Travel Diary : Road Trip Across Madagascar
Bahrain - Abu Dhabi - Seychelles - Madagascar
Day 1 - 3
So this is the start of my very first journey all by myself. My first solo adventure.
After an emotional goodbye to my family and a sick Leon, a minor hiccup at the airport (why do flights always seem to be overbooked?) and a quick lay-over in Seychelles, I thought I was coping quite well. Though I didn’t have the best seat in the airplane, I was able to watch the most amazing sunrise – lavender turned to amber, which rapidly blurred into a concoction of bright pinks, reds and blues. From my window seat, a mosaic of green and brown paddy fields on rolling red-clay hills emerged from the clouds as we descended into Antananarivo (or simply known as Tana) – Madagascar’s capital. After three flights, two lay-overs and one sleepy-Hannah, I made it to one of the most fascinating islands in the world!
I managed to get my visa, my luggage and find our Blue Ventures Rep (Dave!) without breaking down in a fit of nerves. After traumatically changing my money to Malagasy Avery (and instantly becoming a billionaire with thick wads of cash) I was ready to be at the hotel. I won’t lie, I spent most of the morning blubbering, my anxiety through the roof, trying to convince myself coming to Madagascar was still a good idea. My hotel room was not a great first impression to be honest. Out of all the places I had stayed at in my life this was by far the creepiest. With holes in the door, a dark bathroom and a weird peeking/scraping sound every few minutes, I was petrified. However, I made myself have some food, find Internet and put up my malaria net before bed.
Being the first one of the Blue Venture’s group to arrive was tough, but slowly everyone started to arrive. First was cheerful C, who stuck his head through my window into my room and asked if I wanted lunch (little did he know how much I appreciated his warm personality). By nightfall we had a full house.
Antananarivo - Fianarantsoa - Isalo - Toliara
Day 4 - 8
The eight of us, which made up the majority of the group (the rest would be joining us as Toliara), squeezed into Mazdave, the small but surprisingly comfortable mini-bus (taxi-brousse) that took us on the 945km long drive from Tana to Toli. Don’t worry, we didn’t do the whole thing in one go. Following the RN7, we drove through the chaotic outskirts of Tana where small, erratic houses sat between lush rice paddies. Suddenly, the large stretches of flat, green rice paddies transformed into rounded mountains of sandstone as Mazdave wound its way to Fianarantsoa (Fianar for short).
Geographically and geologically speaking, Madagascar is one of a kind and you can really understand why it is described as a “world apart”. It is believed to be akin to the landscape of Gondwanaland and has a huge number of incredible endemic creatures due to being isolated for over 65 million years. The further we journeyed across Madagascar, the more I wished I had learnt my geology better. Beautiful mounds, rainforest-covered mountains and massifs created from volcanic activity.
I was able to trek through some of the beautiful sandstone formations of the Isalo National Park such as cliffs, canyons and waterfalls fringed by lush palm-trees. We climbed up tall sandstone columns and stood so close to the edge my mum would have been worried. You could easily imagine dinosaurs trampling across the grassy plains! After a long, tiring hike through the park, it seemed like a mirage appeared in the distance. We finally reached a line of trees hiding spectacular natural pools of turquoise water glittering in the sun. Perfect for a swim!
We continued our expedition south-bound towards Toli. Here, the landscape began to change again to large expanses of grassland interrupted by bustling villages. We had our first sighting of the famous baobabs – funny looking trees with distinctively swollen stems – however they were pretty small compared to what we would see in the future. It was interesting to note that the further south we travelled, there was a change in the people’s facial features. Originally Austronesian settlers arrived in the north and central plateau, while a large number of East Africans established themselves in the west along the coast.
We drove and drove and drove, until we finally saw the brilliant blue of the Indian Ocean. We had reached Toliara…