Auberge de la Table was very quiet due to our out of season travels. In fact we were the only occupants and we had two neighbouring thatch bungalows in a peaceful part of the grounds. It was exceptionally hot and we were constantly covered in a sheen of sweat and had to have the fans on all night in order to sleep. Our host ( I forget his name) was very polite and gracious and he served us with the most delicious food. We awoke at 4am the next morning for a 5am continental breakfast. It was already 29 degrees! We were only 10 minutes from the airport and decided that we were quite capable to wheel our own luggage from the airport entrance to the check-in counter that was literally a few meters away. But no, they are quick and our luggage was whisked away as soon as the driver unloaded it. At first I wasn’t going to tip for obvious reasons, but first the airport porters stood staring at us and then actually asked for a tip so I caved.
I have never tipped so much in my life as what I have on this holiday. At the Rova Palace, we paid the entrance fee…and then paid the guidance fee…and there is of course the ‘satisfaction fee’ at the end on top of that. When we paid our guide AR 20,000 ( roughly just less than NZD 10,00 he asked for another AR10,000 ) to which I told him, “No”. When I drew cash today and walked out to the car, I was surrounded by the usual hawkers selling their wares. ” No” doesn’t work in this situation, and neither does ignoring as the item is soon shoved in your face so that you cannot see where you are going. I had to firmly put up my hand and forcefully push it away in order to get where I was headed. Tourists will soon stop tipping altogether if the behaviour gets aggressive.
Although we arrived the requested 2 hours prior to departure, we had to stand for about 45 minutes in the sweltering heat, waiting for check in to open. Finally, the fans were switched on and we checked in. Even though we have a hold baggage allowance of 23kgs per person, flying into Madagascar, the internal flight only allows for 20kgs each and we had been buying up books and various trinkets while touring. We were told we were over the limit, but we explained to them that collectively, we were still under 60kgs ( thanks Erin!) and wheedled our way through. A huge sigh of relief when the aircon was switched on in the departure lounge 15 or so minutes after we arrived there. The internal flight and transfer went very well despite rumours we had been fed about Air Madagascar being banned from European Airspace. When we first arrived in Madagascar, it was quite a terrifying experience. Our plane was 7 hours late due to the fact that we had to turn back half-way and then board a new plane in Johannesburg. So, it was dark when we arrived. Our hotel transfer had given up waiting and gone home, and we were inundated with people wanting to carry our bags and give us a lift. We were very tired, overwhelmed and all imagining that we were going to be kidnapped and sold into slavery. I had already started thinking of the title for my new book..” Kidnapped in Madagascar” ….or something along those lines. The trip to the hotel was scary as everything was unfamiliar, the streets were chaotic and our imaginations were taking us to places where nobody should go and I had failed as a mother as I had taken my daughters into such a ‘dangerous’ situation and I had failed as dog companion as my dog would go back to the pound and….you get the picture.
This time when we landed, we were met by a familiar face – Mamy, our driver from before who had driven all the way back to Tana when we flew. He took us to Sakamanga Hotel in the high country near the Rova Palace which is quite a trendy area. We have great rooms near the pool and for the first time, there are plenty of other tourists around us.
Today, we went to Lemurs park. We were stopped by the gendarmes on the way again and had to produce passports which we fortunately had on us. This a private reserve owned by French and Japanese individuals dedicated to increasing the dwindling numbers of threatened lemur species. They have planted trees that provide food for the different species but they also feed them a variety of fruit 4 times a day. They have breeding programs with a few other private reserves around Madagascar so they can prevent in-breeding and introduce new genes to the population. We saw about 6 different species and were able to get quite close ( but of course not touch) and take photographs. They also have a variety of chameleons and have 3 species of tortoises and a breeding programme there too.
Following lunch at a restaurant on the hill, overlooking the city, we headed back to the hotel and treated ourselves to a relatively inexpensive massage. We will give dinner a miss ( because we eat too much) but are currently sitting out by the pool, having gin and tonic and red wine and enjoying the beautiful summers’ evening with the rest of the tourists, mainly French and Canadians it seems…everyone skyping, having business meetings and on their phones and iPads…like us.
Tomorrow, we head off to see more royal palaces and tombs and on our final day, we hope to go to the markets and then have lunch with Carlina and to say last farewells to the pups and staff at Animal S.O.S. Madagascar.