Bekopaka, Madagascar | 20 May, 2007 | $63.47 (hotel, guides, transport, & food on river trip)
Our first day back on the road was a long one, bringing us to the ferry crossing at Bekopaka at dusk. Cars were loaded onto the barge in the water and we jumped onboard, dandling our feet over the edge, inches from the water. Across the river was a campsite where we slept two nights—the first, after a day’s drive and the second after exploring Tsingy National Park, to the North.
Our second night we saw another group of travelers keeping a local man in their tent. His one room shack had burnt down (keeping fuel next to an open flame is always a bad idea) and he had been badly burnt. Still, his brother was worse off, and had been taken to a hospital the previous day. I gave him antibiotics to take while another tourist, a nurse, scraped the dead skin off of his body in an effort to save his limbs. It’s times like these that remind me how dangerous it can be to live a day’s drive in a private vehicle away from a doctor.
Antsiraraka, Madagascar | 18 May, 2007 | $63.47 (hotel, guides, transport, & food on river trip)
Once again, I woke up to little kids giggling outside my tent. Sunsets and sunrises were some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen here. After some more time in the canoe, our third day, we climbed atop the bank and loaded our baggage into carts pulled by large animals.
Our destination, a tiny town called Antsiraraka, was where we would meet up with the road the following day. We arrived just before dark, walking through farmlands and crossing barefoot across small rivers. The townspeople were finishing up their chores while I explored the town. Whenever I tried to take a picture a large group congregated, insisting I fit everyone into the picture, leaving me with many awkward group shots.
More photos of the walk to Antsiraraka can be seen in the gallery.
Tsiribihina River, Madagascar | 17 May, 2007 | $63.47 (hotel, guides, transport, & food on river trip)
Our second full day on the river meant more wildlife spotting (including lemurs!) and lunch and swimming at a waterfall. I was traveling in the shoulder season so none of these spots were crowded and we didn’t see any other tourists on the river.
Tsiribihina River, Madagascar | 16 May, 2007 | $63.47 (hotel, guides, transport, & food on river trip)
Two nights of our trip were spent camping on the banks of the Tsiribihina River. We cut it close and set up our tents at dusk both night, eating fish from the river by candlelight. Each morning we were woken by giggling outside our tents, pulling down the zipper to discover crowds of children eagerly waiting to see who would emerge. Although I enjoyed meeting the kids and photographing them in the beautiful morning light the situation made finding a private bathroom spot difficult.
Miandrivazo, Madagascar | 15 May, 2007 | $63.47 (hotel, guides, transport, & food on river trip)
Traveling alone ensures a bit of uncertainty when trying to book trips that you can’t afford to do alone. My hostel had a few French tourists looking to round out their group trip on the Ttsiribihina River. I was in luck! The only problem is that only one of them spoke much English but the guide reassured me he would repeat anything important in English.
The couple and younger woman were all really nice and friendly but the language barrier was much more frustrating for me with tourists than the language barrier with locals. I admit that I got a bit frustrated because of this and probably wasn’t the best company. I would only run into one other native English-speaking tourist during the month, as well as a few American Peace Corps volunteers.
Our first day of the six day trip was spent driving to a small town where we could access the river. We arrived as the sun was setting, leaving me no time to look around. Our hotel seemed to be an interesting colonial relic and I’m surprised I didn’t take more photos for you guys.
More images of the van ride to Miandrivazo can be seen in the gallery.
Aantananarivo, Madagascar | 14 May, 2007 | $8.16
Tana is a lovely town but I never intended to spend five days there. After my debit card was swiped in Jordan and flagged while I was in Ethiopia my bank finally cancelled it and sent me a new one… to my mom’s house in the U.S. My flight to Madagascar was already book and I only had a 7-day transit visa for Kenya so I continued on and it eventually reached me in Madagascar.
Because flights only run once per week and I had a one month visa I had to plan my route though the country with care. My schedule wasn’t tight but I definitely had a plan for this month of travel. Ansirable is the starting point for arranging a dugout canoe trip to the west coast. After arriving in the dusty field serving as a bus station I jumped on a pousse-pousse (rickshaw pulled by a man half my size) to a hostel in the middle of town. I felt bad that he was pulling my weight and my heavy backpack until he tried to convince me the hostel had burned down.
