Friday, January 16, 2015

Easter Vacation Part 2...Finally!

For the last few months, finishing my blog, and particularly my post about last year’s Easter vacation, has been on my to-do list. So, here I finally go…
For the first part of this post, see Easter Vacation Part 1
After exploring Antsirabe, Summer and I were ready and excited to head west and continue our vacation. In bullet point form, here are some of the highlights of our trip.
-       The itinerary claimed that on our first day of the trip, we would travel on a ‘perfect road’ from Antsirabe to Miandrivazo. This so called perfect road consisted of many pot holes and the road itself was quite windy. Despite the not so perfect road, we did have beautiful scenery to look at, a gorgeous double rainbow, and an incredible sunset. Although I was quite tired and wanted to sleep, I couldn’t keep my eyes closed as the landscape was so gorgeous and I couldn’t stop taking photos.
-       A three day pirogue (canoe) trip down the Tsiribihina River with 8 other travelers, a Malagasy guide, and three Malagasy boatmen.  I was the only American on this trip. The other travelers consisted of 6 French people, 1 German, and 1 Malagasy. Throughout the long trip on the river, we passed by many rural villages and camped on sand banks. At the end of the boat trip, we said good bye to the three boat men who had traveled with us and they embarked on their five day journey of paddling upstream!!  Faly was the boatman of the canoe that myself and three other tourists were on. Faly was a super sweet man with a cute name, as Faly means ‘happy.’
-       After a day on the river, I realized just how long three days of boating would be. Although we saw beautiful sites and it was so relaxing to be on the canoe, three days is a long time! Canoes are small and even the slightest movement rocks the canoe back and forth. Also, for most of the canoe trip, we were in the direct sun. In an attempt to prevent burning, I was constantly applying sunscreen and using a lamba (cloth) to cover exposed body parts. Unfortunately I seemed to forget about my lips and they got quite burnt, which was a very painful experience.
-       Kicking a soccer ball around with the local kids on one of the sand banks that we stopped at for the night. There was a two year old girl, named Celine, who took a liking to me and held my hand for the entire evening. Once it got dark, we sat on the sand listening to Malagasy music on my phone while some of the other kids danced. The following morning, the kids came back to watch us pack up our camp and sail off.
-       Visiting a waterfall on Easter. Visiting the waterfall provided a nice break from sitting in the boat. It was so refreshing to stand under the waterfall as the water hit my body. Unfortunately on the way to the lunch area after enjoying the waterfall, I slipped on a rock and fell, hurting my leg. Thankfully it was not broken, but rather just very badly bruised.
-       Traveling from the location where the canoe trip ended to the Tsingy Reserve consisted of bad roads and a ferry crossing. Throughout our trip to the west, there were many ferry crossings, but this one in particular that stands out. While all of the other travelers in our group had chosen to walk through the river to get to the ferry, I decided to stay in the car with the driver and keep my feet clean (or so I thought). We drove into the river to reach the ferry, but the 4x4 got stuck and didn’t quite reach the ferry. It didn’t take more than a few seconds before I realized that my feet were wet. The car was quickly filling up with water and thankfully due to the fact that I was in the car, I was able to grab everyone’s backpacks, which were full of expensive cameras, phones, and money, and keep them dry. Getting the car onto the ferry took a lot of time and work, during which we had to empty the entire car to save everything that was inside. It was quite an escapade but luckily the car and everything and everyone inside survived.
-       Visiting the Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve. The Tsingy Reserve was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990 and part of the park is located in a protected area. Tsingy means, “where one cannot walk barefoot” and this is very true of the Tsingy. Formed about 200 million years ago from eroded limestone that rises up to 70 meters from the ground, the tops are razor sharp. While hiking through the Tsingy, we saw many wild birds and incredible views that seemed to go on forever. In addition to trekking through the sharp limestone, we also hiked through very dark and humid caves, squeezed through tight crevices, walked through gorges, tip toed across hanging bridges, and marveled at the forest canyons. Prior to entering the Tsingy Reserve, we were all required to put on harnesses, which we had to attach to safety ropes and cables throughout the hike.
-       The final part of our trip took us to Morondava. Although Morondava is a sleepy beach town, it is most known for being home to the famous baobabs. We reached the Avenue of the Baobabs just before sunset and strolled down the avenue, enjoying the beautiful, magnificently tall trees that were surrounding us.
-       After the trip ended, Summer and I spent an extra day in Morondava exploring the town and enjoying the beach. We went on a pous pous tour of Morondava and saw all that the small town had to offer, including two large, beautiful mosques. As I walked along the beach, I watched the fishermen bring in their catches, kids help sort fish, defecation all over the beach, and many unstable, abandoned, and old buildings.
-       While the trip was amazing and it was incredible to see more of the beautiful country that I was living in, by the end of the seventh day, I was so excited to no longer be constantly surrounded by French speakers. Besides myself, all of the other travelers were French or spoke French. Summer tried to translate for me when possible, but it was difficult to not be able to communicate with others or really feel part of the group during conversations.

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