The final leg of our 4×4 journey took about 4 hours to cover approximately 90 kms. There were a few good stretches of sand tracks and very few rocky stretches which was nice but we encountered some of the worst washboard stretches we have ever driven. Our truck has heavy duty suspension so washboard is the worst possible condition to drive. We encountered several deep mud crossings and a couple of fairly deep water crossings so the thought of getting stuck again was always in the back of our minds. Finally about 20 kms away from pavement and feeling a little more relaxed we encountered more mud, and it looked really deep. We decided on a path and went for it. As I accelerated through the quagmire we hit what sounded like a large rock submerged in the mud. Yikes! The truck kept a rollin and we escaped unscathed and continued on but wait, what’s that scraping sounding noise that emanates from the right front wheel-well whenever we hit a large bump? Must be mud stuck on the mud flap. Nope, must be worse because when I got out of the truck to investigate it was quite obvious. The right front wheel had zero clearance in the wheel well. We must have blown a shock absorber. Fortunately this happened when it did and not earlier in the day. We had mountains to climb and rivers to cross so a blown shock would have been a very serious situation indeed. We proceeded on and finally, just up ahead, tarmac! Civilization! We had accomplished what no man has accomplished before, we, oh never mind, you get the picture, we made it.
We limped into the town of Morondava, picked up some phone data from Orange, withdrew 1.2 million Ariary (really, it’s worth about $420.00 CAD) from Bank of Africa and then pulled in to a local automotive mechanics shop.
They identified the problem immediately, it wasn’t the shock absorber but I think a steel suspension link or something and they didn’t have the part on-hand but they could get one delivered quickly. About 1 1/2 hours later still no part so we caught a lift to our hotel and prayed the truck would be fixed the next day. To our surprise and relief the truck was delivered around 8:30 in the morning. Our Pisteur, Antonio showed up to tell us. What a guy! Excellent service! We don’t know the cost of the repair as it was picked up by our rental company, Roadtrip Africa/Madagascar. Their service and response to any issues we have faced along the way has been great. More on that later in my final Madagascar review.
We spent the first two nights at Chez Maggie, a nice lodge with bungalows near the ocean side.
We had booked two nights but needed two more due to what I will explain below but unfortunately they were booked up but the lodge next door, Laguna Beach had a room and it had air conditioning. This was going to be a treat. The room was large and cool with a big shower and lots of space.
The food in the restaurant was very good, quite pricey relative to everywhere else we have been but good but this is lunch that I’m talking about. The breakfast was way overpriced and the serving staff didn’t seem to have a clue what they were doing. The first breakfast we did get our juice after asking and our coffee a little hotter after our first cup, and a napkin after asking but the second breakfast was a disaster and we walked out refusing to pay. We were first served lukewarm coffee after asking specifically for hot coffee and after having to wait 15 minutes. Then came the the first plate of food, 1/3 of a rotten banana, dried out banana bread and a whole unpeeled mango. What are we supposed to do with a whole unpeeled mango? We don’t have a sharp knife and we don’t have a napkin. Then, my so called omelette shows up. Where is Joyce’s omelette? Where’s our bread, you brought the jam for crying out loud, where’s the bread? And the juice, where’s the juice??? We had enough, got up and left rather ticked off. We really are not that hard to get along with. Joyce and I are the nicest people in the world but at some point you have to draw a line. It sounds like we’re whining here but they really had no concept of service and not a clue of what their breakfast was supposed to consist of. It’s written on the menu, in french, english and malagasy so get with it management or you won’t understand why no one stays at your place. Enough said. Now on to why our plans were altered.
I planned and booked our whole time in Madagascar. One evening about a week ago I was reviewing our itinerary and noticed a, shall I say, slight error. Our plan was to spend two nights in Morondava and then head north to the Tsingy de Bemaraha, a protected UNESCO world heritage site of immense beauty but it was not to be. The drive would be approximately 8-10 hours, part of which would consist of military escort with a convoy of 4×4’s heading north to the Tsingy. We had three nights planned to allow for some time to explore the area. What I didn’t factor in was the drive back to Morondava thinking we could drive straight to Miandrivazo. That would have been a 14+ hour drive. Damn! We decided it just wasn’t worth the 16+ hour return drive to have one full day of exploration. We missed a beautiful site so we’ll save the Tsingy for next time.
Morondava is probably one of the nicest towns we have been to. The main street is wide and clean with sidewalks. One area is devoted to the food market. Fish, fresh veggies etc. Further along is a section devoted to cheap chinese footwear and other crap that will fall apart within days but hey, the price is right. It is a stop off or starting point for tourists wanting to head north to the Tsingy and those (us) who made their way from the south with intentions to continue north. It has an airport so it is a very convenient place to start your adventure whether it be north or south.
Next, a short trip to L’allee des Baobabs.