I met my tour guide Ninah Clara the afternoon before our departure ,to discuss our trip down the river. I spent about half an hour at the ATM, as the minimum is 300000 Ariary, about 130 $ Au for this trip.
The deal basically was to Just sit in the pirogue, and go with the flow,of the Tsiribihina river.
I was in for a trip of a lifetime, it will be hard to put in to words, but I try.
Ninah picked me up from the hotel, right in moora moora time, a bus load full of stuff and people,and we drove of the launching area. If the pirogue isn’t your thing, as in bad sense of balance in a wooden kanu, or sensitive skin exposed to the sun, then there is a shorter, more comfy, but hell of a noisy version, on a boat.
I was amazed how much stuff fits in this seemingly small wooden craft…me, plus 4 others. And a coal oven with hot coals in the middle of the boat.?! Right then.
Shortly after take off coffee was served in a porcelain coffee pot, with toasted baguette and jam.
I did not see that coming. And fantastic local coffee too. That followed lunch later, fresh cucumber carrot salad with a spicy sauce. Then followed by zebo steak, marinated in a delish sauce, full of flavour and french fries. All prepared, cooked and served whilst flowing long the river banks.
Sadly, the lack of flora and fauna becomes obvious throughout the whole trip. It was even eerie quiet sometimes, unless Gilet and Dada, our two paddlers, were discussing gossip with paddlers of the other pirogues. Ninah and her assistant Lida filled in the gaps, laughing so much, they almost tipped the boat. A truly happy and relaxed atmosphere…shame I couldn’t understand exactly, but it wasn’t hard to work out. Seems certain topics are favorable, all around the world.
Drifting further down clearly in a moora moora zone, and having afternoon coffee, I saw my first Lemurs jumping up and down the cliffs in the afternoon sun, which reflected in a golden light. It isn’t easy taking shots from a moving pirogue, at quick moving Lemurs.
Shortly after, we arrived at our destination, ‘la cascades’, the waterfall. We were quickly greeted by a pack of lemurs, who obviously knew we had bananas with us. They jumped on to my arms to pick up a piece out of my hands. Very inquisitive and quick.
A small track lead us up to the waterfall which was truly spectacular.
As the light was fading, I took a few quick shots and Ninah said that we will return tomorrow morning.
We jumped back in to our pirogue and headed to the other side of the river, to set up camp on a sandy beach. I was quick to set up my new acquired tent.
A few other pirogue camped a bit further and two of those ‘noisy’ boats too. Dinner was prepared and served on the beach, under the stars. I was hoping they would join me, but it isn’t protocol to eat with the client…?
Gilet and Dada joined me later for a beer and Dada rolled a barrak hateri… malagassy green stuff, don’t think i need to explain further. It was very amusing on how we communicated, add Malagassy to the Frenglish… Ninah and Lida joined later and it was a fantastic night.
From somewhere in the distance, the sound of drums, malagassy guitar and singing, surely joined by dancers. All that under a clear sky.
Could it get any better? I will find out tomorrow. A few night/star shots, before of to my tent.
My ISO mat didn’t absorb much of the hard sand, it was a rather tough night, at least I wasn’t cold.
Ninah and the rest of the crew were busy cooking and organising already.
I took a few early morning shots as the the sun was reflecting in golden colours over the gorge.
The wooden pirogue added spectrum and colour.
For breakfast Ninah prepared Fresh grounded coffee, rice flour pancakes, and toasted baguette. I was impressed.
We set over to the cascades again, where we were joint by fellow floaters. I took a few more photos as the light changed with the upcoming sun.
A shower under the waterfall was a must.
Off we went and lunch was prepared and cooked, coffee served again.
All along the river are little communities, farming rice and tobacco, fishing with tiny nets in the pirogues.
Lunch was served along the way, which was fantastic again…however, the chook went missing..?
We stopped at a larger community with a colourful market and plenty of Chinese imports for sale.
Ninah quickly ran of to gather and haggle on food provision. I walked around with Gilet and Dada, lots of friendly faces.
And I saw my first two Chameleon… how cool are they?
I could have taken a few more photos, but it was time to go. And the Chicken appeared again. Just cruising along, afternoon coffee, watching locals at their daily routine, buying fresh fish and prawns the size of my hand from pirogue fishermen.
We arrrived at our destination and were the last pirogue to arrive, just like yesterday… moora moora.
We quickly unloaded and set up tents, away from others.
Ninah gathered her cooking utensils around the transportable coal oven and started her magic.
We collected some firewood and shortly after, the other piroguists came over for a friendly chat.
After a few rounds of barrak hateri, the guitars and drums were fine tuned and the show began.
A drummer, guitarist and vocals encouraged the young men to dance around the fire, almost in Trance.
This show went on for about half an hour, under African skies. I thought to myself, can this get better?
But that was just the warm up, as they moved on to the larger camp, for the real tourists. Somehow, I am more accepted by the locals, as part of the pack, which is great. I can hear the dancing commotion in the distance, as Ninah served dinner. A fabulous soup with fresh vegetables and a combination of spices. To even top that up, two prawns marinated in a spicy sauce and sauteed slowly in that sauce, served with two heart shaped mashed potato fritters and a cocktail sauce, just incredible.
Any so called chef won’t be able to create that meal, on a sandy beach, with one coal oven. These were the best tasting prawns I have ever eaten. Yes, it did get better.
A few beers and barrak in between the five of us and a whole lot of laughter ended a fantastic day under clear Malagassy skies. This couldn’t get any better for sure.