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Pictures of our Madagascar trip –
part 3: Ambalavao-Isalo N.P.-Tuléar-Ranomafana (Lemurs)-R.N.7-Antananarivo
Madagascar part 1: Tamatave-Andasibe (Lemurs)-Antananarivo-Antsirabe-Miandrivazo
Madagascar part 2: Miandrivazo-Morondava (Baobabs)-Antsirabe-Fianarantsoa-Ambalavao (Lemurs)
Madagascar part 4: Antananarivo-Ankadibe (Lemurs)-Andasibe-Manambato-Foulpointe-Tamatave
Madagascar Map
         Map of the Indian Ocean
latest picture: November 2, 2011
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151  On the highland the land is brown
and dry. On the spots, where the water-
ways are not completely dried out, the
hardworking farmers plant rice. Here
close to Ankaramena between
Ambalavao and Ihosy
152  Herdsmen of the Bara tribe are
guiding their cattle until the abattoir of
the capital Antananarivo. The worth of
a Bara man is measured by the number
of zebus he possesses. Often they are
valued higher than his wife
153  We are on our way from Ambalavao
to the Isalo National Park near Ranohira,
sitting west of Ambalavao. All of a
sudden, an impressive towering rock
boulder near Mahasoa pops
up in front of us
Abruptly, the first bizarre rocks appear. We reached our today’s goal: The Isalo National Park. We end-up almost at the new Isalo Rock Lodge, which is beautifully embedded into rock towers. Emil registers at the desk and I prepare the exact amount of money. The receptionist checks and looks at me somewhat irritated. “Is something wrong?” I ask him. The room costs 114 Euros (US$ 158) and not Aria 114’000 (US$ 53) he explains. “But you may still look around the area” he adds when he sees our disappointed faces.
154  The villages sandwiched between
barren mountain ridges look like fertile
oases on our East-West crossing: Ihosy
155  Now and then zebus (Malagasy cows)
are herded in the middle of the road. They
are one of the most identifiable symbols of
Madagascar. We usually stop to let them
pass what is appreciated by the herdsmen
156  After crossing the Ihosy river near
Ihosy, the road climbs up to the Horombe
Plateau – an endless prairie of golden yellow
grass in the “Wilde West” of Madagascar –
which ends at the Isalo massif at Ranohira
At the Isalo Ranch we come down to earth again. For 60’000 Aria (US$ 28) we get bungalow No. 20 with shared facilities, which however we have for ourselves. It lies at the end of the premises with just nature pure in front of us. While the tour groups – and in the South there are many, especially French – gather around the restaurant and the swimming pool, we have our little world for ourselves; watch the sunset transforming the grey rocks into a warm golden brown; the shining stars at the dark night skies and enjoy the silence around us.
157  From our bungalow at the Isalo Ranch
in Ranohira – situated at the border of the
Isalo Nat. Park – we enjoy the sunset …..
158  ….. the setting sun is blushing
the mountain in a warm red color …..
159  ….. and the long-stemmed
flowers are silhouetted wonderfully
against the glow of the sky
After the more than 30 tropical islands during the past five years in the Caribbean, the Pacific and recently in the Indian Ocean we are craving to see rocks, pinnacles, domes, canyons and bizarre geological formations like we remember from the “Wild West” in the US. There is just one thing we do not want to do: To follow a mandatory guide on the overcrowded trails within the park – the Isalo National Park, covering 315 sq.mi., is Madagascar’s most visited park. Next day, we find our own paths.
160  The sand stone massif of the
Isalo National Park is towering harshly
against the blue sky. It recalls memories
of the Wild West of the USA
161  The endemic miniature Baobab
(Pachypodium rosulatum) with its
yellow blossoms grows at Isalo National-
park. Its enlarged trunk is serving as a
self-contained water reservoir
162  Striking geological formations
form different landscapes within the
315 sq.mi. of the Isalo National Park
“Can nature be more beautiful?, we ask ourselves again and again. The white patches of clouds dotting the blue skies are within our grasp, when we wander at our own pace through the remote labyrinth of sand stone formations. We discover the endemic miniature Baobab with its yellow blossoms and its enlarged trunk serving as a self-contained water reservoir. Colonies of tiny adult flatid leaf bugs that at first glance look like delicate flowers. Orange-brownish beetles clustered side by side at a trunk and white bugs looking like delicate laces.
163  The roof of a traditional hut
gets freshly thatched
164  Emil is relaxing in front of our
bungalow at the Isalo Ranch in Ranohira
165  Liliana is enjoying hiking between
the pinnacles of the Isalo National Park
And on the sandy ground lovely flowers are sprouting now and then – in red, yellow and blue colors. The French lady owner of the Hotel ‘Relais de la Reine’, one of the oldest hotels in Madagascar, directed us to the track leading from her hotel into the canyon land. We also talk about the political situation of the island and about tourism. Since last year the visitors have increased again, she tells us. But they have not yet reached the volume of 2009 before the coup. The government has really to make efforts to attract tourists to Madagascar before the last lemurs have died-out, the last turtles have been eaten and the last rosewood and baobabs have been cut down.