Aantananarivo, Madagascar | 11 May, 2007 | $14.15
After my crazy overnight ride from Moyale to Nairobi, Kenya I was totally exhausted. I did not take a photo of the cage I slept in overnight for fear that the other, somewhat hostile, passengers would realize why I wouldn’t put my daypack (holding my laptop, hard drive and two cameras) on the roof in the rain. Three nights in Nairobi were spent resting and securing a ticket to Antananarivo on Air Madagascar.
Overnight I went from a bunk bed in Nairobi to a wonderful little hotel called Tana Jacaranda in the capital of Madagascar. My room was tiny but the main room was worth the extra money I spent. This was one of my favorite hotels during my trip. Everything felt different in Madagascar—the light, the rooftops, the food, the cars… Direct flights within Africa to Tana are only available from Johannesburg or Nairobi. I choose the shortest flight but it only operated once a week and makes you realize just how far away Madagascar is from everything.
More images of Tana can be seen in the gallery.
Me-go Mix: Track 9
“Analakely” — Lola
To download using Windows “right click” and save to disk. Mac users, you know what to do.
The sprawling market at the end of Analakely Street in downtown Antananarivo
Sometimes when you’re traveling in a country you hear a handful of popular songs over and over. Lola’s songs were everywhere in Madagascar. When you don’t speak the language it can be hard to figure out what you’re listening to, but if you’re willing to engage in a little pantomime you can usually figure it out. The song I heard the most in Madagascar was “I Gaskara”, which I’ve already posted. It started playing in a craft shop in Ambostra and, after pointed to my ear and into the air, the woman started singing the song and then wrote the name down on a piece of paper for me.
I didn’t find many music shops until I got back to the capital, where there are stands of CD sellers lining Analakely street, the main thoroughfare in town. The stands had a lot of strange music, including old Billy Joel CDs and Gospel recordings. I was surprised to find no Lola CDs for sale on the street and started to ask around. One man with a bag full of CDs came up with a Lola CD which was obviously pirated and began to sing Lola’s “Manahirana” to me. The serenade attracted a crowd of young men selling a variety of cheap plastic goods who surrounded me and joined in. Buying CDs off street sellers is always a risk because you never know what’s on the disc. In this case I bargained him down to 1/4th his asking price, an amount I didn’t mind losing if the CD was blank.
When I popped it into my laptop back at the hotel I discovered it wasn’t blank, but it was a VCD disc with various artists including Lola, but not the Lola song I was looking for. The next day I tracked down a brick and mortar record store carrying real Lola CDs on Analakely Street near the market (a photo of the store is in this post). I was shocked at the price of CDs, which were cheaper than the U.S. but too expensive for a local to afford. Two Mormon missionaries dressed in black suits and ties came in and we discussed the price of CDs. In my travels I often run across missionaries, but the ones from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints always lend a bit of surrealness to my surroundings. Young men dressed in suits, pasty white and always in pairs, they tend to stick out even in the United States so you can imagine how strange they would look in a record shop in Madagascar on a 90 degree day. I ended up getting a full Lola CD (not VCD!), and having the opportunity to listen to it before I handed over my money. “Analakely” is the third, and last, Lola song on my mix. Enjoy!
The email just came… my photo of a lemur in Isialo National Park in Madagascar will definitely be in Issue #4 of Everywhere Magazine! I haven’t seen a publication date for the issue yet (I’m guessing August/September) but you can catch a sneak peek or click through the whole issue here. My photo is toward the end of the National Parks stories on a spread with a bunch of wildlife shots. Despite the fact that, as a graphic designer, I’ve had the opportunity to have my photos and illustrations in numerous books and even photoshop my face into a spread or two this is still very exciting.
After returning home last fall I spotted a new travel magazine at my local bookstore, Everywhere Magazine. It’s an interesting idea, using a website to gather content rather than relying on professional travel writers. It also gives regular travelers a chance to be published. I’ve been waiting for the perfect “theme” to come up and issue #4′s National Park theme seemed like a great opportunity to write about one of the more exotic places I traveled to.
Madagascar is one of the places I haven’t finished writing much about on this blog, much to some reader’s dismay. Although this article doesn’t contain a lot of personal anecdotes (they don’t encourage anything over 1,000 words) it’s a solid overview of the features of the four parks I visited. In addition to the text, the accompanying pictures may be new or slightly different shots than you’ve seen on this site. Head on over to Everywhere to check out my story and the others submitted for issue#4: My story, titled “Nature’s Experiment”
This makes me wonder, what magazines is the traveler reading these days? Most magazines I see are aimed at the high end market, stuffed with resort ads. Leave your awesome travel magazine recommendations in the comments.