the funniest thing I have ever seen while travelling

Here’s a little tale of roadside assistance, Malagasy-style. It’s hard for a non-mechanically-minded person such as myself to describe so bear with me. It doesn’t help that every time I think about it I dissolve into fits of giggles either.
We were about halfway back to Antananarivo from Andasibe when we pulled up behind a white truck on the right side of the road that had pulled over. We held back as there was a cart carrying building materials being pulled by two zebu coming towards us up the hill and we had to give way. A red truck had also been travelling in front of us and, once the zebu were out of the way, started to make its way round the white truck.
Just as the red truck was right alongside the white truck, it slowed right down and a guy threw what looked (to me) like a small log under the wheel… at which point the front trailer keeled over to the left and I honestly thought the truck was going to roll down the embankment to the side. We (much, much) later found out that, at that moment, the red truck’s brakes failed just as it was preparing to stop to jumpstart the white truck.
So, we now had two big trucks side by side in front of us meaning we were stuck. I was busting for the loo (sod’s law) and we were about 40 minutes from Tana as it was. Many men just stood on the side of the road and did their business but being a lady I was not about to do that so it was in to the thorny scrub for me. Of course as soon as I’d found a suitable spot it looked like we were about to get moving.
But oh, no. We weren’t. We were there for at least another hour while all manner of madness occurred. But rather than bore you with words, I will again let some pictures tell the rest of the story.
End note: As we were leaving, I asked our driver Tahina if this happened often; he just smiled and said “oh yes of course”.
Traffic must stop for this first, before actual traffic jam may occur.
Biker sits there for 20 minutes wondering what to do before realising he can just drive through the middle
Truck (b) nearly tips over because…
I thought this was “How to jack up a truck 101” but I have been informed they didn’t even mean to have it sitting off the ground!  Apparently, this is the PARK BRAKE.
What to do, what to do… Six mechanics, 10 truck drivers and 200 onlookers, laughing but offering no solutions, until…
A boy band arrives on the scene
4WDs (and don’t forget gutless AWDs!) get impatient, decide to mount compost heap to get round trucks
Inspired by 4WDs, Lowrider 90s Citroen tries…
…gets bogged in compost.
Needs a push, or ten.
The queue behind us (constantly honking, very helpful)
This is the third truck, trying to get past the other two
A close shave
We’re on our way!
The locals stopped to watch (and laugh)

chillaxing with lemurs

Well here we are folks, the moment we’ve been waiting for…We’re hanging out with lemurs in Andasibe (and we have been told the proper way to say this is “an-DAS-ee-beh”), about a three hour drive + traffic east of Tana.

We’re staying at the lovely Vakona Forest Lodge which is great; the lodge encompasses several walking tours as well as the very cool Lemur Island, which is a refuge for many different species of lemur.

Nearby is Analamazoatra Reserve, the part of Andasibe-Mantadia NP that is home to the indri-indri, Madagascar’s largest lemur. Here you can see lemurs in the wild.

The National Park itself is a haven for lemurs, which have suffered due to land clearing. The National Park is now a protected area where the lemurs can hopefully thrive again. There are 10 different species in the Analamazoatra Reserve (four diurnal and six nocturnal) and each species lives in groups/families, but they live in harmony with each other as they have slightly different diets and are active at different times.

I think the most amazing part for us, both in Analamazoatra Reserve and over on Lemur Island, was hearing the lemurs call to each other. The indri-indri have an incredible call (similar to a Siamang I guess, if you’ve ever heard one) and the ring-tail lemurs have several, easily distinguishable calls for different situations. Their “alarm” call is amazing: high-pitched from air danger, e.g a hawk, and low-pitched for ground danger, such as a snake. They stand up on their hind legs to make the call and we were blown away by how loud it is for such a small animal!

Just a note: All lemurs we saw are are endemic to Andasibe, with the exception of the ring-tail lemurs, which are endemic to the South of Madagasar only. We were luckily enough to see them because there is a large family on Lemur Island, which is home to Lemurs that have been rescued from various fates.

