19 Oct - Tsingy Rouge

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16 Oct - To Ankarana
17 Oct - Ankarana
18 Oct - Montagne d'Ambre
19 Oct - Tsingy Rouge
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0705 - Diego Suarez

Dwarfed under her load
Dwarfed under her

See, last night we'd arranged for Patou to take us to Tsingy Rouge, at the beautiful hour of 0500. Then he came to find us at dinner, because he'd been talking to his friends and they said it was only possible to get down that road with a 4x4, because of the rain three days ago. So he found us someone with a 4x4 who would take us... for about 180,000 Ar. It may yet break the bank, but we went for it. And in a 4WD we can leave at 7am, yay!

So Patou drove us to where the 4WD was - we had to wait for it to fuel up. Sayeed is the driver. He took us to buy bread and juice and pan au chocolate. He stopped to put air in the tyres, too. Taking quite a long time to get out of here...

0815 - en route to Tsingy Rouge

Malgasy man with zebu team
Malgasy man with zebu team

It's interesting, passing countryside now in daylight that we did at night before. It's also nice to not be huddled down from the chill.

We just passed a sacred rock that looks like a zebu. Sayeed says it used to have a head, but when they were building the road, one man ran into it and broke off the head. He had a fever for two days and then died. The locals now say the zebu is sleeping , and place offerings on its back.

A big truck was lying on its side a bit after that. People were stopped all along the side, and men were unloading crates of glass bottles... well, picking up pieces. I don't know how it happened, because it looks like it was going up the hill. Maybe a wheel ran into the ditch. A policeman said people were riding on the back, and nine died. What a tragedy.

We've reached the entrance to Tsingy Rouge. The road is too bad to write any more.

1100 - leaving Tsingy Rouge

 4X4 road into Tsingy Rouge
Definitely 4X4 road into Tsingy Rouge

The road in and out of Tsingy Rouge is quite long. The road is red dirt, sometimes almost sand, and has many holes and ditches and detours around old roads that have been completely eroded. The undercarriage touched a few times, and on the way back up a particularly rough and steep road, Sayeed got out, locked the hubs, and put us into 4WD.

On either side of the road were fields and fields of eucalyptus. They use it to make charcoal, which I guess is a booming industry here, but they'd wiped out all the local flora to plant it.

Hiking into Tsingy Rouge
Hiking into the hot, hot
valley of Tsingy Rouge

We stopped at an overlook to see a "petit model" of the tsingy rouge. It was in a canyon, or really an eroded hillside. There were trees around the top, the green contrasting sharply with the blue sky and the red red earth below. In the bottom was the tsingy, not quite red but a creamier color than the ones in Ankarana. It grew out of the hillside in peaks and waves, but there wasn't any field or plateau.

A little bit after that we got to the hill above Tsingy Rouge, and Sayeed parked the car. At first all I could see were the red cliffs. But as we walked down I could see the rock coming out of the hillside. At the bottom of the hill we crossed a stream - or rather a flow of sand with a few trickles of water coming down it. Along it. Whatever. This stream flowed next to the tsingy for the length of the canyon. It was a beautiful flow of red sand, all marbled into complex patterns. It was a bit less beautiful when I almost lost my shoe to a less-solid patch and ended up squelching in my shoes for a while.

Delicate colors and bright contrasts
Delicate colors and bright contrasts

The tsingy here is different to Ankarana. There, they're made of limestone. Here, it's sandstone. Consequently, it's very fragile. There are signs up everywhere asking people to please not touch, but there was also a big pile of pieces that were broken, evidence that people don't pay attention.

We didn't stay too long, beyond wandering the length of the sandy bottom of the canyon and taking some pictures. The tsingy continued further up, but we didn't want to walk on it. We were probably the first tourists of the day, but the hordes weren't very far behind. With just us there, it was beautiful and interesting. With two or three other groups, it was more of a tourist trap.

Surprisingly, there were quite a few birds flitting around as we drove back to the entrance. After the first few, Sayeed learned to stop immediately and stop the engine, too. The birds were mostly bee-ears, but we saw a bulbul and some drongos too.

Elegant Malagasy lady
Elegant Malagasy lady

1250 - Diego Suarez

We bypassed the airport on the way back, because we had so much time. Instead we came into town, through town, to the port on one of the peninsulas jutting into the bay. We ate lunch there, on a little shady patch of grass looking out over the water. It's blowing like stink! The bay is absolutely full of whitecaps. It's too bad we didn't drive around a bit before eating, though, because we found a little park/monument place right on the water that was much nicer.

We're on our way to the airport now. It's kind of weird to be leaving already.

1610 - Nosy Be, en route to Crater Bay

Diego Suarez waterfront Madagascar
Our lunch view on the Diego Suarez waterfront

The roads here are better than on the mainland. That's the first thing I noticed. I couldn't tell in town, because we weren't driving and because people were doing roadworks everywhere. But I'd say this road from the airport is just as good as the main RN6. Maybe it's because of the tourism here? As much as I appreciate it now, it annoys me as well. They have a whole country that needs better roads, villages where road are washing out from under them in the rainy season, and they're putting on a good face for the tourists?? Though I guess they have to start somewhere. Get the tourists to come in and there's more money for roads elsewhere.

It's nice to get a little tour of Nosy Be, but it's difficult not to melt into the seat and be glad (and sad) the trip -- the vacation if you will -- is over.

There are ylang-ylang plantations (orchards?) up in the hills. We saw them up in Montagne d'Ambre, growing wild. It's a heavenly scent, not to heavy, though I think I prefer frangipani. You can get whiffs of it walking around Hellville, but I hadn't realized before what it was.

Well, we're approaching Crater Bay now. Time for that mental switch from 'travel' to 'life.' It's been a good few days, especially walking in Montagne d'Ambre, but the transport and timing and bad roads have been exhausting. Maybe I need a vacation!!

Up | 16 Oct - To Ankarana | 17 Oct - Ankarana | 18 Oct - Montagne d'Ambre | 19 Oct - Tsingy Rouge

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