A Travellerspoint blog

Madagascar c'est un beau pays...jolie...magnifique!

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....I realise it's been a few weeks but internet has been iffy
ahh Mada..c'est un beau pays, jolie, magnifique..les gens sont sympathique..

it has been a crazy, hectic, relaxing and amazing past few weeks. madagascar has very limited internet and it's been nice to have a break. the country is poor, but the sights amazing and the people so friendly. First hot shower in 8 days!!
when i arrived on sunday, i headed straight to Antsirabe, a town 4/5 hours south of Tananarive. My plan was to head West the following morning to Morondave on the coast. From there I was going to figure out how to see the Allee des Baobabs and the Tsingy Stone forests. So end up walking around Antsirabe during the day, taking a pousse pousse and visiting some artisan markets. I run into some french people (turns out they are 90% of the tourist population) and walk around with them and we have lunch. Then i'm waiting at the Taxi Brousse station (one of those minibuses that fits 12 people plus bags inside, then another number of bags/chicken/furniture/fruit/etc on the roof) and this guide approaches me and proposes a tour of 8 days. We sit for a while and finally I agree. 3 days descending the river on wooden boats, then 2 days in the Tsingy forests and the baobabs..sounds perfect!
I end up being with a french couple and their friend, another french man, a polish couple, a Finnish couple and a Belgian. We really had a blast on the river, camping on the banks, hanging out with our 'piroguier'and guides. typical day was waking up at 6, breakfast, pack up our things and head out on the river, after some hours, the guides had cooked in the pirogues and we stopped to eat then back on the water until we found a campsite. We saw lemurs, baobabs, birds, chameleons, bats, zebu's and lots of them, and i almost adopted a puppy :)
I have to say though, wow its hot here..the sun comes down so hard its like something i've never felt before. sunscreen and big hats required!
Once we arrived at the end of the river part of the trip, we loaded up in 4x4 land rovers and headed out on the road to Belo sur Tsiribine, the village on the Tsiribine river. the ambiance was very cool..
The next day we had 100km of eroded road to cover so we left most of our things at Belo to lighten to load on the roof and headed out with a million bottles of water, rhum arrange, and soda. I didn't realise how bumpy the ride really was going to be like, but it was a great time. we had to stop and rescrew the handles above the windows in the 4x4 because it was so bumpy.
There are a few different Tsingy's in Mada..Grand, Petit, D'Ankarana, tsingy rouge. They are in the west and north of mada and are very marking..The formations are quite unique, sharp and hot to walk through! We also go to crawl through the caves beneath them, which are untouched and cool.
Then off to the Allee des Baobabs..the ride had some amazing landscapes..fields of baobabs and old french cars everywhere..quite charming actually. We finished in Morondave at the beach for 2 nights which was relaxing.
Now after the trip, the french couple Virignie et Youri, their nurse friend Philippe, and the french man Erik and I decide to go back to Tananarive together. Philippe was heading North to work for 10 days in the bush and needed to catch a flight. Once in Tana, I met Arnaud, a french guy doing a tour du monde and we decide to travel up north together. Taxi Brousse ride of 20 hours from Tana to the island of Nosy Be..long but interesting and beautiful definitely. We stopped a few times, once because we had 'weak tires' and so we had to repump them, other times for food..
Nosy Be we stayed 4 nights..we ate some amazing food, visited Nosy Komba and got to play with lemurs, Nosy Tanekely and snorkeled. We were lucky enough to see a sea turtle and swam with her for a while which was pretty special. Another day we rented a scooter and drove around the island a little bit, past the YlangYlang plantations.
I've had good timing with Mada because of the season, fresh mangoes, lychees, pineapples and plums everywhere..eating fresh lychees off the branch is delicious! It's odd how the more developed a country becomes, the more it moves away from fresh, natural and local foods...people should follow the seasons :)
So after Nosy Be, we headed up north enroute to Diego we stopped at another Tsingy and stayed 2 nights right outside the park and had a great randonnee through the forest, saw a huge bat cave and stalagtites and stalagmites, bats and lemurs.
Now coming back into a city, even though its pretty small made us feel suffocated, so we stayed one night, then headed to Ramene, a fishing village some KMs out of town. This was definitely a good choice, the sunsets we saw from the hotel were just stunning..we had easy access to get to teh Emerald Sea and walk around the Bays in the area..
The day we leave I asked Alex, our main guy at the hotel that I wanted to fnd some vanilla. At any point in Mada if I just asked anyone for anything..5 minutes later its all arranged and figured out for me. The Malgash are very friendly that way. After a few amazing dasys, it was time for me to head back down south to Tana...but i had to prepare myself for 27 hours in Taxibrousse. Cost of the trip was 60,000 Ariary, which is about 28 dollars...a plane ticket is about 12 times more expensive and less of an adventure :) though it does save some time, if Air Mada doesn't end up delaying or cancelling the flight!
On our way down to Tana we did end up getting a flat tire, but since these Taxi B's typically roll in Caravans for long distances, it was quickly fixed and off we were. I can't saw how many Zebu's i've seen, but this animal is sacred for sure. They also eat it, and it's very tender meat.
Once back in Tana, I saw the Ville Haute, Ville intermediaire, and Ville Basse. Tana is built very spread out and has 12 hills so there's always a nice outlook point, especially near the Queen's palace.
I;m sad to have left, it was a great country and I recommend it to anyone for sure! the food is just delectable, the people friendly and the little things that make the country special leave an impression..