Ring-tail Lemur
Baby lemurs hitch a ride on mum’s back
Ruffed lemur having a snooze
Bamboo lemur, one of the smallest diurnal lemurs

Tana, you’re under our skin

Finally, we’ve found a place that suits us.

Antananarivo is busy, loud and gritty and it both challenges and invites us to learn more. It’s beautiful yet run-down, regal yet dilapidated and it throws a million different thoughts in our faces as we travel through it.

Crazy traffic. ‘Markets’ lining the roadside for miles selling nothing but big, fat sausages or even bigger, fatter ducks. Two guys wheeling a cart full of church pews through the crowd. Minivans with 25+ people in them, some hanging out the back door.

Our hotel is a beautiful converted mansion on top of a hill, right next to the old Queen’s castle and overlooking the whole city. We watched the sunset from our balcony and finally felt the romance that’s been missing from our honeymoon – Tana is definitely not where we expected to find it and yet, here it is.

We’re buzzing. We’ve literally been here for four hours and we are absolutely bursting with ideas and questions – but these are taking a backseat as we’re so over-excited to tell everyone else about it!

As usual, “a picture tells a thousand words” so have a look for yourself…

Mauritius: Southbound

Today we headed to the South of the island to explore. It was a hot, sticky day and even though we started fairy early we were hot and bothered by the first stop. As Aussies we should be used to the heat but as South Aussies, it’s the humidity that really gets us.
A few nights ago we took a taxi to the shops to pick up some supplies and our driver, Vijay, was lovely. Even though he was only taking us on a short drive he was so friendly and a wealth of information, so we decided to book him for a tour of the south (it’s quite hard to find a really friendly driver here so we snapped Vijay up as quick as we could).
First stop was Troux aux Cerfs, a volcano crater located near Curepipe, Mauritius’ biggest city. We walked around the rim which gave us fantastic views o not only the inside of the crater, which is now covered in lush vegetation, but also over the whole city of Curepipe and out to the ocean.
Next we went quad biking around La Valée des Couleurs, a site where you can see 23 different colours within the earth. This actually wasn’t that mind-blowing but it was the first time I had ever been quad biking and with my handsome driver husband doing a great job it was pretty fun.
Ganga Talao was our third stop. This crater lake, also called Grand Bassin, is a sacred lake to the Hindu people of Mauritius and is dedicated to the god Shiva. There is a temple and shrine around the lake and nearby is a massive statue of Shiva.

Lunch isn’t really worth mentioning but after a bite to eat, we made our way to our last stop – La Vanille park, which is a crocodile farm that also has an incredible Insectarium, and my favourite – Giant Tortoises! I have a lot of respect for old species (evolutionarily speaking) and always think it’s a massive privilege to be ‘up-close-and-personal’ with them.

Well that’s all from me today, we’ve checked into a new hotel on the other side of the island… more adventures await!

Facing my fears at Île aux Cerfs

Being married to a thrill-seeker sometimes means I’m put in situations that make me uncomfortable; often this infuriates me but every now and then (don’t tell Logan) I wind up doing something I thought I would never do and feeling very chuffed with myself.
I think I’ve mentioned this before but I never used to be a big scaredy-cat – it’s like a few years ago this switch just went off in my brain that told me to be afraid of heights, speed and anything people might consider fun, so now rather than taking risks and being the first person to get out there and do something, I’m constantly alert to danger. Some people might call this “becoming an adult” but it’s pretty frustrating!
Anyway, today we went out to Île aux Cerfs, which is a small island off the east coast of Mauritius. We sailed out on a 35ft catamaran complete with all the food we could possibly eat, plenty of local rum and a bunch of hilarious South Africans (who are an Aussie’s best mate when traveling in Mauritius).
On the way out to the island I was sunning myself at the front of the boat when Logan disappeared for a bit and I figured he was just fetching some beers. Wrong… he was arranging for us to parasail without telling me! Parasailing used to be something I’d wanted to do but lately I’d been way too scared. He had now forced me into it.
We hopped into a small boat and made our way out to the platform in the middle of the sea; Logan got excited while I quietly hyperventilated. Shit-scared, I let them strap me in at the front while Logan sat behind with the ‘controls’. I won’t go into massive detail from here on but I’ll say this: DO IT. It was incredible. Once I was up in the air I calmed down and enjoyed the ride and here is what we saw:

There was no other way to experience this view but by parasail and now I can say I saw it.

