Thumper…

January 3, 2015

Pollen’s Vanga, Pizza and Shops

A bit of a mixed day today, up early again, making sure that we’d be early enough to catch the birds in the Ranomafana National Park. The hotel kindly put breakfast on for us early, but it didn’t change the way it tasted… Dry bread and jam, was the Madagasy breakfast way. The breakfast at least came with a hot drink, so by then we’d figured it out – Ev would order coffee, I would order hot water and putting that together we’d get something you could nearly drink! (My only tip is order breakfast from the menu, or take your own, our breakfast was included everywhere as part of our tour and we kept hoping it would improve. It didn’t!)

Sunrise, Ihary Hotel

Sunrise, Ihary Hotel

So, off to the bird watching part of the National Park. Our guide spoke English (just), but was very good at spotting birds. There weren’t too many to spot at all though, again, wrong time of the year as we kept getting told, but we did manage to see the very very rare pollen’s vanga, a bird that we’d never heard of, but was apparently, every bird watchers dream. After that our guide kind of lost interest in showing us many more birds (his mission was accomplished), so never mind, we enjoyed our walk through the national park, and tried to spot some more of our own. Needless to say, this tour also finished well before the scheduled time… no point he says staying any longer. Ok, so why charge us for x hours if you’re only going to do half that. On cue, those English skills disappeared…

The Pollen's Vanga, very rare, a bird watchers dream! Ranomafana NP

The Pollen’s Vanga, very rare, a bird watchers dream! Ranomafana NP

Despite that, at least we got to see the very very rare pollen’s vanga!

After that our driver took us toward Ambositra, taking the back road. It was 90% dirt road, but in good enough condition for our van. It was a great detour though, past rivers, rice paddies and open land and through tiny villages full of smiling kids happy to see us and people congregating on the side of the road filling in time.

Walking to town

Walking to town

Back on the main road, our driver stopped at a small creek not far from Ambositra, where some of the young men were gold panning. I’m sure he thought we’d never seen it before, but our home town was built on gold, so we had a good understanding (good thing, coz like most things, the explanation was lost in translation). The water wasn’t that deep and I’m not sure they were that successful, but they had some logs set up underneath the water that they stood on. They looked pretty flimsy, but somehow they managed to maintain their balance on there without taking a tumble into the water.

Gold panning near Ambositra

Gold panning near Ambositra

While we were here, we also took the chance to get rid of our spare water bottles. We often bought big ones, then decantered that into our smaller bottles. By this time we’d figured out that while the bigger bottles were of no value to us, the kids loved them – they would fight over them and the victor would walk away triumphant, gloating about their win. Another tip: If you want to draw piles of kids to you in Madagascar – give away a few water bottles!

Kids with their bottles

Kids with their bottles

We stopped at Ambositra for lunch, at the restaurant of the place we’d stayed at the first night (Violette). That night we’d chosen to eat street food, and as we munched on our pizza today, we wondered aloud whether we’d chosen the wrong night to skip the restaurant attached to the hotel. The pizza was great, the view from the balcony over the rice paddies was great and while we didn’t have much idea of the French menus, I had at least figured out pizza and spaghetti bolognaise.

Lunch! Hotel Violetta make great pizzas.

Lunch! Hotel Violetta make great pizzas.

After our lunch break, we continued north toward Antsirabe, our destination for that night. When we arrived there, we got taken to a few shops. The first was a cow horn place, where they made different things out of cow horn. Of course we were expected to buy something, so I bought a guitar pick. Not sure whether I ended up with it or Mike, but I never found another place that sold them! The next place was an embroidery and bike/pousse pousse making place. We were expecting to see them making real bikes and pousse pousses, but it was miniature ones. They made them out of tin cans, very ingenious and the embroidery was all done by hand. Ev nearly cleaned them out of bikes while I grabbed an embroidered cushion cover for myself.

Hand made bikes, Antsirabe

Hand made bikes, Antsirabe

When we arrived at our hotel that night, we were pleasantly surprised. It was like we’d stepped up a few stars! Our room was huge, there were at least two floors, a couple of pcs that had internet access and the restaurant attached to the hotel looked excellent. I think it was the hotel Vahiny we stayed at. A very different tuna lasagne for tea and some lovely, but expensive coconut ice cream rounded out a nice meal.

Tuna Lasagne

Tuna Lasagne

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