Posted by dutchnomad 15:14 Comments (0)

Pretoria, The Jacaranda city...and the Amazing Race Jo'burg

So i've been in Pretoria, Helpxing outside of the main city and it has been relaxing..life is slow out here but its nice. My job is to fill milk bottles for sale once they come into the field. I strain the milk and fill bottles, then during the day, people come around and buy some milk. It takes about 2 hours in the morning at 9am and 1 hour in theafternoon at 4pm. otherwise i just kind of hang around the fields/outisde with the calves/dog, or read.
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The family is so nice! We have lunch/dinner together and i've taken some more recipes from the grandma (there's a 5.5 month old in the house) so its gezellig..or Lekker as the south africans would say. Life is slow on a smallholding, but there's always talk of how to make things more efficient/easy for everyone, or new plants to grow or veggies or whatnot.
I visited the Voortrekker monument after seeing a Afrikaanse music festival, and went to Liliesleaf in Joburg. Lilies leaf is all about Nelson Mandela and the raid of those leaders who were in hiding, very interesting.
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then off to Joburg! I stayed with a few people I met in the Kruger..everything has just been working out :) I was supposed to stay one night and fly to Madagascar on friday, but they said there is an Amazing Race in Joburg, and that it may be the last one this year..so I delayed my flight until sunday (for free! THANKS SAA) and stayed on..teams dressed up all funky and awesome, I ended up joing a team as their hostage (they were the three bandits) and we got 10 clues to figure out about joburg, then we drove around frantically, fetching an egg, making a bet, obstables in parks and downing beer and shots and whisking eggs. It was great fun! and I got to see alot of joburg in one day :). The costumes were great, and it was all in support against Rhino Poaching, which is a huuge issue here in South Africa, shame.. Then off to a cool christmas party, then to pack for Mada.
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Posted by dutchnomad 08:31 Comments (0)

Food!

Food!!

I've had some interesting foods lately! Banana and bacon pizza is delicious, butternut soup (thick and tasty), bobotie, which is kind of like shepherds pie, and lots of pudding. Here in the Timbavati, I have spent some time learning some new recipes with the family I stayed with in the bush camp. Now i'm on the hunt for a South African cookbook, hopefully I can find it in Pretoria or Joburg!

Malva pudding is quite popular, its a vanilla sponge cake type pudding, then there's milk pudding which is also delicious. You can either make a milktart, or just make the filling and have it by itself.

I am now right outside Pretoria on a farm with an Afrikaans family helping them. When the milk comes in the morning and afternoons from the cows, i pour it into bottles for sale. People come by the farm throughout the day so I sell it to them. In the afternoon, one of the calves walked over to the kitchen, so i hung out with him in the kitchen for a while :) The family has a 51/2 month old son who talks alot, so its nice to have dinner with grandmas and grandpas and all that. I can understand Afrikaans (if its spoken slowly), and they speak english as well anyways. It's nice and relaxed here at the farmhouse. Maybe tomorrow I will learn some more cooking/recipes from one of the women here!

