Andasibe

With a long weekend ahead of me and an urge to finally leave Tana for the first time, my neighbor and I decided to go to Andasibe for a quick trip. Andasibe is a small town approximately 3 hours east of Antananarivo located in Moramanga and primarily visited by Vazahas (foreigners) for the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. The rainforest is known for its biodiversity and being home to 11 species of lemurs ( however I believe I only saw two species).

So Saturday morning, with my bags packed, inspect repellent and a couple bottles of water ( including wine) in tow, we set out for my first trip outside Tana. Although excited by the trip, I was a bit nervous as I was traveling with someone I didn’t know very well and her driver. No, I wasn’t worried about being kidnapped or being used for human sacrifice in the Malagasy jungle, more about whether we would get along and if the trip would be fun. Lucky it wasn’t awkward and we bonded over my time in Senegal as she is Senegalese but hadn’t been back for years.

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Off to a great start with smiles all around.

Saturday afternoon, we arrived at Vakona Lodge (which is not in exactly town) but definitely the best hotel in the area and with a car, accessible. After sipping on our welcome cocktails we check into our rooms, grabbed a quick bite and planned our itinerary.

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Welcome cocktail¬† which was just orange juice and grenadine ūüė¶

 

Sunday morning and we opt for¬† the 3 – 4 hour hike option rather than the 6 hour option in the Mantadia National Park to see “animals”. So, for some reason, when they say animals in Madagascar, I expect¬†animals but the reality is that animals usually means lemurs and lizards. They are “animals” but I need more variety.

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The famous black and white ruffed lemur
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A chameleon attempting to play hide and seek by pretending to be a leaf.
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Dancing in the rain forest because I can
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A quick selfie with our second guide because the first one was drunk ( don’t ask)

So after our 3 plus hour hike, we saw two species of lemurs ( not the 11 advertised) as apparently, as the day progresses, the lemurs go somewhere else but come back late in the night. Our lovely guide, suggested that we come back at night to see more species of lemurs but given that we both preferred to be sipping on wine or sleeping, rather than roaming through the rain forest chasing “animals” we politely declined.

With our tour over, we decide to embark on the 10km walk back to our hotel ( just for fun and exercise).

We ended the day by splitting a bottle of wine, grabbing dinner and calling it a night.

Monday arrived and prior to buying fruits and veggies en route to Tana, we decide to be tourists for one last time and we went off to see the crocodiles.

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Crocodiles sunbathing 
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Spot the orange frog!
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A fossa in captivity. According to the Malagasy people, a fossa is animal that is a cross between a dog and a cat that hunts lemurs.

With this final visit, we said Veloma to Andasibe and hit the road. All in all, a great weekend trip with just enough activities to keep us occupied. Never exhausted or bored.

 

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Another New Beginning

So exactly 6 months ago, on March 26, 2017 I got on a plane and moved to Madagascar. Yep, I probably moved as far away as possible. Moving here was definitely not an easy decision. It was a decision that was full of emotions, doubts, fears, and just a little bit of hope. And to be honest, as I was making this decision and up until I submitted my resignation letter, I kept hoping that someone ( and I mean anyone) would ask me to stay. I needed a reason to stay but no one gave me that reason. Everyone told me ( with the exception of my Dad as he said I should finish my assignment in Senegal and then move back to the US to get married), that it was a great opportunity. It was one of those steps you have to take in your career before you end up in your dream job, dream position and spend the next twenty years of your life working for same company.

So, I left.Was the lack of a reason to stay a good enough reason to leave? I do not know but I do believe when you come across an opportunity whether or not it is something you sought, you have to say yes. I unfortunately am not yet at that point in my life when I can turn down these type of opportunities because I am scared. Sure, I have been 28 for the last 4 years and I do think about settling down, getting married and starting a family but I was no where near that in Senegal. The guy I was dating in Senegal did not exactly ask me to stay but said if I left he would try to join me.

Anyways, I landed (as my Naija peeps would say) in Antananarivo. And let me say, my first impression were not 100% great. I spent probably an hour in the immigration line and the drive from the airport to my hotel made me ask myself “what have I done”. Basically Antananarivo is the least developed capital city I have ever been to and I was a bit shocked. ¬†Don’t get me wrong there were paved roads but the main roads that take us into the city have rice paddies on either side!¬†OK, let me not exaggerate, there are plenty of brick houses, cobbled roads in city centre and the occasional tall building but it is still quiet different from my beloved West Africa.

So here I am, rice paddies and all on another new adventure seizing an opportunity and hoping for the best. Worst case scenario, I can be that person you know that lived in Madagascar. More to come on my adventures!

 

Toubab Dialow

Last weekend was a long weekend and a friend of mine invited me to tag along on a¬†group trip to¬†Saly for the weekend. Excited by the prospect of just showing up with my bikini and snacks, I said yes. However, being the planner that I am, as the days rolled by, I asked for updates¬†and the answer was “still waiting to hear back“. ¬†Eventually Thursday rolled by and the group plans fell through. I really wanted go to the beach and it was¬†clear that if I wanted to go, I needed to plan it. With all hotels, motels, guesthouses and rental properties being fully booked, a day trip was the only option.

Toubab Dialow located 50km outside Dakar was chosen. According to local legend, this village on the Petite-Cote used to be visited by spirits who brought with them a fresh water source with mystic powers.¬†Let’s hope that whatever mystic powers are in the water were positive as I swam in it.¬†

We set up at Espace Sobo Bade, a hotel and cultural centre for artists located on a cliff overlooking the beach. The pictures below visually display what a beautiful and relaxing place it is.

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The Entrance to Sobo Sabe Hotel
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An example of the Decor in the outside space of the hotel
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Group pic before the “chilling” began.

Across the hotel is the “Espace Culturel” which includes several workshops for different forms of art as well as accommodation for travelling artists.

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Fun piece of artwork made from recycled items.
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Drumming Class
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Painter’s Workshop

All in all, this was a¬†perfect Sunday Beach Day.¬†An excellent way escape the city for a few hours and take in some vitamin D. The only thing I would change is the large number of stray cats that seem to live on the hotel grounds. But then again, I can’t really blame them. It is a very relaxing place to be.¬†

 

 

Day Trip – Lac Rose

One of the most exciting things that can happen when living abroad¬†is having visitors. I was more that thrilled when my good friend from DC announced that she had just bought a ticket and was coming over. Being the planner I am, I developed a kick-ass itinerary and my friend’s response was ” I am not planner so I just go with the flow”. Nonetheless, I thought we will still need a plan and at least a day trip much needed.

So, I took the day off, rented a taxi and went to Lac Rose. Lac Rose is officially known as Lake Retba. It is about an hour’s drive from Dakar and is named for its pink water caused by an algae (Dunaliella Salina) and it’s high salt content.

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Workers go out on these boats on a daily basis to collect the salt that is sold throughout West Africa.

 

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Posing with the pink lake behind us and apparently the Senegalese flag ūüôā

One of the best ways of seeing the lake is to take a tour. Options include a camel ride, horseback riding, a four wheel drive or going around on an ATV. My friend aka “Ms. Adventurous” convinced me to go with the ATV option which included a ride through sand dunes. At the cost of 25,000 FCFA individually or 30,000 FCFA to share.

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An attempt at looking bad-ass

 

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Friend Selfie!

                             

 

 

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The salt that I managed to break off from one of the mounds below.
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Salt drying. The granules vary in size and quality. 

 

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A quick visit to le village des tortues.

 

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