September 21, 2016
This post is part of a 10 day trip with Remote River Expeditions.
From Ampefy it will take us 2 days by car to get to the Manambolo River at Akavandra where we start the canoe part of the trip.
This first day we do a bit of sight-seeing on our way to Belobaka where we will spend the night.
Breakfast at the hotel (7:30AM) was a choice of continental, Malagasy or eggs.
Nothing special but served on the terrace overlooking the Lake Itasy which made for a pleasant setting as we watched the locals net fishing on the water and doing laundry on the banks.
We left just past 8AM. The first stop was at the Lily waterfall down a rough 5K track. It was an interesting walk through the village to get to the falls.
One of the poorest regions I’ve ever visited but friendly happy faces. Everyone looks young, lots and lots of children, but very few old people.
The falls, however, were really a non-event. With the sun at the wrong angle for good photos, it would be much better in the late afternoon.
On the way back to the main road we stopped at a cassava field. Workers proudly pose for us as Alex buys cassava (a type of root vegetable) for us to try.
The next stop is the geysers along another rough track through an interesting village – quaint mud brick huts with thatched roofs under papaya trees.
The “geysers” are really a sort of sulfur hot spring except they are not hot. They resemble the thermal springs at Yellowstone but on a smaller scale with cold water gushing out of them. According to Mada Magazine it is a man-made attraction.
Some people swim in the pools or have themselves coated with the “therapeutic” mud. For my tastes there were way too many friendly locals trying to show you the best photo point or get you to buy trinkets.
Back on the main road we stop for a picnic lunch at a quiet shady spot. Tuna, egg and tomato sandwiches and apples for dessert.
This first part of the drive to Tsiroanomandidy is on good track through golden hills laced with cultivated green river valleys.
Tsiroanomandidy, a bustling town where rickshaws and bicycles rule the road, is the last place with electricity and good roads.
We pick up the last of our supplies and an assistant for Alex.
Past here it’s a rough track into the hinterland. We pass fewer villages and fewer cultivated field, more people walking by the side of the road.
It’s one of the roughest tracks we have ever been on. (I don’t know yet that it will be much worse the next day.) The driver and assistant are a bit worried about a sound they hear the vehicle making. They stop a couple of time to investigate. Alex assures us, “no problem, they are just checking.”
From Tsiroanomandidy it takes us close to 4 hours on this road to reach our destination for the night. Around 5:30 we finally reached Belobaka and the most people we’ve seen since Tsiroanomandidy. At this hour the streets are full. Curious faces hide behind the bushes peeking out to get a glimpse of us. Locals wear mis-matched clothing, the worst hand-me-downs, some filthy, some worn with pride.
Past a local market we drive to the edge of town to a gated complex.
Most likely this is the nicest place in town, but still shabby with no electricity, outdoor squat toilets, and a concrete shower block. Dogs play in the street.
A small heard of zebu is taken in for the night. They will be taken out again at first light.
Our simple block room is candlelit with mosquito netting over the bed.
Dinner – zebu with vegies and rice – is cooked by Alex and eaten in an open-air make-shift kitchen off the parking area. Alex offers us sweet aperitif wine to accompany our meal.