166  We discover the colorful Rainbow
Milkweed Locust (Phymateus saxosus)
crawling up a spiny tree …..
167  ….. reaching the top, it peeks
out between the leaves
168  Madagascar is also home to many
species of chameleon: Giant Malagasy
Chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti)
Ranohira-Tuléar (Toliara) = 143 miles; 5 hours
On the third day, on October 21st, (the day when Ghadaffi was shot in Sirte) we finally move on. The black ribbon of asphalt runs almost dead straight through “Madagascar’s Wild West” towards the West coast. For us it’s the second crossing to the West, this time more Southerly. Soon we reach Ilakaka – a village in the middle of the endless yellow prairie. In the early 90s, sapphires were discovered in this region. Piles of the dug-up dirt of the open sapphire mines still line the river outside the town for miles. Since then the hamlet has advanced to a prosperous town.
Wonders of nature in the gullies of Isalo National Park:
169  Colonies of tiny adult flatid leaf
bugs (Phromnia rosea). At first glance they
look like clusters of delicate flowers
170  Orange-brownish bugs
(Libyaspis coccinelloides) – adults
– clustered together at a trunk
171  Flat white bugs (Libyaspis
coccinelloides) – young ones, a kind
of nymphs of the bugs shown on the
left – looking like laces
Modern shops selling precious gemstones sprang up like mushrooms. The expensive limousines parked in front of neat villas are also testimony of the fast earned money. Nonetheless: Also here people still live without electricity and water supply. We even doubt that the newly discovered oil and gas will finally bring a better life to the entire population. Apparently more than 70% still have to cope with 1 US$ a day.
Also in the barren canyons of Isalo National Park delicate flowers are sprouting in many colors
In Tuléar on the Tropic of Capricorn, we have no luck with the motels mentioned in the Lonely Planet 2008: We find the doors of the highly recommended “Le Capricorn” closed, apparently already since 2009. And the “Sax’Aphone” is surrounded by near-slums with the basic rooms having seen better times. But the bar and the restaurant are cozy and the food is good. Since 2010 it is managed by an elderly French guy. Well, we will survive one night – we think.
175  Outside of the bizarre Isalo National
Park we find ourselves again in the almost
endless prairie with its Bismarck palms
(Bismarckia nobilis)
176  We love to explore with our Land
Cruiser the narrow dusty sandy tracks
surrounding the Isalo NP. Guides are
always mandatory within the park borders
177  Bizarre rock formations tower
ghostly from the prairie on the
outskirts of Isalo NP
Yes we survive – but how! Right beside there is a celebration going on the whole night and the rhythmic beat of drums and singing keeps us awake most of the time. It just sounds like in the deep African bush. Next morning we move to the Hotel “Le Palétuvier” and come from bad to worse. Firstly, there is a party going on until 11pm and afterwards a disco starts until dawn in the neighborhood that we overlooked. When next day the heavily potholed road to Ifate in the North – a kind of tourist place with a lovely palm beach – becomes a 15-miles-nightmare for our almost 30 years old LandCruiser, we decide to leave this dusty coastal area and drive back to Fianarantsoa, also called “Fiana”.
178  Exploring the surroundings of the
Isalo Nationalpark. Can nature be
more beautiful?
179  Lilac flowers of a Jacaranda tree
contrast wonderfully against the grey
rock formations of the Isalo NP
180  The white clouds sailing right above our
heads intensify the beauties of nature. “Free”
tracks, again outside of the Isalo Nationalpark
Fianarantsoa- Ranomafana 45 miles; 2.7 hours
There, we book for the second time into the pleasant Greek “Hotel Cotsoyannis” and relax in the cozy small garden restaurant with a few beers and a delicious pizza – the specialty of the house. 32 miles West of Fiana lies along the RN45 the Ranomafana National Park on the way to the East coast. There the German primatologist Bernhard Meier discovered in 1986 the golden bamboo lemurs that are not found elsewhere (it’s said there are another few lemur species on the Comoros and on Mayotte). To protect them, this park was established in 1990. It is the fourth biggest national park in Madagascar.
