Friday 9 March fly to Diego Suarez then drive to Ankarana

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March 9th 2018
Published: March 16th 2018
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Friday 9 March fly to Diego Suarez then drive to Ankarana

I was very excited to be flying to the northern section of Madagascar. It is known for its unusual geological structures the tsingy rough.

A 3.30am start was not exciting but all went smoothly with Rivo taking us to the airport. Fortunately, at that time of the morning the single lane road going to the airport was almost deserted unlike when we arrived it was bumper to bumper traffic for several kilometres. The flight to Diego Suarez was almost 2 hours.

As soon as we exited the bag collection area, we spotted our name being held up by Eric our new guide. His driver was Ahmed who handled the 4x4 very well . . . . and the roads were atrocious, even worse than in the southern parts of the Island!! All the sealed roads were built in the French Colonisation days up to 1960. We don’t think the roads have been touched since then. Many of the roads had a small amount of tar left in the middle of the road surrounded by big potholes.

We immediately drove south towards the Tsingy Rouge and the Canyon. The road was sand and clay and mostly 1st or 2nd gear work for the car. After 3 hours of slow going we arrived at the Tsingy Rough. It was more spectacular than the photos which I had been admiring for years.

I can describe the Red Tsingy as nature’s response to human destruction on the one hand, converted to an incredible new phenomenon. It is a temporary performance put up to prove that no matter how hard we try; Mother Earth will adapt and survive.

This geological oddity did not exist 50 years ago but it has appeared as a result of the deforestation. The red clay soil began to erode and over time this revealed the pink sandstone, or tsingy, that can now be seen. At the base of the valley, the soil is solid clay and hence the water does not permeate into the ground but merely runs off.

The sandstone will wash away over time and so the tsingy may not exist for ever. However, with the continued erosion of the red soil, it is believed that other sections of the pink sandstone will be revealed. This is certainly evident in places.

We wandered around in the piercing humid heat but it was worth it. Next we drove another 10 minutes to see the canyon. We were not allowed to go down into the canyon but was ‘bowled over’ by the site of the tsingy all along either side of a small creek which ran through the canyon. The sunlight was catching the structures and making them dance.

There were 3 view-points all of which need to be used to see all the angles of the tsingy structures. I spotted Tom standing further along the edge of the canyon – check the photo out to see how deep the canyon is.

Unfortunately, the time I called out to Tom to look in my direction for a photo, he had been trying to rescue his hat which the wind had caught. It fell further down the side of the canyon, never to be rescues or used by him again.

We drove onto one of the small villages and stopped at a very simple ‘restaurant’ owned by a bubbly, friendly local who could speak a little English. She was so inviting with such a beautiful wide smile. I had crocodile cakes and avocado with very tasty dressing and homemade chilli sauce. Tom had crocodile steak. The village we were in was called Anivorano (meaning ‘surrounded by water’). There were many crocodiles in these waters. Our host showed us a photo of 2 crocodiles that were killed for their meat. They looked very much like the Aussie saltwater crocodile by look of its head but apparently doesn’t grow as large.

It was heading towards 3.00pm and we still had 30km of terrible road to cover (which took us 70 minutes) before arriving at the Hotel Relais d’Ankarana where we were to stay for 2 nights. This rustic hotel is owned by a German man.

I had a swim in their pool and noticed a big black cloud heading our way. After dinner it poured as it had for the previous 4 evenings the locals told us. We didn’t mind, as long as it was fine in the morning. We could switch the a/c on between 6.00pm and 10.00pm due to the power supply but a pedestal fan was sufficient during the night.

Additional photos below
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