Sue was still not well and was not looking forward to the day’s very long drive north when we woke at 5 am. We were not the first to breakfast at 6 am and it did arrive in sufficient time to board the coach by 7 am.
Yet again as we re-entered the desperately poor and parched area of a few days ago we had the humbling experience of handing out bottles of water to eager, outstretched hands and gentle, smiling faces.
We stopped for an excellent lunch at the hotel of a few days ago, Relais de la Reine. We met Gronya and Dan again, they had remained at the hotel to allow Gronya to recover from a bad dose of food poisoning while we drove south, they joined our party again for the return northwards.
The afternoon drive continued into the early evening, it was cold and dark when we checked into the Tsienimparihy Lodge. Changing into warmer clothes we met the rest of the group for dinner and then retired to bed for an uncomfortable sleep.
The WiFi available in the last two hotels has been very slow, most of the time we have been unable to login, forcing me to write this blog using Wordpad, not daring to publish to the net in fear that it may be corrupted or completely lost, hopefully, the next one will have a decent service connection.
Not such an early breakfast today and we were on the road for 8 am. Dressed in shorts, sandals, and a T-shirt I had taken the wrong option for dress wear, it was a cloudy and chilly morning and the sky didn’t seem to offer any hope of improvement. We are back in the mountains and I should have known better! Sue had been wiser.
The first stop was after a very short drive to a paper factory. We trailed around a small compound, witnessing the various stages of manufacture, a small aged lady explaining in rapid French what we were observing, then interpreted by our tour guide.
The second stop was after an even shorter drive, we could have walked. This was at a silk factory, located on a similarly structured compound. Again, we had an aged lady explaining the process, but her English was good and no interpretation was needed. We have witnessed this process before in China and they produce a much finer product than here. Of course, there was the obligatory opportunity to purchase the products, though we opted not to bother (for once).
Back on the bus, we began a northward marathon towards our next accommodation. For most of the journey, we had a slight drizzle and as we climbed in altitude the rain forest become immersed in thin wisps of cloud that hung like ribbons through the dense foliage. The road hugged the cliff face above a gushing, boulder-strewn river that twisted and turned its way through a narrow canyon making for a hair-raising drive around numerous hairpin bends.
As the drizzle eased we arrived at the Le Grenat, situated in the Ranomafana Forest, and checked in a two-night stay at the traditional but acceptable bungalow. We had lunch with the rest of the group and then decided on a walk through the village which clung to the road we had just travelled. Finding a small bank in the busy market square, with the help of another group member’s passport we exchanged 20 euros for the local currency before continuing with our exploration.
The inhabitants of this very friendly island are always cheerful and welcoming, we felt safe meandering through alleyways and side streets that you would not contemplate in most cities. We crossed the river on a rickety wooden bridge, the metal one had been destroyed in the last cyclone and this was the only way to reach the thermal baths that the village is renowned for. we stretched our legs a little further upstream before turning back towards habitation and investigating more side streets on our way back to the hotel.
Before the evening meal, the group boarded their coach as soon as it got dark, we were off up the mountain and into the rainforest to look for creatures of the night. The drizzle had returned and most of us were kitted out appropriately with wet weather gear and torches. On the way, we picked up our forest guides in one of the passing villages before disembarking at the side of the road and switching on our personal lighting. With the guides as spotters of chameleons, frogs, mouse lemurs, sleeping butterflies, and birds we moved slowly down the mountain, lighting them up and attempting to photograph. The dark seemed to be teeming with life, or maybe our guides were just good at finding what few creatures there were, but whichever it was, the experience was brilliant and gave Sue and me an insight into the world of Mr Attenborogh as we whispered our excitement at seeing another shy and camouflaged Madagascan animal.
We returned to the hotel in time for the evening meal, a few drinks, and a welcoming bed.