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Published: March 13th 2018
iMonday 5 March – from Ranomafana to Isola including Anja Park, Ambalavao
After a large breakfast we headed for the fascinating massive markets of Andoha Nasana. As soon as we arrived, after about an hour’s drive south, we could hear the screeching of pig. Several men on the side of the road had a pig on its side looking at his tongue. Apparently, the tongue can show if the pig is health or not. The one that was being examined was not, so he went back into the truck. We walked into the markets, first watching the large fenced area where all the local men, with their long sticks (which was the custom of this region for men to carry white wooden long sticks) were displaying their pigs and wanting to sell or buy them. We had noticed that some of the pigs were very skinny.
For the next 45 minutes we walked around the very colourful markets, saying hello to everyone. We did stand out amongst the crowd as we were ‘vasha’ – white people!!
I spotted a little baby and went up to what looked like the grandmother and asked,
with out-stretched hands if I could have a cuddle. She handed the baby over and instantly the baby gave me a wide, gummy smile. He was lovely, so I started to walk off with him, waving the grandmother goodbye but instantly handed him back. The grandmother laughed.
Clothes, food, electrical gear, you name it, it was there. Then the rain started, and everyone rushed under the few covered areas and quickly covered all the clothes etc with sheets of plastic. We didn’t have to hurry as we had our raincoats of and umbrellas in hand. We finished our walk around the markets then found Rivo and continued our drive.
Not long after leaving the markets and after driving through some beautiful countryside with terraced hills growing rice and vegetables with a rocky ridge as a back drop, we arrived at a city called Ambalavao. Rivo said that we wouldn’t stay too long in this city as we will be coming back through it and staying for the night.
We did however, stop to see the photographic work of the Perriot Photo Men. A French speaking man was
obviously the one in charge and there were 2 Malagasians showing their photos on their computers. The prints were magnificent, particularly some of the black and white photos. All the images were of Madagascar and mostly of people and scenes, many of which we had now seen.
We then drove onto Anja Park a half hour out of Ambalavao and was introduced to our next guide. This was a private park managed by the local villagers. After walking a short distance from the restaurant where we had ordered our lunch for our return, we saw a wetland, as well as rice paddies, corn, beans and potatoes growing. As we skirted the wetlands, all of a sudden, we spotted the ring-tailed lemur. I was very excited as these were amongst the top species of the lemur list I wanted to see. Before we knew it, there was about 20 of them running on the ground, jumping in the trees, preening each other and sunning themselves on tops of the large boulders.
Ring-tailed lemurs live in big groups and feed on leaves and love guava. There were plenty of guava trees in this park. Each animal
has 13 white rings and 13 black rings on their very long tails. They were funny to watch, particularly when they were running along the ground with their tails held high. I looked up into one of the trees and all I could see was about 4 long black and white wails hanging down.
We then spotted birds, chameleons, beetles, red dragon flies and some zebu in the distance. The guide told us that there was an imported crocodile that was about 1.5 metres in the wetlands.
We then had a light lunch and drove for another half hour, onto the Tiana Restaurant outside Ihosy for coffee. It was a fantastic place with beautiful decor and spotlessly clean. There were bungalows, and more being built. Coffee was also very good, the typical strong Madagascan coffee that we had got used to.
The drive from there to Isolo National Park was 250kms over a very flat treeless plateau. The road was straight which had been very unusual and in excellent condition except for the occasional pothole that Rivo had to get down to about 10kms per hour to drive over. Occasionally it
showered with rain but mostly remained sunny. We could see a heavy rain cloud over Isolo National Park so knew they were getting their share of the edges of the cyclone. Fingers crossed that it rains itself out before our walk through the park the next day. We could also see the sandstone escarpment of Isolo which was impressive and about 25km long.
We stopped in the town before going to our accommodation as we had to meet our guide for the Isolo NP in Ranohira, the town on the edge of the Park. He gave us 2 options for our walk and for Tom’s benefit we chose the shorter 6km walk rather than the ridge top walk. Guide fees were 120,000Ar for both of us. We also organised a young guy to prepare our BBQ lunch (50,000Ar).
We arrived at Isolo Ranch which was our accommodation for the next 2 nights. Immediately we saw the high standard of buildings, garden, with its many labelled trees and plants, a very clean swimming pool and Malagasian decorated airy restaurant. There were comfy lounge chairs under open thatched rooves and plenty of plastic tables and chairs
between the pool and the stand-alone restaurant.
The welcoming staff were impressive as one of them took us to our spacious bungalow. Each time we check into a hotel we fill in a form which includes where we travelled from and where we are going, along with our name and passport number. This form is used by the government.
After settling into our room, we walked around the grounds of the ‘ranch’. We could see the Isolo escarpment close by. As it was heading towards 66.00pm we found a comfy seat near the pool and ordered a (local) Three Horse beer, facing west to watch the sunset. It was a beautiful evening as was the spectacular sunset. It was made a little different as the pool was between us and the sun and the reflection was special.
Only one other couple were staying the night in this low season. The second night there were 4 French women and a family with 2 children staying. As we were about 2kms from the town, we had a lovely dinner in the Isolo Ranch restaurant with their friendly staff on hand.
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