Madagascar is a big country. After leaving Andasibe, we spent the next three days on the coach, heading south, before reaching Ranomafana, another rainforest. Of course, there were some stops on the way, mainly short ones for taking photos or buying souvenirs. The only major stop was when we detoured to see Lake Tritriva, a volcanic lake which is small but quite picturesque. We followed a footpath around the lake, which provided a welcome opportunity to stretch our legs. At the parking place, however, we were mobbed by crowds of children attempting to sell polished stones.
One of our overnight stops was at a church-run hostel rather than a hotel. The accommodation was very basic: we slept in dormitories, had no hot water and the only toilet (which sometimes flushed) was situated in a different building. However, after dinner that evening we were entertained by a group of enthusiastic dancers and musicians, who provided an enjoyable introduction to Malagasy culture.
On our way south, the weather deteriorated considerably. It became grey and gloomy, with occasional light rain. And it was surprisingly cold – we had to dig out all the warm clothes we’d needed for camping in the Namibian desert.
During our full day at Ranomafana, we did a morning walk in the rainforest, but unfortunately it lived up to its name by pouring the whole time. We saw a few lemurs, but they were too far away, or moving too fast, to get decent still photos, although Ian managed to capture the rare Golden Bamboo Lemur on film.
By the end of the walk, we were soaked to the skin, and shivering with cold. The nature of our accommodation did not help. We stayed at a lodge where most people were in cabins perched high on a hill. To get to our room from the restaurant, we had to walk quite a way along the road, and then climb 90 steep steps. So we changed into dry clothes, but got wet again going for lunch. Moreover there was no heating in our room, or in the main building, and therefore no way of drying our wet things.
The next day was spent mainly driving, but we had a stop at a community park to see a large number of ring-tailed lemurs.
Our destination was Ranohira, where we stayed for two nights, very close to Isalo National Park, where we walked the next day. This was one of the highlights for us, so we were determined to make the most of it even though we were not feeling entirely fit at the time. The rock formations were picturesque. In the morning we walked to a natural swimming pool, and following a quite elaborate picnic lunch we did an optional walk down into Namaza Canyon.
From Ranohira we continued our journey south until we reached the coast at Toliara: the end of National Route 7, which we had followed all the way from Tana. On the way we stopped in yet another national park to see yet more lemurs and chameleons.
After staying overnight in Toliara we took a boat to Anakao, a beach resort further down the coast. We had some concerns about this, as by then we were suffering from severe diarrhoea, and we had been told that facilities in Anakao were very limited. Our hotel, like others nearby, had no running water. To make it worse, there had been a change to our itinerary. Explore groups normally spend two nights at Anakao, but owing to a problem with flights, our group had to stay for three.
We managed to survive the journey, which involved being taken out to the waiting boat in small carts pulled by zebu (Malagasy cattle). Our accommodation was in beach ‘bungalows’ which to our relief (no pun intended) did include flushing toilets, using sea water. There were no showers or taps, but buckets of cold water were delivered each morning, plus buckets of hot water in the late afternoon. For some reason the hot water was mixed with the bark from a tree, which meant that the water was dark brown, even when diluted with cold. We had electricity for approximately four hours each day.
There is very little to do in Anakao, so three days seemed an awfully long time. But in some ways in was the best place to be ill, as we didn’t miss much! We spent most of our first day just lying on the bed, dozing and generally feeling rubbish. The two days after that, we felt a bit better, but still needed to take it easy. However, we did manage a swim in the Mozambique Channel, and two longish walks along the beach, On one of these we passed a fascinating collection of tombs. According to our guidebook, one tomb has a satellite dish attached, for the eternal entertainment of the occupants. We did not see that, but one of the tombs we did see had a radio/cassette recorder propped against it – presumably for the same purpose!