181  Ilakaka – a village in the middle of
the endless prairie between Ranohira and
Tuléar. Since in the nineties sapphires
were discovered in the region, the tiny
hamlet advanced to a prosperous town
182  Along the river at the outskirts
of Ilakaka City, earth dug up from
the open sapphire mines is piled for
miles, still being washed for hidden gems
183  The lizard remains stock-still when
we get closer. But as soon as we retreat,
it speeds away into the bush
Hoping to spot also this rare lemur species, we decide to make the detour, passing once more through lovely scenery with bright rice fields, surrounded by an imposing mountain chain. On this stretch, we also get our second flat tire in Madagascar, the 168th on our world tour. We use here as a precaution the second new tube bought some time ago in Morondava.
184  A modern settlement was built in
the grassland outside of Ilakaka during
the sapphire boom – mostly consisting
of luxurious houses of the traders
185  Far from the modern world:
A traditional and impoverished
thatched village East of Tuléar
186  The village church of Andranohinaly,
surrounded by peaceful nature
It is noon when we arrive at the sleepy village of Ranomafana and we immediately feel comfortable at the “Manja Hotel” situated at the far end. With a lovely view to the lush green of the rainforest from the terrace restaurant, we first quench our thirst with one-two local THB beers and order cheese pasta and cheese omelets. Then, with much anticipation, we head to the National Park and pay our entry fees: Aria 25’000 (US$12) per person and Aria 15’000 for the mandatory guide for two hours.
187  A “camion brousse” – a 4wd bush
truck – is loaded at the bus terminal in
Tuléar. It drives to places, which are not
anymore reachable by a normal bush taxi
188  Bus terminals are always fascinating.
It is incredible how much and what is lifted
to the roof of the “bush trucks” and even
strapped to all sides; but it means supplying
the most inaccessible regions
189  Slowly but steadily also this
youngsters will reach some
when their destination
There is no way around taking a guide. “Take it or leave it!” is the rule. Soon we find ourselves criss-crossing the secondary rain forest, not seeing much wildlife, instead learning more about medicinal plants. A small family of Brown lemurs once crosses shortly our way and two other species are eating and climbing. Two different birds, a rat and a frog complete our meager spotting.
190  Not only in Morondava but also
in Tuléar we see the Baobabs, the bottle
trees, that can get as old as 1’200 years
191  After the dry and bleak plains, the
green river scenery is a pleasant sight
192  One more shot of one of our favorite
places, the Isalo National Park, on our
journey back from Tuléar to Fianarantsoa
Our booked two hours are long overdrawn, but our guide still continues to look for the rare lemur type. Suddenly he waves excitedly and points to a tree top. Half hidden by leaves one of these Golden Bamboo fellows is foraging from branch to branch. Unfortunately it is too far away to identify it clearly. Well, that was it then and we began to realize the difference between National Park and a private sanctuary: In the national park the animals live their life of wilderness – a private reserve tries to show them closer to the visitor, what is done usually with food. The result of both cases can be pictured oneself.
193  Lonely and forgotten: A couple of
thatched huts in “no man’s” land, with-
out running water – without electricity.
Famine occurs frequently in this region
194  Everywhere where there is
a pond people hope that some
fishes get caught in their net
195  The morning glow rings in another
day with new encounters and adventures
Back at the park entrance, the guide looks to his watch. Of course, he gets the additional hour paid! Trenched in sweat and tired we drive the few miles back to our hotel. It is already getting dark and at three different locations, huge wildfires draw our attention. All these hills will soon be left only with tree trunks rising ghostly towards the sky – and this happens right at the National Park border! Nobody intervenes, nobody cares!
196  At the Antaimoro Paper Factory
in Ambalavao a young woman is pressing
fresh flowers into the still damp paper made
from the bark of the Avoha bush. Once
dried in the sun, it is made into cards
197  In Fianarantsoa elaborated paddies
adorn a river valley, cultivated by the
Betsileo tribe, the third biggest tribe
of the island of Madagascar
198  The picturesque traditional hamlets of
the highland people are small and compact;
here North of Alak-Ambohimaha, some
20 miles North of Fianarantsoa along the
RN7. Often people are related in one
way or another to each other
Next day on our way back to Antsirabe more to the North, we see the same shocking scenes: Burning forests, trails of smoke and burnt-off hills. The overexploitation of nature is just unbelievable. Besides of the fast growing Eucalyptus trees also beautiful, healthy pine forests are slashed-and-burnt mercilessly. All the more we enjoy all the masterpieces of rice terraces, which due to the lately heavy rainfall are now shining in a refreshing green. Three weeks ago, they still were uncultivated.
199  West of Fianarantsoa, in the
Ranomafana National Park, the
Namorana River tumbles over
the Andriamamovoka falls
200  The Namorana River is meandering
through the stony river bed of the
Ranomafana National Park. This park
was set up in 1990 to protect the
golden bamboo lemurs (Hapalemur
aureus) that are found only here
201  A Common Brown Lemur
(Eulemur fulvus) eyes us curiously
on our guided tour through the Rano-
mafana National Park. It remains the only
close-up contact. The other species
are foraging high up in the tree tops
Antsirabe is greeting us with heavy downpours, lightening and thunder. Is the rainy season starting earlier? At the hotel “Le Retrait” we find a room for Aria 45’000 (US$ 21) a night and a secured fenced-in parking for our LandCruiser. After we have parked, we spot a big water puddle underneath our car: “Is it from us?” we wonder. Emil checks immediately. “ Yes it is. A rubber plug of the radiator is broken”, is his diagnose. Not having any replacement means to improvise.
