Our route for the next three + weeks.
We set out on the 19th for an overnight pit stop in Antsirabe, about 180 kms and a 4 1/2 hour drive from Tana .
Having to partly drive through Tana with the congestion and pedestrians and oxcarts and vendors and chaos, we departed our B&B slightly anxious and we had no choice but to trust our Google Maps advisor. The coffee served in Madagascar is very strong so this didn’t help with the butterflies we were feeling when we set out on what we knew would be a challenging venture to just get out of the city but we made it out without a hitch. It took about 45 minutes to reach the RN7, the main road we’ll be driving until we hit Tolaria on the west coast in about a weeks time.
When we finally got close to our lodge, very close in fact, there was a fork in the gravel road. The road to the right looked like nice gravel and the road to left looked like a 4×4 only road. You can probably guess which road Google Maps told us to follow so we did, we took the left turn. I didn’t really think a nice lodge would have such a dodgy road but up on the hills in the distance looked like, possibly, a lodge. We slowly proceeded, got held up by an oxcart with only inches of clearance on a steep embankment and continued on at about 2 km/ hr. This couldn’t be the right road and fortunately ahead we saw a women walking and asked if she knew Residence Madalief Lodge. Yes she did and she pointed up in the hills behind us. I knew it! Now the trick was how to turn around. There was steep hillside on the right and a steep embankment on the left. Hmmm. A little further ahead after a very narrow approach there was room to do a little truck dance. Turn, move a little forward, back up and turn, move a little forward and turn and repeat. We discussed in hindsight that we need to take more pictures of these kinds of situations. A story is one thing, a picture tells, well, you know.
Some road pics to Antsirabe
Residence Madalief is a nice lodge perched on the hillside away from the hustle and bustle of Antsirabe. The air was fresh and cool and full of a beautiful fragrance from the many flowers that were blooming throughout the grounds. To top it off we had one of the best dinners so far in Madagascar.
Most tourists travel through the country with a driver/guide and a nice 4×4 vehicle and at Madalief, we met a guide named Frank who turned out to be a small saviour.
When we arrived we parked our truck and then noticed that our rear driver side tire was looking a little low on air. We just had new tires put on so figured we must have a small puncture wound. Damn! I hummed and hawed and figured I’d probably have to change the tire in the morning, went to our room and then basically realized that changing the tire the next morning would be a very big pain in the ass so decided to ask the lodge manager if one of his staff could possibly join me and go into town to find a garage and be my interpreter. No problem. Two new guests arrived when I went back to the truck and that’s where we met Frank. I told him about our tire problem, that one of the lodge staff would go to town with me etc. etc. and without hesitation he offered to look after it for us. He is from Madagascar he proclaimed and besides, he needed to go into town for something to eat so he would be happy to take the truck, have it repaired, eat and then return. And that he did and that lifted a potentially huge burden off of our shoulders. I wish now we had asked him for the name of the company he works for because we would definitely give him/them a big thumbs up and we know by talking to the couple from Belgium that he was driving that he is a great driver and a great guy!
Our tire repaired, a great meal, a couple of beers and off to bed to get set for our next 6 hour drive to Ranomafana National Park the next morning.