Madagascar 2009 Adventure Part 1



This is a story of our Adventures. I right it mainly for myself, but I hope others will at least look at the pictures, or possibly enjoy reading it.

On July 15th, 2009 Louise and I hopped on Air Madagascar and flew from Nairobi (NBO) to Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. We were set to begin a one month adventure to see an island that has some of the most unique animals and vegetation in the world. We had pre-arranged a tour with Rija from www.rijatours.m [UPDATE: Fixed link, thanks Rija!], which was nice, since we had a driver pick us up at the airport.

The next day was spent walking around “Tana”. Well, a lot of it was walking, but we also did a lot of sitting and reading the Lonely Planet guidebook to figure out where we were and where we wanted to go. The town is full of interesting things to see, and lots of hill and stairs to climb.

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The main town sign, and the “Rova” in the top right (being remodeled due to a fire that happened some years ago):


One particularly interesting thing is the row of “coiffurs” (todo: check spelling). The little shacks are just large enough for a barber and their patron. In the picture below you can see a man locking up his little shop; he locked the door from the inside and them climbed out the window.


Louise wanted to experience some of the Madagascar French cuisine. The French had a strong ruling for many years, and their influence was everywhere! We happened to find the fanciest restaurant in town, but discovered it didn’t open till 7pm. We arrived at 6pm, and Louise didn’t want to walk around in the dark (for fear of getting mugged, which, according to our drivers, can happen), so, we ate peanuts and drank beer until we were seated.

We were treated to a very fancy meal; I had seared tuna, and Louise had some tender Zebu. They both were delicious!

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The best part was both meals cost $35; and this was definitely the most expensive restaurant in town. Of course, we could have had appetizers, and dessert…but we skipped those to save some money.

The next few days were rather mundane. Our super-nice driver, Mamy, drove us to Antsirbe (‘An’ means “town”, ‘tsira’ means “salt” and ‘be’ means “a lot”). On the way there, we got to sample some of the local food, which is usually rice with zebu, rice with chicken, or rice with fish. We had rice with chicken and sauce for 2400 airairy ($1.20) each.

We did pull the uni’s out, and rode around town, but just for a short bit (8 miles), as Louise wasn’t too into riding on the busy rode. The most interesting thing about Antsirbe is the “pouse-pouse” (literally, it means “push push”), which are people who pull you in a cart, just like a rickshaw. Apparently, being a pouse-pouse driver is the job of a very poor man, and some of them rent their carts, and have to get a certain amount of fares per day just to break even.


Now, I wasn’t too keen on taking a ride in one, but Louise wanted to give it a try. So, once we stepped out of our hotel we had the usual bombardment of drivers (er…pullers?) and one man walked all the way up the driveway to pick us up. Louise thought she negotiated the fare, however, he didn’t speak English, our French was minimal, and our Malagasy non-existent. So, we got a nice slow tour around, with the destination set as the cathedral. We decided to get out early, and Louise gave the guy some money (double what she had originally talked about), but apparently he wanted more, as he thought we hadn’t negotiated the fare. We spoke broken french with him, and finally just shoved some money at him, and walked away, leaving him disappointed. Now, the guy was trying to had us; we know how much the average fare costs, and we gave him a good amount of money; he was just trying to exhort us. Oh well, live and learn!

The reason we stopped was because Louise spotted Robert’s Chocolatiere; some high class chocolates made in Madagascar. It was amazing to go into a small air conditioned room that smelled so delicious. 100 grams of chocolates were about $1.50 (2,500 airiary) — about 6 pieces.


By July 18th we were at Miandrivazo, heading towards the west coast of Madagascar and getting ready for a three day trip down the Tsiribihina River. At this point we had met up with our guide, Rija. Apparently tourism is strictly regulated, and we even had to go to the police station for Rija to get official tourism documents. It was all very strange, and it would have been nice to have some sort of explanation exactly why we had to do that.

The next morning all our luggage was loaded on a small rickity cart:


I was highly surprised that it made it to the river without falling apart. I was even more surprised that all our stuff was fit into a small dugout canoe, including food for three days, our guide Rija, and our motor, Robert.

Here’s a picture of Rija on the bank, with Robert standing next to the canoe:

Robert would sit on the back and paddle along, similar to this man that we passed:

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The trip down the river was interesting, but not that exciting. It was a great experience, but probably my least favorite part of the whole trip in Madagascar. It definitely was amazing; floating down this vast river, camping on the river bank, and seeing lemurs hopping from the trees in the distance. I guess it was just too slow of a pace for me. We did see some amazing sunsets


And beautiful sunrises:


Do you see that bird on the top of the boat? Well, on our first day of the trip we had zebu meat for lunch and dinner. Louise was wondering how they were going to keep meat fresh for three days. The next morning we discovered that there was a live chicken on board, and it turns out we had fresh chicken for dinner that night.

Safrika lemurs we saw in the trees — these were our first live wild lemur sighting, and it was quite exciting to see them hopping madly from one tree to another.


People hanging out in a small village that we stopped at. You could only access it by boat or foot; apparently there weren’t any roads to it for cars.


One of the crops they grow: tobacco:


Previously, I mentioned we at some zebu meat. What exactly is a zebu? It is basically a tough cow/ox that has a big hump on its back for storing water like a camel. Here is a pair that pulled our stuff to the next village that we stayed at.


The driver had to negotiate some tough water ways; it was quite cool to watch him get them through the water:

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One of my highlights on the trip to Madagascar was seeing chameleons. I love to catch them and see their little pincher hands walk around on me.


At this point, we were done with the river trip. We saw lemurs, a crocodile, a chameleon, lots of birds, bats, and people.

The next part of the trip was to drive to Parc National des Tsingy de Bemaraha in a crazy 4 wheel drive car. Louise and I sat in the back, while Rija and another hired driver (who spoke zero English) sat in the front. The driver played the same four or five songs over and over again on the radio; it drove Louise crazy, and more than once we asked him to turn it down. Our trip out there passed over several rivers:

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While waiting for the trucks to unload, we watched some kids pluck a duck. Louise snapped some photos of them, and they were happy to fly the duck around like an airplane and let her get some pictures.

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The drive out to the tsingy had one really cool animal sighting; a huge boa on the side of the road:


That’s the fist wild boa I have ever seen, and man, he as fat! the picture doesn’t do him justice.

The tsingy was an amazing sight. It is basically some really sharp and interesting limestone worn away by water and wind. There are tons of cool things to explore (with a hired guide, of course).

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The tree on the right interests me; it is a highly prized hardwood for woodworking: ebony.

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View from the top:


And looking down the area we came up (it was trivially easy, but I could imagine it scaring some people not used to stuff like that):


Me holding up the edge:


Something I really enjoyed was seeing a mongoose while we ate lunch. What a pretty little creature!


…well..more later. Possibly.


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