December 30, 2014

Isalo National Park

I was off to a good start today – ready early, then somehow managed to leave my camera behind. Going on a six hour hike through Isalo National Park is NOT the day you want to go without your camera. Problem was, I didn’t realise I’d left it behind until after we’d gone to the national park office, paid our money, collected our guide and were just about at the park. Oops! Anyway, our driver obliged and we drove all the way back to our accommodation (probably a good 20 minute return trip).

It seems I was there...

It seems I was there…

So that got us off to a bad start with our guide who was less than impressed at any delay, which we found out as we went along. We started off at a reasonable walking pace, from the car park near the Piscine Naturelle, stopping a couple of times for some fairly quick photo stops. It helped that there were other groups around who were also stopping and having things pointed out and explained to them. The scenery in many ways was unlike anything I’d seen – great rock hills and canyons, but yet sparse trees around the hills and almost desert like ground cover around the hills.

Looking South, Isalo National Park

Looking South, Isalo National Park

In the side of the canyon walls you will often see small tombs with coffins where people (maybe kings?) have often been buried. I’m not sure that they still do this and I think the coffins you can see from the track seem to have been placed there to illustrate the culture of the area. A small clump of trees in the distance marked our destination, which was the Piscine naturelle, a stunning pool in the middle of the canyon, an oasis in the desert.

Piscine Naturelle, Oasis in the Desert

Piscine Naturelle, Oasis in the Desert

It was good to have a rest at the pool, and while there were a few others there, it wasn’t too bad. It was really amazing though that out of the middle of nowhere an oasis could appear, lush plants, a water pool formed from the running stream, again which seemed to appear from nowhere.

Soon though, we had to move and our guide had us moving at a frightening pace. This is where I disclose that I wasn’t really that well (thanks to the malaria medication I think) but even still, we were overtaking over groups and we’d started much later than them – no need for that.

Our walk (march) across the Namaza Canyon toward the Canyon of Monkeys (Canyons des Makis) was quick and occasionally I stopped to take a drink and some photos, but overall it was really disappointing (not the scenery, although we didn’t get time to really look at that). Nothing was pointed out to us, the pace was fast and if we stopped to enjoy it, we found that we were even further behind our guide who barely took a backward glance to see if we were still following.

Scenery on way from Piscine Naturelle to Canyon of Monkeys

Scenery on way from Piscine Naturelle to Canyon of Monkeys

The descent to the canyon of monkeys was steep, but that was about the most challenging part – the rest was fairly flat I think! The canyon had a stream running alongside of it, some picnic tables and some toilets to compliment the camping area. No monkeys were spotted but there were plenty of friendly lemurs around ready to steal your food if you left it for a moment.

Ring Tailed Lemur, Canyon of Monkeys picnic area

Ring Tailed Lemur, Canyon of Monkeys picnic area

We had a really short lunch break – 15mins at most because we were still in a hurry. As we set off for the waterfall, the other groups we’d passed since the pool began to arrive. It was at that point that I abandoned the walk to the waterfall – there was no way I was going to keep up that pace, so instead I spent time by the stream, enjoying the noise of the bubbling stream, the scenery, the birds, and the lemurs.

Stream alongside camping area, Canyon of Monkeys

Stream alongside camping area, Canyon of Monkeys

It was about a 15 min hike out to the carpark (at our frightening pace), but it was another fairly flat walk – which was what I needed.

We headed back to Ranohira on the rather rough road, much more suited to a 4WD than our car. Our national park guide, Marmy (not our driver who shared the same name) then informed us that he was glad we’d finished early because he had to go out later on and he had more time than he thought he would. So that explained the poor service we’d received, the fast pace, the shortened tour and lack of commentary and information on the park. He was most disappointed when he got no tip, he looked a little bewildered (and tried again for a tip). So here’s a tip: avoid the guide we had if you can!

Glow of the rocks, Sunset near Isalo Rock

Glow of the rocks, Sunset near Isalo Rock

We went to Isalo Rock later that night and watched the sunset through the hole, before eating in town, at a fairly nice hotel, whose name has escaped me. But, you can find the hotel set back from the road, basically on the main road as it takes a sweeping right angle bend, with a carpark in the front, two storeys and a grand staircase coming down into the restaurant.

Not sure if it was safe or not, but we walked back to our motel in the dark, no street lights, so it was quite dark!

Isalo Rock

Isalo Rock

Overall, great scenery, but events conspired to make it a day that I won’t forget for the wrong reasons.


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