Posted by dutchnomad 12:28 Comments (1)

The Kruger Park

Thanks for the comments! I haven't had good internet access lately (surprise surprise) since i've been in the bush. I'm sitting at a take away breakfast/lunch spot overlooking the Sabie River in a Bush camp. there are some Kudu in the marshes..and probably more we can't see!

We drove around all days yesterday and got pretty lucky! We saw lions mating, a leopard, hippos, elephants, giraffes, kudus, buffalo, rhinos (one with a baby!) monkeys, baboons, impala, bushbuck, waterbuck, redthornbill birds and many many more!! Driving around is very slow, and our eyes are just glued to the window to see if we can spot anything at all. Getting out of the car can pose a huge fine, as well as feeding any monkeys or littering..and especially speeding (up to a few thousand rand each). The bush is so vast it's hard to describe, Kruger is the size of Wales..and its full of nothing! It's a nice feeling to really feel in the middle of nowhere..and of course the humans are the ones in cages!! Check out the photo gallery, we're off for the day!!

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Then off to Pretoria! The drive was just beautiful through the mountains..
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Posted by dutchnomad 00:52 Comments (1)

The kingdom of Swaziland

o i had a list for Swaziland that ive made: Mlilwane Nature Reserve, Matenga cultural village and craft market, mantenga falls, gone rural, house on fire, swazi candles, baobab batik, ngwenpisi gorge/Kopho hut/rock lodge, manzini market wed/thursday, ngwenya glass, Piggs Peak Nsangwini Pass, Big Bend, Swazi Secrets. I've seen all but the gorge and piggs peak, and days have been nice and relaxed, which is nice. Isabel is very sweet, she showed me around Gone Rural. We cook about everynight and maybe watch a movie. I've had some real bad cravings for chips and chocolate! Swazis like to bicycle, love sweets and sugar (~60% of their exports is sugar/sugar cane) in their food, and is not spicy really..KFC is everywhere as well, but the countryside is lush and green and rolling hills and beautiful (I'm here at the right time thought)! they like aerobics too! the breast cancer walk had an outdoor class, which Isabel and i participated in. Swaziland has some really great handcrafts, weaving, candle making, glass blowing, recycled magazine art/jewelry, and much more! I've seen a fashion show, which was fun (I even managed to buy a pair of leggings from the show, they are one of a kind).
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I drove to Big bend, the sugar cane capital of Swaziland and tried so hard to visit the factory! the road down is just lined in sugar cane fields. I got to town and the sugar assocation reception told me to go to the factory across town, then from there I was told to go find the training manger and the training office so i went there. He told me he would need to call the factory and since the lights/electricity was out i would have to wait, so i did. Once that came back, he realised he would be the only one that could give me the tour and that wouldn't work, so he showed me a video instead and explained the process to me. Semi success!

When I walked around Mlilwane Nature reserve, I have to admit I was always ready to run up a tree! I walked the 2 hour trail and saw different antelope, crocs, zebras, warthogs, many birds. It's funny how safe you feel once you are back in the car around these animals..

The Mantenga Cultural village was interesting, I saw some traditional dances, then took a tour of the village with a guide who just loved to emphasize that women are just not as important as men. Ah! The women cook, farm, raise the children, all while the men go off and have wives and many girlfriends. I guess to each their own..

So for my birthday, we started the day off with Yoga followed by coffee/breakfast which was nice. Then we met up with Teagan (another Australian) and heading out to find Ngwempisi gorge and the Rock Lodge. After a nice little hike out, we got in the river for a bit, then as we were heading back up, it started storming. Now Swaziland has the highest lightning strikes per capita in the world, so Swazi's are understandably scared of storms and lightning. We managed to get to the car before it really started coming down, and the sky on the drive back was filled with lightning! Once we got back we cooked up some dinner and got ready to head to a concert (lucky timing!) at this cool eclectic venue called House on Fire where some local artists were performing. It was great fun dancing 'til 3am :) Oh! and Isabel had made this delicious pudding cake with some nice candles for me :D

The following day, Isabel had organised a French Lunch, there were escargots, coq au vin, baguette et tapenade, quiche et salade, and crepes suzettes for desert! The company was nice (french, canadian, australian and me) and food delicious! Now i'm off to The Kruger Park :)

Posted by dutchnomad 10:13 Comments (0)

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