I have been to Madagascar twice for caving expeditions, and it remains one of my favourite places. Madagascar lies off the southeast coast of Africa and is the 5th largest island in the world. It is one of the world's poorest countries. It has been called the "Red Island" due to the red laterite soil which is clearly visible as much of the country has been denuded by logging and land clearing.
My first trip was in 1998, and with 2 cavers from England, we did a recce to the Kelifely area. "Luckily" this was in the days before digital cameras, or else I would have taken hundreds more photos! We flew to the capital, Antananarivo (try saying that when drunk), shortened to Tana, and then used a 4WD with driver to get to Kelifely.
It was quite an interesting drive. We had to cross rivers, which were both wet and dry, as well as some small canyons and bush country, and some really rough terrain. Some tracks were so rough and narrow that I wondered how the supply vehicles get through. Our driver took it all in his stride even though he'd never been to this part of Madagascar before.
Lunch stop at Ankazobe -
ferry at Ikopa river -
We spent the first night at Maevatanana, which is still on the tourist trail. Our second night was at Kandreho. It took us 6.5 hours to do the 140 km from Maevatanana to Kandreho, which averages 21 kph.
Kandreho is definitely not visited by tourists and there is no accommodation available. We were taken to the headman's house and he agreed to put us up, and to our surprise could speak some English. The 2 guys got the spare room, whilst I was given the sitting room, There was a lot of hammering and banging and it turned out they were putting a bed together for me. At 1am it collapsed with an awful bang. All the village dogs started barking but no one came to investigate my dilemma. The room was pitch black and my torch had rolled away and I got entangled in the mosquito net. I spent the rest of the night on the floor. In the morning the headman saw the bed and said "your bed, it has gone bad". Yes, very bad.
The headman is Muslim, but keeps pigs and dogs and even feeds them himself. There is no water in the village, no toilets and no washing places. We didn't find out what the locals use. However the headman was privileged and did have an outside toilet comprising of a hole in the ground. We asked if we could wash, and he looked surprised. His water comes from a well and he gave us half a bucket of water for the 3 of us to share.
Next day we tried to cross the big river, but it was too deep. We were told it was only 4km to the next village, so we decided to walk. This was actually the start of an absolute nightmare 24 hours.
See next album, Kelifely and also album on Tsiribihina gorge.
© Liz Price
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