As we leave the small river town of Miandrivazo on our pirogue to explore Tsiribihina river, locals wave goodbye to us, we are the center of attention as there are no other tourists leaving today other than us, we are on 2 pirogues, Filemon was with us on one and Misa on the supply boat, some parts of the river is shallow and the boatmen have to get off and push, we pass locals washing their laundry, kids playing in the water, women half naked bathing themselves, things you don't see in your neighborhood, for us a bit of a culture shock, last time I saw naked adults bathing in the river was at the river Niger in Bamako, few years ago, but here it's not a big deal, this river meant everything to them, as brown and murky as it is, it is their life source, they drink it, they irrigate their farms with it, wash clothes, for transport and catch their food.
We are going slowly though we are flowing with the current, a few sand banks here and there, every time we near the shore Filemon tires to find wildlife, we saw a few chameleons and
king fisher birds, when it was time for lunch we parked at a place shaded by mango trees. A small community of people live there and the kids started to come and watch us, they asked me if they could have my plastic water bottle, they live simply here, water bottle can go a long way, it has lots of uses for them, so I obliged and the kids seemed happy. Misa took us to this man gathering charcoal behind our camp, he explains he burned a tamarind tree timber and explained us the process of how they make coal, I asked how much does a full sack(about 4 feet tall)of coal would fetch in town, he said 7,000 ariary($3.5).Reza and I could not believe how cheap things are here.
Continuing on, the sun is intense and after awhile the river scenery gets boring so we fell asleep making sure all my limbs are inside the pirogue. Late in the afternoon we found a camp site they frequently used, on one side, locals busy themselves planting rice seedlings, they make rice paddies just at the edge of the river, as rice needs lots of water at a
young age, the river water naturally nourishes them. Remote River Expeditions,provided sleeping bags and tents for us and though it took awhile to set up, it was a sturdy tent from REI, a trusted brand, Filemon brought out the rhum that he mixed with ginger and lime rinds and other things, it was actually good, we offered to him he refused, and advised us not to give the boatmen any, not that they are drunkards but just to make sure they are always alert while driving/padelling the boat, we don't want any accidents, remember, crocs live here!
The next day we get to the point where two rivers meet and now the river is bigger and apparently deeper, the landscape changed a little, lots more forests less settlements and we saw some cifakas and other types of lemurs up the canopy, they make noises and looks like they are feeding, some more chameleons, one is huge, same old thing as yesterday, slept alot on the pirogue, we are going to a water fall for lunch, we and a big engine boat are the only ones on the river trip, we always make sure to leave first as
Tsiribihina river trip Day 1
young boy carrying rice seedlings for planting
the loud engine noise scares the wildlife and if we follow their tail we ain't going to see one. Arriving ahead of them in the waterfall we explored it, not a lot of water but sufficient for a shower, we climbed up to the top and there are some more waterfall there, the other group arrived, we had a quick lunch and then we headed off again after a dip at a watering hole below the falls, the water is green, maybe from minerals from the rocks, it was cold but refreshing. We moved on, an engine boat overtook us and it was not the other group, it was a group of French doctors, going from village to village offering free health check ups, we caught up with them, they are moored near a river bank and locals coming from the other side cross the river, some parts are neck deep, remember, crocs....I will never do it, Filemon says to me the locals know where the crocs linger, they know the safe areas,hmm...
Day 3, we did the same thing, we saw a few more wildlife along the river banks, some lemurs in the forest canopy, after
a brief lunch,we are to be dropped off at a meeting point near a village for the end of the river trip, a 4wd picks us up and we continue on to the next stop. We arrived there and no car, Filemon has no phone signal here but the locals told him our driver was there earlier but left for lunch, so we waited, uncomfortably, as everyone stares at us, it is hot and so we sat in a shaded area, the women of the village were washing clothes at the same time bathing, I don't know how many breasts I have seen that day, I keep looking away honestly,but their idea of modesty is turning away from you while they clean themselves but then comes back ashore full on frontal nudity, the kids don't seem to mind it, the men seemed used to it, they do their own naked bath on the other end where we sat.
Meanwhile herds of zebu crosses the river with 3 young men, kids play and swim near a sand bank, where are the crocs??? Oh yeah we just saw one maybe 30 feet from there before landing ashore, the croc was sunning
itself along the banks of the river! I guess when you live here you lose the fear...Filemon joined the men and had his bath, singing while shaving his head, butt naked. Finally Pierrot with the 4WD arrives, we load our stuff in the truck and off we go for our next adventure.. We drove for maybe 45 minutes before reaching a river crossing, we loaded onto a barge and a 25 minute river ride to the other side, from there about 5 minute drive to our accomodation, seem like the best hotel in the small town of Belo Tsiribihina, Karibo hotel. A few other 4WDs are there, some from UNICEF. The people from the engine boat are also staying here.
Our room is nice, but water is sparse, it comes and goes from the tap, they have gallon containers outside the rooms, in fact on the hallway you see plenty, just grab some if you need, so I did take a few in case water runs out while showering. Dinner was gourmet type, and did not fill us up, we had huge prawns from the Mozambique channel, but I wish they served it in buckets and plenty
than neatly tucked in on a drinking glass, 3 of them only. Sleep was good, and after breakfast we are on the move again, we have to cross another river this time the Manambolo river to get to a town called Bekopaka, this village is where we base ourselves to explore a natural formation called Tsingy de Bemaraha, pinnacles of limestones carved out by rain and wind, would be my first time to see one like this again after the Pinnacles of Sarawak in Borneo, so we are quite excited to explore this phenomena, if you may call it that.
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