Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Today we did two activities in the morning and spent the afternoon doing laundry and relaxing by the pool.
Rivu picked us up after breakfast and we went down to the Manambolo river to meet our guide for the tsingy park named Ranovelo, whose name means “live water”.
He is not the best guide we’ve had – his English is minimal and he does not explain much. But he knows the way! He’s been guiding tourists here for 10 years, and he spends tourist season away from his family which is 8 more hours farther up the crazy road we took yesterday so I can’t blame him for being burnt out. In the wet season he farms back at his hometown.
The ferry is still broken and they are still pushing it back and forth over the river by hand! Claudia does not think it will be fixed by when we will leave because someone is coming from Tana with a part for the motor – about 20 hours via public transport.
The first part of the tour was the gorges on the river. We got to tour these in a Lakana boat. I have been admiring these type of handmade boats from a distance this whole trip and I was psyched we got to ride in one!
For the tourists, they tied two together for stability and we sat on a non attached plank that was placed crosswise between them. We had to play with the balance to avoid me being catapulted off the boat since Christian is a bit heavier than I am!
The boat itself is hand carved with an ax and a chisel out of a tree! There are no nails, just one big tree shaped into a canoe. We saw the tree they usually use for them in the Kirindy forest the other day. It’s called Comiphora but we laughed because another name for it is vazaha hazo or “foreigner tree”. The bark on it looks very much like a peeling sunburn – hence the name!
On this river the pilots pole the boat along with a long stick pushing off the bottom. We had two men with us doing this – Lehasy and Mamovelo – one was in training. As we passed another boat, a fisherman called a joke that they should get Christian to push the boat. The locals are noticing his muscles! Ranovelo said that Christian looks like Jet Li 😉
As we pushed off, Ranovelo explained the rules of the park. There were about four, including the regular ones like not leaving rubbish behind. However, one rule that was distinctly Malagasy and more specific to this area of Madagascar was “no pointing”. Another fady (taboo)! You could use your palm or your knuckle but no extended fingers. Christian, Claudia and I all broke this rule at some point during the day by accident!
The river ride was nice through the beautiful gorges. We saw many swifts chirping and hovering around the water. I like the way the water reflects on the rock walls.
We stopped at two caves which were just so-so. I am not a big cave fan! One cool thing that happened at one of the caves though is that one of the boat pilots was smoking and he was using a DIY lighter system. There was two stones to use as a flint making a spark. He directed that spark directly into the end of a zebu horn which contained some dry material to catch the spark. Then they put the cigarette into the zebu horn to light it! When Christian asked them to do it again for the camera they had run out of dry stuff in the horn so the other pilot pulled out a regular lighter and said “backup”.
We also stopped to view (from a distance) a vazimba tomb. Vazimba is the name Malagasy people give to the ancient ancestors – the unknown group of folks that settled Madagascar from the Indonesia area 2000 years ago. They respect Vazimba sites like this one as they do their own ancestor sites.
Then it was time for our walk through the first part of Tsingy de Bemaraha national park. This first part is called the “little tsingy”. Tomorrow we are doing the “big tsingy”.
Tsingy means “tiptoe”. Apparently the Vazimba ancestors used to live on the sharp eroded stone made from ancient coral that this park is famous for. I don’t know how since it is so sharp! But the legend goes that they tiptoed on it. There was indeed an old broken pot at the top of the little tsingy that our guide said was a Vazimba pot.
Bemaraha means “place that makes you feel”. What a good word! So the park name is “tiptoe” and “place that makes you feel”.
We had a pretty good walk through the forest and then to the top of the tsingy. Lots of interesting views and trees twisted through the crazy looking rock formations. For some reason I was feeling tired and not feeling it too much however and was glad when we were done and we got an afternoon off to relax by the hotel pool.
We did see a couple of new things – a Decken’s sifaka, which is quite like the other sifaka lemurs just more white. We also saw an interesting spiky tree called elephants foot – named after the bottom of the tree looking like its namesake.
Hanging by the hotel pool was relaxing and also interesting. I’m not sure they are used to “younger” vazaha such as myself hanging out in a bikini. The guy who was building the cement wall for example was half building the wall and half looking in our direction with his mouth open the whole entire time. I guess I should take this as a compliment at my age? I am still never quite comfortable with it and two men made it their business to strangely pop up around me every once in a while during our stay there which was annoying.
We were expecting to meet Claudia for dinner. She stopped by right before saying that she had already eaten. Just as I was wondering, “was it something we said”, the waiters turned up with two wonderful smelling flower leis and put them around our necks. They sat us out on the patio with a lit candle all by ourselves. This was their treat for our honeymoon. Aw! So cute.
I almost ruined it with the “ring incident” however. Halfway through dessert I had a momentary panic about my ring and where was it. Did I take it off by the pool? I went to our room to check and by the time I got back the waiters were already searching through the sand near where we were sitting. I felt so bad that they were doing that! So we went back to the room and I remembered I left it in my wallet. I went over and thanked the people searching. The manager said she had been talking to her co-manager about me since she had seen that I was not wearing my ring. The people here really watch the foreigners and talk about them I think!