On our tour through the Ranomafana National Park we discover:
202  A carnivorous plant (Drosera
capensis). The insect is attracted by the
scent of the mucilage glands and gets stuck
203  A bird is resting on a tree branch
– how might it be called?
204  Delicate white flowers
grow on humid soil
During all those years of traveling, Emil has become a true master on emergency repairs. Soon he finds a solution also here: An old spark plug, a lot of tape wrapped around and a clamp – that’s it! “Should it not withhold and should we lose the entire radiator water on the road, we at least still have our 5¼ gallons of shower water on the roof” he appeases my worries. But astonishingly it does work – for many more months and many miles!
205  In the Ranomafana National Park,
our LandCruiser crosses a “Traveler’s
Tree“ (Ravenala madagascariensis)
that got its name from the water
storage in its leaves
206  Lush green rice fields and scattered
brown highland huts against the backdrop
of a grey mountain range make the valley
20 miles North of Fianarantsoa very
207  Just more awesome paddies,
cultivated by farmers of the
Betsileo tribe near Fianarantsoa
Since almost one month, we are continuously driving each day for at least 8 hours. Now we are ready for a break. And our LandCruiser needs some maintenance: The usual oil change after 5’000 miles (here it is done with expensive South African oil), measuring the compression (is fine), cleaning the spark plugs and readjust the valves. We also need to do some laundry, answer emails, write the October News for our website, put our first Madagascar pictures online and, and, and .....
208  We never get tired to admire
the peaceful hamlets of the Betsileo
tribe on our way back from
Fianarantsoa to Antananarivo
209  A load of grass is pushed by hand
on a very simple wooden cart along the
street. This “poor man’s mean of transport”
is common on Madagascar’s roads
210  Vehicles made of wood and in
every size are offered along the road
Right around the corner is the “Zandina Restaurant” with Madagascan and European dishes – crowded around by street vendors, who are selling embroidered table clothes, vanilla pods, necklaces, sunglasses, exotic plants and a lot more. Very young girls with babies strapped to their back are peeking through the windows, fully focused on the eating tourists. They wait until they leave, make the “hungry”-sign and beg for money. All a bit depressing!
211  Oxen are chased around and
around in a circle to aerate
the soil for a new paddy
212  Three women have to do the
hazardous crossing of the river with
their harvested carrots .....
213  ..... where they are loaded
onto a wooden cart
After six nights, at 8am, we are on the move again, towards the North, towards Tana – the monster. After the fresh rainfalls of the last days, everywhere farmers attend their paddies with teams of oxen and archaic wooden plough. New seedlings are planted – all by hand.
214  Forests are continuously burnt down
to get wood for cooking, firewood to burn
bricks, and charcoal. 80% are already
irreversibly gone. Consequence: No
more forests – no more lemurs – no
more tourists – no income anymore!
215  A sad and distressing sight: Charred
tree stumps rise ghostly against the sky
216  At the entrance of villages loads
of bags with charcoal line the streets
waiting to be hauled away
In the fertile plains, carrots, potatoes and cabbage are growing. The already harvested vegetable is displayed along the roadside. Now and then, someone stretches a dangling duck, chicken or rabbit towards us hoping to make some business. And everywhere crowds of people with bag and baggage are walking along the street.
217  Typical brickworks between
Fianarantsoa and the capital Antananarivo,
where with the already scarce wood
bricks are burnt to construct houses
218  Waiting for customers: Farmers
sell their fresh carrots along the road
219  Market life on an old bridge. In
rural areas there are not many shops.
Most goods are traded in local markets
After many bends and 4½ driving hours, we reach the capital’s gate. What a different sight from one month earlier when we left the city. Back then the sky was deep blue and the view was clear. Today it’s hazy and everything looks oppressively drab and grey. Once more we stock up our supplies at the supermarkets of Leader-Price and Jumbo-Score – lying at the outskirts of the city – and have a bite of cheese and spicy salami at the parking area, which we bought at a reduced price. Well, in the evening at the “Auberge du Cheval Blanc” near the airport, I get a strong diarrhea and Emil lies three full days in bed after a really bad night. Was it the reduced salami?
Personal adornment is important to the Malagasy. Big care is taken to the hats.
They are worn with pride. From baby to grandfather, almost everyone wears them in all kind of variations
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