Friday, September 17, 2010
Ranohira, Toliara, Madagascar
Welcome to Parc National I’Isalo. At the end of the day at roughly 5pm we arrive in Raminohira and it has to still be roughly 90 degrees out. First order of business is to track down our mandatory guide and buy our park entry passes. Unfortunately the office was closing so they tell us they open at 6:30 the next morning…we are trying to beat the heat!
So finally we settle into our Hotel de Orchid which strangely enough I don’t see a single orchid plant anywhere. But after stashing our bags we wander through the city one way about half a mile..oops there’s the end .. Then the other way for about a half mile past the catholic church and school..oops the end again.. NOT a large place.
We head to dinner and end up joining a French/Australian couple for a nice evening. On our way back to the room we notice a spiral staircase leading to the roof of one of the hotel building…hmmm THAT will have to be explored tomorrow after our hike.
Well in the morning we drop back into guide fee hell. Not only did the park office not open until 7am, the guide fees turned out to be 100,000 Ar ($50USD). Now the guide fees here are determined by what trails you take. We decided on a combination of 4 trails at our guides suggestion. In hindsight, it was quite clear he was milking the system to hook as many trails as possible together. There was even one unmarked trail he was taking us on..it turned out we were only on it for maybe 30 minutes but it cost a third almost of the guide fees! Well not a good start but great things were to come.
Our chosen route would take us through the Piscane Naturelle – Namazza – Crested Ridge – Black and Blue Pool trails. The scenery for all of this is a desert mountain ridge spotted with spires and stratified sandstone in all kinds of browns, tans, reds oranges with green lichens and moss thrown in for contrast. In the early morning sun it is indeed beautiful.
As we hike to our first swimming hole, yes this will be the first of four, we learn about the ancient graves in the grottos and caves around the park. I also leave a pebble on an ancient mound that the locals have been using for centuries. If you place a stone and make a wish and it comes true you must come back to say thanks. Let’s hope my wish comes true.
The Piscane Naturelle pool is beautiful, wedged under an overhanging cliff but shining in the sun, it nearly glows an iridescent blue that is in such contrast to the surroundings. While our swim here was by no means private, the water was very cool and refreshing and prepares us for the hike up to the heat furnace of the plateau.
Along the Namazza and Crested Ridge trail, we hike through dry scrub viewing ancient tombs and vast sandstone cliffs baking in the sun. It leads us all the way to the top of the plateau where we are given a commanding view of the surrounding valley on one side and the deep gorge on the other. A hike down through the gorge takes us to a riverside camp for lunch.
Her there are lemurs who obviously know us human primates leave food around. They walk right up to our lunch table and simply watch us as we watch them, an amazing experience.
After lunch we finish up with the Black and Blue pools and a final waterfall. A fantasticaly refreshing cool hike up the river amongs massive ferns and other over sized vegetation! We swim in all three places enjoying some of the coldest swimming outside of Lake Superior I have ever experienced! But with the blasting heat all day it felt like heaven.
Finally back in town and after taking a small loan from our driver to get us a meal before we get to the next town, we chase down the local priced beer and have dinner. Then it is up to the roof to enjoy a few more brews and the most birds eye view of the city. In the midst of our revelry, the locals can’t help but gawk at the vasas (white people) on the roof. Then the power to the whole city goes out and the sky just JUMPED out at us. No human made light for as far as the eye can see and it is a glorious view.. God is indeed good!
After our evening beer festivities, I decided to check in with E*Trade to find out whew my ATM car is currently. Well the good news is that is has shipped and been delivered. The bad news is that it was sent for signature by me only. Apparently when I said I was in Africa they didn’t connect that I wouldn’t be able to sign for the package. Well after calling FedEx and E*Trade a couple of more times I manage to add a couple more names to the delivery list and that part is solved. Who knows about the rest.
The next morning we repeat our breakfast of two omelets, tea and toast for thee people all for the grand price of $1.50!! The upside of traveling cheap 🙂
Tomorrow onto Toliara and then Ifaty!