

Watch how Faly reverses the SUV so as to exactly position the tires over the ramps.  Once we boarded, the workers then repositioned the ramps so the last SUV could board up.  Existing tracks on the sand tell them where the ramps need to be positioned but I did notice that at least once, they had to reposition the ramps to make sure they were wide enough to accommodate for the distance between a particular SUV's tires.



And then it was time for the guys to push us off.  The guys saw me taking a video of them and once they had gotten the ferry into deeper water, they climbed aboard and came over to me.  I replayed the video for them....a lot of laughs as they saw themselves come to life on the small screen! I have so much fun sharing these small moments with the people I meet on my trips.


Two guys, who were still in the water, decided to play it up for me - one guy playfully planting a kiss on the cheek of the other.  A very camera worthy moment :-)


It was literally no more than a 10 minute.

Where there's a boat bow, you'll find someone resting on it....even for a 10 minute ride :-)

Looking towards the sunset.  It would soon be twilight.

Looking back across the river at where we had just come from.


When we arrived at the opposite shore, the guys got to work arranging the ramps.


On this side of the river was a small cluster of homes.  According to Jean Claude, we would be back here tomorrow to get our entry tickets for Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park.



It was a very short drive to our hotel, the L'Olympe du Bemaraha. When I was planning this trip with Rija, I made sure to check out recommendations on TripAdvisor and this one was well rated.  After putting George up in a very *rustic* forest lodge, albeit only for one night, I wanted him to have a nice experience here....especially since we would be staying here for two nights.


Faly parked our car and both George and I followed Jean Claude down the path that led to the reception desk.  There were some very nice sized bungalows flanking the path.  I hoped one would be ours.


Jean Claude got us checked in.  We were indeed staying in one of the bungalows - #7 to be exact.  Jean Claude went with us to check out the room and when we gave him the thumbs up, we then went back to the car to get our luggage.

Each bungalow has a numbered lemur to identify it.

Our bungalow, with its cute little front porch.  It's all so charming.....so Madagascar.

On the front porch were two papasan chairs for relaxing in.

There were two beds under a mosquito tented canopy.

George and I took a few minutes to get settled in and then went back to the main building with houses the reception desk, a small gift shop and the dining room.  Adjacent to the dining room was a lovely deck area with the pool.


Looking back at the dining room.


The deck had a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape - we could see all the way over to the river that we had crossed over to get here.  We hung around the deck as George wanted to take photos of the setting sun - the sky was glowing in stunning shades of orange and red.


I can honestly say that my photos did not do it justice.  I was being lazy and using my camera in auto mode instead of manual so I didn't capture the brilliant colors.  The photo's not bad but it's not as good as I had wanted it to be.


I quickly gave up on trying to take photos of the setting sun.  Instead, I took photos of a tree in planter?  Why, because I liked the silhouette against the purple colored sky and .....there were two bright stars, hanging in the sky, just above some of the higher branches of the tree.  It was a pretty sight to me.


We had a very lovely dinner at the hotel restaurant.  After that, George bought a couple of t-shirts, souvenirs for him and Joe.  After that, we headed back to our room.  Tomorrow, we have an early morning wake up call and it's going to be a activity filled day so we both need our rest.

Goodnight from Bekopaka!