The best bit though? When it was over and I was back on the catamaran, I was ready to have one of the best days ever because I was so proud of myself that I felt bulletproof. By the end of the day I’d made friends with everyone and I was even jumping off the boat (haven’t done that in years!)

a lesson in choosing tour operators wisely

We had some setbacks today… and were reminded of some valuable travel lessons!
We left the hotel at 6.15am to head out on a cruise to swim with the dolphins – something I have wanted to do for as long as I remember. Even as a really little girl I was in awe of dolphins so words can’t really describe my excitement levels as we left the hotel and made the 90 minute drive to the boat.
The view was stunning as we set out to find the dolphins. I would really love to post a photo for you but hotel wifi is telling me NO… I will post a picture blog when we get home.

There was a group of about 15 boats about 300m offshore. We saw them and thought we would just sail straight past them, but instead we joined the,. At this point we figured the drivers would just have a quick word to each other, perhaps trade a couple of tips and co-ordinate their movements so we weren’t all in the same area, but it turned out they had spotted a dolphin and so we joined the chase too. Next thing we knew we had 16 boats (that’s approximately 160 people) chasing this one lone dolphin, trying to corner it so it wouldn’t escape.

I was disgusted and when our driver saw that I was visibly upset, he laughed in my face.

I tried to get in the water even though I didn’t want to be near the dolphin as I didn’t want to add to the problem, but I had been given faulty snorkelling gear. By the time it was fixed, the driver told me I was too slow and was no longer allowed to get in. (‘Yelled at’ is more appropriate than ‘told’, to be honest.)

Eventually the dolphin managed to escape and Logan and I cheered for him. The poor thing was probably already in a pickle because his pod were nowhere to be found, and here were 160+ humans with loud boats chasing him, jumping on him, yelling, splashing and trying to disorient him.
So all in all we paid a very large amount of money to feel disappointed, upset, belittled, exhausted and ripped off, not to mention how cruel we were to the dolphin.
Every cloud has a silver lining though… We made two lovely South African friends. We will attempt the dolphin swim again but this time, with a lot more research behind us. Lesson learnt!

Tomorrow we are sailing a catamaran to Ile aux Cerfs; hopefully we have better luck.

Good Morning Mauritius!

I’m jet lagged. I woke up at four o’clock this morning desperate to hit the gym (this has never happened before!) but it wasn’t open yet. So I woke Logan up, watched bad t.v. until six and then convinced him to come for a walk with me. This was our view:
Pretty worth it!
I ate like a complete fiend at breakfast while looking out over the ocean… European tourists were just eating a little bit and I confess, I wanted to walk over to their tables and yell at them about the virtues of (free) buffets. Alas, they are the ones who will look good at the beach this afternoon.
We had a massage this morning and in my excitement to book the amazing deal we were offered I didn’t notice it was a “Thai” massage. Cue a lot of flinching and eyeballs nearly popping out of my head from pain, not to mention awkward moments when she lifted my leg over my head and kneed my groin. Oh, and nearly passing out in the sauna (in case you haven’t figured it out I’m a crybaby).
So far I have had two serves of the local speciality fish dish which is probably the best fish I’ve had in my life. And speaking of life-changing events, tomorrow we are off to swim with the dolphins which some may already know is something I have always been aching to do.
Short but sweet today… we’re recovering from yesterday’s million hour journey of hell so my brain is still in meltdown, but tomorrow we will hopefully have many lovely dolphin pics for you.
Much love xx