Port Louis city center reminds me of Waikiki, Hawaii
The bus system in Mauritius is pretty amazing and going from the South to the North I only had to change bus once in the Port Louis. The capital city was almost like Waikiki in Hawaii, being well developed with lots of brand clothing shops and American fast food restaurants. I had a walk up to the city fortress for a view and visited the free UNESCO protected museum called the Aapravasi Ghat, which explains the history of the Indentured labourers (halfway slaves) of the sugar plantations.
Grand Bay city, the church and beach
Once in the North I visited the Mont Choisy Beach known as the most beautiful white sandy beach in Mauritius. The beach by sunset boulevard was also surprisingly clean with turquoise water and was a great place to sit and watch the sun set in the ocean.
Charmel waterfall, the seven colored earth and the giant tortoises was other must visits that made my Mauritius visit complete. As a bonus, when my couchsurfing host was driving me to the airport we randomly saw some pyramids on the middle of some sugar cane fields. Reading up on it, these pyramids have no name or no known history. Some were claiming that they were connected to the pyramids of the Pharaohs or to the ones in the Azores, others just claim that they are just a pile of rocks. Anyway it was cool to see something that is not mentioned in guidebooks that still remains a mystery to scientists.
For those who have been following me through the last 170 countries on this blog, you probably have heard me go on at those people who just go somewhere to stay in a luxury resort and are screened from the food, culture and people of the places they visit. This time it was my turn, as my couchsurfing host was living in Paradis resort on the south side of Madagascar where he let me stay and use the facilities. And I have to admit, it was pretty nice too!
We did not just stay inside the resort though. My host had a car and took me to the famous flic en flac beach, rose hill city center and the viewpoint known as Baie du Cap. The roads were amazingly good driving through kilometers on kilometers of sugar cane fields.
Having spent the last months roughing it in East Africa, it was really good to come to Mauritius where everything is comfortable and available. It for sure is the most developed country in Africa and deserves its nickname “the Singapore of Africa”.
Baie du Cap viewpoint
Morondava is a small city on the beach, but it is not the place you would go if you want a typical beach holiday in Madagascar. The beaches there are quite empty, but once in a while you will see some locals going there to poop. The water was also the same color as the poop so I decided to not go for a swim while being there.
Like most of the coastal cities in Madagascar it is mostly Muslim, but this place had a very laid back, almost Caribbean feel to it. The main gathering place for the evenings football match and later for live music was a bar called “Oasis- Chez Jean le Rasta” where I spend the last night and got to say goodbye to the French group I had been taveling with the last days.
The beaches in Morondava were completely empty. Even when the sun was setting!
When our three day canoe trip was coming to an end, we were drifting through a forest of beobabs-a type of tree which looks as if it was upside down with its roots in the air.
We got out of the canoes in a village called Antsiraraka where we had to walk and ride ox carriages for more than an hour to get through the muddy paths leading to the road where a 4*4 was waiting to take us to Tsimafana where I was able to catch a taxi brousse going south to Morondava together with one of the guides who were going the same way.
The whole three hours of driving down was full of baobab trees along the road. Especially beautiful was it to see them as the sun was setting, leaving just a silhouette of the beautiful trees with a burning red background.
We reached the Baobab Avenue after dark where the only light you could see around was from the bright stars in the sky. We camped next to the visitors center, paying a guy 2$ to stay awake by our tents all night.
Waking up in the dark and watching the sun rise behind the baobab trees was just as nice as seeing the sun set behind them. I got to spend a good hour alone at the site before tourists were driving in. That was also the time when I got in a pus pus (cycle taxi) and taxi brousse to Morondava.
I must say that my three days spent camping and canoeing on the Tsiribihina River has been one of my favorite travel experiences. The landscape and program was similar to when I was paddling on Orange River in Namibia and the Zambezi River in Zambia, but here we were traveling in comfortable “mokoros”(dugout canoes) where a crew was doing all the work of paddling, cooking and making camps at the nights.
On the way we stopped at villages, camped at sand banks and ate in the canoes, but my favorite stop was the Anosinampela waterfall, where we could have a swim after roasting the whole day in the boats.
I was hoping to see more wildlife, like lemurs and maybe some idris while we were on the river, but all we saw was a freshwater crocodile. The experience was more about finding inner peace while drifting down the river and enjoying the landscape. It’s something I would happily do again, once my sunburn has disappeared of course.
While waiting for my taxi brousse to fill up in Tanna there was a lovely French couple who sat down next to me and gave me a good introduction to life in Madagascar. They introduced me to their friends at a bar, who were going on a three day canoeing trip the day after. When I asked if I could join they simply made a call to their guide an it was arranged! I even got to sleep in their friends garden, and then we met again, ready for the trip the next afternoon.
The morning was spent exploring Antsirabe which has the reputation for being a smaller version of the Malagasy capital Antananarivo, or “Tanna” as everyone call it.
There were lots of old, colonial style buildings like the old train station which was now only operating with cargo transport to the capital. I also got to see a cock fight which apparently is a big thing here. People bet millions of Ariarys and even their houses, hoping that their cock will be the last one standing.
The group of Frenchies who I would spend the next week with
It was not before midnight that my new French travel group would arrive Mindrivazo, where our three day canoe trip to Belo-Tsiribihina would start.
Although Andasibe is only 140kilometers from Antananarivo, it took me a full day to get there. First off it was hard to find a local company going there and when I finally found a taxi brousse (local bus) it took six (yes SIX!) hours for it to get full so that we could leave. I have never waited as long for a bus to fill up, but once we were on our way it went super fast and did not take long before they dropped me off at the junction of Andasibe, because that is really what Andasibe is, a junction.
I checkes in at the cheapest guesthouse called “Marie’s” where I met a local guide who said he could take me on a night safari the same night. After some negotiation we agreed on a price of 3 dollars for two hours and we’re on our way walking in the forest nearby. It amazed me to see how many animals that could be seen just a short walk from my guesthouse! In the two hours we managed to see mouse lemurs, dwarf lemurs, boa constrictors, chameleons, praying mantises and stick animals. I couldn’t wait to see what was possible to see in the daytime and agreed to come with him the next day as well into a private park called V.O.I M.M.A costing 12 dollars including his salary as my guide for three hours. The guide assured me that the rest of the money would go to the community and maintenance of the park which I was also very happy to hear.
An idri watching us from the treetop. Their shoutings were super loud!
On our day safari we watched families of Idris shouting loudly at each other marking their territories, we saw chameleons, birds, brown lemurs and lots of interesting bugs. The guide was really the best spotter I have come across on my safaris and I’ll never forget the smile he gave me after receiving a five dollar tip at the end of the day. It might sound little, but apparently that was a quarter of a monthly wage here in Madagascar.