Day 10: Belo Sur Mer - Manja
We had to tear ourselves away from the coastal paradise of Belo Sur Mer to venture into the remote inland town of Manja that was once that capital of the Sakalava kingdom.
The timing of our departure from Belo Sur Mer had to be carefully planned, to coincide with low tide to make sure the track was dry enough for us to pass. Despite our best efforts, the drive was still an adventure through some though mud.
Our support car leading the way had a few local villagers on the back holding with white knuckles as they bumped and slid in the mud much to the amusement of the surrounding villages.
Despite loads of roadside advice and assistance, our lead car got stuck on a few occasions with villages eager to help dig us out for a small fee. After a bit more reconnaissance we found another drier track about 20 meters from the one we were using which left us wondering if the earlier ‘’le Conseil’’ could have been for local amusement and the opportunity to gain a few well-earned tips from digging us out.
Once out of the mud we continued through narrow winding tracks passing many salt fields and small villages. The further we traveled the harsher the conditions became with very little water, and mazes of hand dug irrigation channels to vast rice paddies.
Local villagers holding on while navigating bumpy roads
Our local guides advised that our used water bottles would be much prized in the villages. It was difficult to see children fighting over a used plastic bottle. Once word got out that we were handing empty bottles out children came rushing out to try and get one, climbing onto cars and even running behind us as we left with the yells of ‘’ Bon Bon’’ in search of anything we could give them.
Finally, after a slow, challenging drive we arrived in Manja at the Kanto hotel which appears to be the only hotel, while basic was well stocked with a cold beer!!
Well Earned Cold Beer after a slow challenging drive
Day 11: Manja - Marombe
After bouncing through yesterday’s mud, our support vehicle suffered the first casualty of the adventure with a broken leaf spring. Finding a welder in Manja is no small task! The good news was that we found a welder, the bad news was that it was going to take some time to repair so Minah our local guide joined our vehicle to show us the way on the rocky road back to the coast and Marombe.
Youngster counting all our cars Ferry Crossing at Mangoky Malagasy Children at Mangoky
Another Madagascan ferry awaited us to cross the Mangoky River. We were thankful that the road to the ferry had recently been graded which made the journey much more accessible than expected. We came across two roadblocks, but the people seem friendlier and our negotiations much more relaxed than our earlier encounters.
Remnants of the tarred road
On the other side of the ferry crossing the road to Marombe was once tarred but now is a mixture of dirt track and large chunks of leftover tar. Was passed another Boabab Forest filled with the Reniala Baobab species, Reniala means mother of the forest in Malagasy.
La Boabab at Morombe - A Flashback to the 1950's
We arrived at the seaside town of Marombe and accommodation La Boabab which was like taking a time warp back to the 1950’s with it's ''groovy'' design and décor.
Day 12: Morombe - Andavadoka
After two rough days on the road, it was great to start the day with a morning jog watching the colorful Dohws heading out into the calm morning sea.
Today's adventure was a relatively short journey along the coast to Andavaodako. Morombe has many old French colonial buildings rich in culture but struggling to be maintained. As we leave Morombe, we drive through many spiny trees (Alluaudia procera), and are also called the ‘south bending tree’.
Madagascan Spiny Thickets in Flower
Along the road, we are stopped by men with a Madagascan Flag and another flag with the word ‘Dinabe’ which means ‘’Big service’;. These men are part of a volunteer service who patrol the area for Zebu rustlers that are a big problem in the south of Madagascar.
The Dinabe or ''Big Service'' on the look out for cattle rustlers
We also came across a broken down truck driver who was waiting for a part from Andavadoka, so we gave him a lift - as one does in the middle of nowhere!
Our route took us past the Widest Boabab in Madagascar of the Za Species; Za is offered referred to as the bottle baobab due to its distinct shape. It is estimated that this baobab is over 800 years old. The area is filled with vibrant bird life with us spotting a lovely Harrier Hawk, Lesser Vaasa Parrots, and Namaqua Doves.
Widest Bottle Baobab in Madagascar estimated to be over 800 years old
Our accommodation at Andavadoka was another paradise ‘’Laguna Blue’’ with a very fitting name for the colour the water is turquoise right in front of the hotel.