Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Diego Suarez, Madagascar (again)

During our last stay in Diego Suarez at the La Rosticerria hotel we had both awoken each morning with a mysterious collection of new bug bites that we attributed to bed bugs, so we decided to look for alternate accommodations for our final night in Diego. Constantino and Sylvia had highly recommended their hotel, Le Petit Paradis which was a little further from the city center (coincidentally, right across from the city jail). We decided to give it a shot, and found that in sharp contrast to its surroundings it was really nice, just as they had said.

We had intially thought we might make a foray out that afternoon to see some sights in the countryside surrounding Diego Suarez, but the last few days had left us feeling a bit tired so we were content to take long showers and lounge around the hotel for a couple of hours before heading out for a tour of the city markets.

Our tour took us through some pretty run down areas of town, but the markets themselves were pretty interesting to see with hundreds of vendors selling everything from zebu steaks to mangos to stereos. It was interesting to see that everything is obtained by going to the market on a daily basis, we had been in a "grocery store" in Diego during our last stay, but it was really small and it's wares paled in comparison to what was available in the open air market. Here is Roanne as we make our way through the meelee:

After checking out the market we did a tour of the local craft vendors and checked out some of the local art, procuring a hammock to bring back to Seattle so that Roanne can replicate her Nosy Hara lounging activities in our backyard. We had dinner at a restuarant called the "Balamanga" which we would most definitely not recommend to anyone else, as it served up the least desirable food we had consumed on our trip so far. It was unfortunate that we had picked this night to sample the Malagasy "national dish" of Romazanga; it wasn't very good but that was more likely a reflection on the restaurant we were in than on the dish itself.

We then made our way back to our hotel and arranged for our previous Diego Suarez taxi driver Livy to meet us the next morning for a trip out to see the Baie des Sakalava before our afternoon flight to Antananarivo. Livy showed up on schedule and we headed out, along the way taking some sights such as some nice Baobob trees on the hillside of the Montagne des Francais:

We soon left the main paved road and finished the 35 minute trip by bouncing over a dirt road that would be better suited to a qat-qat but Livy seemed to have no problem negotiating in his vintage 2WD miniature taxi.

The skies were slightly overcast when we reached the Baie des Sakalava and there was a bit of rain, but we headed out to fill the few hours that we had there with a walk along the beach. Here is Roanne setting off:

It was quite a nice looking area, with a bay that is sheltered from the waves but still sees a lot of wind (it is supposed to be really good for planche a voile - windsurfing). The shelter for the bay was provided by a series of sandbars and low islands, beyond which the seas looked pretty rough. We decided that the best use of our time would be to wade out and explore these islands, so off we went, wading through water that was waist deep at times but eventually reaching the outermost island that we could access:

Things got interesting as we traversed around to the ocean side of the island, where there was a platform of tidal pools that was periodically swept by the larger waves that came rolling in. Additionally, the conditions were such that the waves were coming from two directions, so periodically there would be a really big wave formed by the superposition of waves from the two directions (physics in action!) that would make things really exciting. Here is a view looking out from our island to a smaller one:

There were lots of little critters running around the tidal pools, here is one of the crabs that would scurry away as we approached:

We continued our traverse, but at one point a really big wave came pounding in where we were prompted to hold onto the rocky outcroppings as we were pounded by water, at this point we sensibly elected to continue our traverse on the upper part of the island. Here I am beating a hasty retreat onto the pointy limestone spines that formed the surface on the upper part:

And here is a shot looking back down onto the flatter table from which we had retreated:

As we made our way back along the top of the island the sharp limestone gave way to soft grass, and we elected to stop for a group photo:

After making our way back to the beach we found Livy chatting with some of the locals, and we retraced our route along the dirt road and back to our hotel, where we picked up our luggage and checked out. We then continued on to the airport where we bid Livy adieu and checked into our flight. Not much confusion was possible during check-in as there were only two flights departing the airport that day, as shown on the departures board (yes, that is a chalk board):

We also noticed that security at this airport was even more lax than it had been at the Nosy Be airport, with the metal detector not just optional but installed against a wall, making it very difficult for a travellor to screen oneself, should he/her voluntarily choose to do so:

Our flight unfortunately ended up being about 1.5 hours late for unknown reasons, but eventually we boarded the plane and were whisked off to the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo.

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