Day 22 Antsirbe - Andasibe
Antsirbe has some fantastic shopping opportunities that took advantage of before starting our 300 km trek for the day onto Andasibe. We visited shops selling a variety of items from raffia products, Zebu horn crafts, semi-precious stones and small car and bike models made from recycled cans.
Local crafts for sale in Antsirbe
The town has many colonial buildings which are lovely to explore and make for great photo opportunities.
Don Reynolds striking a pose outside one of the many colonial buildings Madagascar has in its towns and cities - this town was Ambatolampy
Before passing Antananarivo we stopped at the small town of Ambatolampy for a roadside picnic lunch and a visit to an see how aluminium pots are made in the area.
One would expect sophisticated machines handled by workers in safety gear, but instead, we were transported back in time to a much simpler process where the aluminium is heated on hot coals and then poured into a mould made of sand and volcanic ash. Minutes later as soon as the aluminium cools you have your pot – this is all done by a group of artisans in their everyday civvies with no safety gear… not even tongs!
Story line of a aluminium pot being made
West of Tana the road is very busy with many potholes as it links up to the main port of Tamatave/Toamasina. On the adventure, we have passed many train lines but most are out of order or no longer work but this line between Tamatave and Antananarivo is still active, and we pass a few trains snaking along towards Tamatave.
We finally arrive at Andasibe the last national park of the trip, our accommodation is right next to the rainforest, and the air rings with the croaking of frogs in the evening rain, a welcome sound after the traffic and bustle of the city on today's drive.
Day 23 Andisibe National Park
Andisibe National Park is home to Madagascar’s largest Lemur, the Indri Indri. Before breakfast we could already hear their distinctive loud call from our accommodation on the edge of the rainforest.
A pair of Indri Indri Lemurs the largest Lemur breed in Madagascar
We explored the Andisibe National park and were fortunate enough to see the Indri Indri Lemurs, that weigh just over 15 kg, in their natural environment. We were also lucky enough to see the Woolley Lemu and Diadema Sifaka Lemur on our guided walk of the forest.
After lunch, we went to Lemur Island which is a private reserve in the area where the Lemurs roam freely but have been tamed. These Lemurs were very different to the ones we experienced in the wild and they would jump from person to person in search of fruit as a reward. Due to their tame nature, it made for some great photo opportunities.
The tame Lemurs of Lemur Island made for great photo opportunities
That evening we enjoyed a guided evening walk to see the forests nocturnal life and were treated to sightings of a Tree Frog, Greater Dwarf Lemur, Parsons Chameleon, and an adorable little Goodman's Mouse Lemur.
Parsons Chameleon Tree Frog
Day 24 Andasibe - Mahambo- Bush House
It was time to hand back our beloved Ford Territories today as the 4x4 part of the adventure came to an end.
We always like to return the vehicles in clean condition and outsourced the washing of the cars at 5,000 Ariary ($2.5 talk about a bargain) to some willing helpers at our accommodation. This act must have invited the weather gods, and the rainforest showed us just how much it can rain and how lucky we were the day before to have a bright day to explore Andisibe National Park.
Andasibe Rainforest living up to its name
Our 130 km drive took us to Eastern coastline of Madagascar which was tropical with palms, bamboo, jackfruit and other tropical fruit. It could not be more different than the barren, dry and hot west coast.
Drivers from the rental car company met up with us to take the cars back to Tana. After signing the over the keys, the drivers took over for the last 7 km of the rough track before we reach the beach at Manambato.
2018 Madagascar group photo!
At Manambato there was time for a quick group photo (which looks quite large because the drivers that were taking the cars back to Tana all wanted to be part of the action). Then we departed on a boat through the Canal des Pangalanes which were set up between 1896 to 1904 to protect a series of waterways along the coats from the Indian Ocean. The Pangalnes span over 645 km and after WWII were expanded to handle 30-tonne barges so they could bypass the rough waves of the Indian ocean 800 meters away. The canal hasn’t been maintained so today it can only be used by smaller boats like the long thin power boat we used to get to The Bush House our next stop where we were greeted with a fabulous fruit drink and optional Madagascan white rum.