Isalo

I didn’t bother with breakfast, which was just bread. So I had some mangos!

By 8am we were off for the short drive to Isalo National Park. We were lucky that it was open – up until yesterday there was a strike held by all the guides and the park had been closed for a week.

They were striking as last week the government decided to put the entrance prices of all the national parks up. The prices increased by around 50-70%. This is because the government has ran out of money to pay the politicians…!

Today was going to be a whole day hike. We started off at the base of a huge rocky plateau. Littered with moringa trees! In the ‘health community’, moringa is another superfood. It’s a tree with small green leaves. But in England can be bought as a green powder. The locals don’t eat it!

We headed up lots of stairs, winding up the side of the rocky cliff, all the way to the flat top. This area has been likened to the grand canyons in America. We ended up in the middle of a load of rocky lumps – we could climb all over them, but sheer drops on all sides! The views were great. Much of the flora around here can only be found here in this national park. It is the only place in the world that it grows!

We saw lots of cacti, small flowers – including one small pink flower which is now being used as a cure for cancer, different types of aloe. And my favourite – the elephant foot Palm – like a small knee-high baobab tree with small yellow flowers!

There were a few different small animals around too – stick insects, a couple of small poisonous frogs, sekada, grasshoppers and a really cool locust! The locus looked like it was made from plastic – it was green, with bright yellow and red dots all over it. The guide picked it up and opened its wings – they were bright red!

It was a long walk along the top of the rock cliff. Literally along the edge! Nothing to stop you falling right off! But the views were so cool – right out across the flat grasslands, for miles and miles. We could see the village we were staying in, plus the odd house dotted around. We could hear the occasional gun shot. An exhumation was happening. There were crowds of people around one of the tombs. The process of an exhumation varies between each different tribe. Here they take the bones out of the tomb, open up the coffin and clean the long bones with zebu oil. The bones are then transferred to a permanent tomb. Many of these permanent tombs are in the face of the rock. We could see several, high up on the cliff side, the entrance filled with smaller bits of rock.

We started to make our way back down from the top. This was winding steps along a stream and out of the dry, arid landscape, into jungle!

Just as we made it all the way down the stairs, we were onto a mud path. And a load of swaying, black and white tails were walking towards us! A whole family of ring tailed lemurs! They were so cute, all walking in a line! Once they got to us, they didn’t know what to do – so ran around us and jumped up into the trees. There were a few small babies holding onto the backs of the mothers too. We arrived at a campsite and the camp cooks had prepared lunch for us! Again, I had a special no onion, no egg, no meat meal. They had made rice (with bits of carrot and green beans) and tomatoes. It was so good!!! So plain, but tasted really good and made a change from the usual rubbish plain food I’ve eaten so far!

After lunch, we left the campsite and walked along a shallow river which was cut through a small gap between two rocky cliff sides. Winding across stepping stones, along the narrow banks and clambering over rocks. It was tropical, hot and pretty green trees. At the very end (about 1.5km along) were two small pools of water. One called the black pool, the other the blue pool. So we went for a swim! The pools of water were freezing!! It felt like ice! They were pretty, with small waterfalls and climber plants growing along the edges of the rocks. The way out was back the way we came. But with a detour up loads of stairs to reach a third pool and a waterfall. All so pretty.

By the time we walked back to the bus, it was 4pm. We had been walking since 8am! 15km. And it was hot!

Back in the village, we went for a walk for water. Then had a lay down before dinner! Dinner was the same again. A plate of overcooked green beans and carrots, for 80p. After dinner we noticed a large fire out of the window. Just further down the road, burning grass. It was growing larger. You could hear and smell it. The locals didn’t care – it was on the other side of the road…!! Apparently random fires are quite common.

Everyone has been complaining of cockroaches in their rooms every night. We haven’t had any so far. Until tonight, we had quite a large one running around! They don’t bother me, so I let it scuttle around.

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