Ranomafana

We were up early this morning at 6am, then breakfast at 6.30am. I was hungry – had some rice porridge. This is a common meal here, plain rice in a slightly sweet water. I liked it, no one else did!

We headed off at 7am, back the way we had come, to the town. Of course, about 10 minutes into the walk it began to pour with rain. So for the next 4km, we walked along / slid along the mud. It wasn’t all that fun. Many of the paths had turned into rivers and waterfalls, which involved a lot of wading through. The bus was parked by a large church. It had taken an hour to get here and we were all completely soaked through.

We drove back to Antsirabe and into Shop Rite. The African supermarket. I remember these from Zambia! I picked up a new tree of bananas and a couple of mangos. So much cheaper here – only 10p per mango! Much more reasonable! I was still soaking and freezing. Luckily I had some spare clothes inside the bus (big bags were on the roof) and managed to change into some drier clothes. But I was still cold.

Then we left the city and headed off South. Once we were out of the tuk tuk chaos, the roads were totally empty and wound round and round the hills. Hours and hours of nothing but rice fields and the occasional house.

Trucks full of zebu were heading the other way – being driven from the South where they are farmed, up to Antananarivo where they are killed for meat and either eaten in the country, or exported overseas.

It eventually stopped raining about 12pm. We stopped for lunch at the side of the road (literally) and sat on the grass as occasionally a car, bus or lorry zoomed past. Luckily I had finished eating my mangos before we were surrounded by small children from a local village. These were a bit more vicious than other children along the way, they grabbed at bags and tried to take things. They were very, very dirty and clearly very poor. It was a bit uncomfortable.

A few more hours of winding roads later and we finally arrived at Ranomafana National Park. Suddenly bare hills and rice fields made way for mountains covered in forest.

Houses suddenly became a lot more colourful and produce spilling out onto the streets. Back in the jungle! It was gone 5pm by the time we arrived at the hotel. And so many stairs to go up to get to my room!

There was an option of going on a night walk at 5.30pm. But it looked like rain. I’m freezing. And need a shower. So I didn’t go. We had dinner about 8pm. I had ordered vegetables, rice and beans. I’ve had this same food for dinner for a few nights (I really don’t have any options!). And in other places the portion sizes have been relatively small and I’ve usually had to give away most of my food due to onions and garlic. But here, I ended up with 3 huge plates of no-onion, no-garlic food!! The beans were so good!! Clearly everyone has gotten into a habit of taking my food, as it all started to disappear from in front of me….

Friday 6 November 2015

We had to be down ready with our bags at 7am this morning. Breakfast was rather dull, so I just had some bananas which I had left over from yesterday. Turns out pretty much the entire group was sick from dinner last night! So we were quite a few people down, whilst others struggled through.

We left at 7.30am for the 20 minute drive up to the park entrance. There were already quite a few cars here! This park is large and we have a couple of guides here, plus a few spotters who were out looking for animals and were able to let the guide know where they were at!

This area is secondary rainforest. There is some primary rainforest here (not much!) but it’s a days walk away, so we aren’t going there. We started off on a paved path, with lots of steps heading down to a river. A long bridge across the river, then up loads more steps! This park is so hilly – we were continually walking up and down, with hardly any flat at all!

The guide found so many things everywhere, a small leaf tailed gekko curled up on a leaf – I like these! A caterpillar, various small frogs, a stick insect, a small bird nest. Plus some more cool things – an elephant beetle! This was odd looking, bright yellow and black, with strange shaped stick legs. And a giraffe beetle – like we saw in the previous park.

But the real reason we are here – to see lemurs. Really early into the walk we found a couple of Golden Bamboo lemur. These are rare and there are very few left in the park, so apparently it was lucky to see them. They were small and really cute. Running around all the branches.

We also saw some Black and white sifaka. These are the second largest type of lemur (after the indri). There were two of them, hanging around together in a tree, leaping around and hanging upside down.

Lastly, a few Red fronted brown lemur. These are a type of brown lemur – of which we have seen quite a lot – but with a red patch on this time! I like these ones!

We were hiking around for 4 hours! Time passes fairly quickly. And it didn’t rain!! It would have been miserable in the rain. As soon as we stepped up the last step out of the park, into the car park, we were surrounded by women selling spices! I didn’t fancy buying spices. But turns out they had vanilla! So I ended up buying various bits – some vanilla pods, powdered vanilla and cinnamon. It cost £7 for those – which sounds expensive, but vanilla pods in the shops have been crazy expensive. So it wasn’t too bad!

As we drove back to the hotel, we stopped off in the village just so that I could buy a jackfruit. (Given I haven’t shut up about them, since spotting them by the side of the road a few days ago). They had a whole pile of them! And one cost 40p!!! So cheap!! Back at the hotel, I enjoyed a jackfruit lunch! I felt like I ate loads of it, but only managed about a quarter!

We wandered back into the village for a wander around. It was such a cute place, there was the river running the length of the village, a single road and various small houses dotted along. It was so tropical – banana trees, traveller palms – felt completely like borneo! Amongst the small shops selling rice and fruit, there were a few shops selling objects made out of coloured grass. Mostly baskets and hats, but they did souvenirs too – I got a woven grass baobab tree!

We left at 2pm, to drive further south – heading further and further each day! We stopped a couple of times to look at waterfalls – this river is the largest in Madagascar and heads off to the east coast. The waterfalls were big, full of massive rocks and were pretty. Then, as per usual, I fell asleep!! Not quite sure what is wrong with me all the time!

I woke up a couple of hours later as we were driving though the town of Fianarantsoa. This town was large – so many shops and people. The shops were all together, first a load of hairdressers, then car-fixing, a massive fruit and vegetable area, lots of rice shops, then a large chaotic looking bus station, more fruit and vegetable stalls, then random plastic shops. Of course everything still looked very old and rural. And so many people about!

We continued on for a few more hours. The landscape completely changed. Gone were the rice fields, now replaced by zebu farming and hillsides covered in really large oval shaped rocks. We arrived in Ambalavao at 6pm, after a 4 hour drive, just as it was getting dark. We are staying in mini bungalows tonight – cute! For dinner I ordered a plate of vegetables and a plate of fruit. The menus here are all just exactly the same. But the vegetables were the best I’ve had all trip! Carrots, green beans and courgette in a really good sauce! And I was in bed by 9pm! Such early nights here.

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