October 1, 2016
I had arranged with Paradis du Nord for a pickup at the Antsiranana (Diego Suarez) airport and a tour of the Red Tsingy (Tsingy Rouge) before dropping us at the Litchi Tree Guest House in Joffreville.
Raissa our guide and Patrice our driver for the day were waiting for as we exited the airport. Raissa, a pint-sized person dressed in white with pink tennis shoes, charming and funny, spoke excellent English, answered the questions asked and was the best guide we had in Madagascar.
On the way to the Red Tsingy we pass the turnoff for Joffreville where a lively, colorful Saturday market is taking place.
Although the road is paved it’s rough and badly in need of repair. Raissa asks us not to tell people that the roads are in bad condition as people won’t want to come here.
We pass bright green rice fields in an otherwise dry landscape of rolling hills.
We stop for a few chameleons.
They sell lemon-mango “salad” preserved in lemon juice and salt. It’s eaten over rice and can be kept for years. The red one includes hot pepper.
It akes about 3 hours to reach the tsingy. The last hour, 16K, is on a rough dirt track inside the park.
This tsingy is very different from the sharp edged pinnacles of the limestone ones in Bemaraha that we saw in the West. These sandstone formations are much smaller in stature than they appear in photos, reaching maybe 12-15 feet high.
According to Raissa this is a new discovery that wasn’t visible much before 2000 when the soft red dirt washed away to reveal the harder sand formations. The white outside covering is salt. Although the formations are very fragile and will erode away in time, at the moment new formations are still being uncovered as the rainy seasons washes away more of the loose dirt.
The tour stops at the edge of two picturesque canyons
before descending about 10 to 15 minutes on foot to a third view point to get an up close view.
The red is more in the surrounding soil that the formations. The colors are intense, red soil, pinkish formations, blue looking grass against a blue, blue sky.
Before heading back we have a picnic lunch at the picnic area above the canyon walk. Arranged by Paradis du Nord we had a choice of a shrimp dumpling or stuffed crab for a starter followed by a choice of roasted chicken or zebu steak for a main, both accompanied by Chinese style vegetables and rice. The food was quite good. Finally an edible chicken.
From the tsingy it took us 2.5 to 3 hours to Joffreville.