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9/4-19/4 2006   DIARY  3

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 Diary 1 2 3 4 5

From the southern part in Diary 2, we now get up to the north
16. A bit of a joke; it's the same plane with the same crew, and the flight is again an hour. This time, there are no more than 20-25 people with the plane, and they do not occupy much of the 156 seats. The countryside is becoming more hilly, and the small mountains are becoming more and more vegetated. Land in Nosy Be close to six, and find a taxi. The atmosphere is somewhat more hectic than down south, but not unbearable.

We drive through a hilly primeval forest with some small pile hut villages. The residents do not seem as brightly coloured, but still smiling. We pass some plantations with perfume trees. Their pleasant scent can penetrate the exhaust and gasoline stank, and they do not even bloom. They look like a bit of cherry-trees that have melted. There is also a single rice field, but most of it is jungle.

Nosy B is an island 30 kilometres in diameter. The capital is called Hell-Ville, and as we arrive just after dark, it corresponds very well to the name. Very dark, very polluted and very dirty.
We thought we should stay at the Hotel Diana, but it has apparently changed its name, and is behind the slum. We had a dream of a typical dive-tourist town, with reasonable hotels, good restaurants and a good selection of scuba diving.

We are recommend a hotel off the coast, and since our pre-study is not complete, we try. Through the woods and far out of a narrow, hollow dirt road. End up in a village where you can spot a snorkel with a little good will.
Not unexpectedly, the taxi driver will have more than agreed, but I hadn't counted on double that; 120 kroner! With the scent of gasoline he had in the car, he doesn't drive far in the litre!

The recommended hotel is sold out and costs 330, the neighbour is more expensive, the uppersite is sold out too, but then there is a bite. At first, they only have a room with a bed and a half, but as we are on our way there is another room. Toilet and bathroom in the hallway, and for 225 kroner. Here we see the first whites, a couple of Italians, of whom there should be many on the island. Trying to find out where the city is, but we fail -  or there is just no city?

Head over to the first hotel's restaurant and here are four more whites. It is right next to the beach and prices are reasonable. They should too, we are very far down in local currency, and there should be a taxi to Hell-Ville and an ATM tomorrow.

We get a few variations over the zebu and I finish off with the flamed banana. Home past two bars, before we reach the hotel - there are 20 meters. Music and masses of local people, but hopefully not something we can't sleep from, even though we have room right next door.

I see something slipping around behind the closet. It turns out to be a small scorpion. Photograph it and put it in a glass. Just looking around for safety, and quite right: there is another scorpion sitting in the ceilings, just above my bed. It is slightly larger and provides better photos. Then it smokes in its own glass.

I don't think they're toxic: They have thin tails - on the other hand, do they also have thin cloves? The staff would have warned if they were - or...

17. I don't sleeping well at the beginning of the night. A massive stench of fungus constantly hits my nose. The room itself doesn't smell good, but that's how it is in the tropics. Shifts end of the bed, and it helps. We take breakfast in a shed in the backyard. A brightly coloured day gecko, perhaps a small female of Phelsuma madagascariensis. A little charmer, who comes and steals sugar grains.

Marked as in the small towns south. Same few vegetables. We walk  from our town, out into the countryside along a sugar cane plantation. Many people come walking and greet smiling. Looks a simple cow herd, but otherwise no new animals. Here there is only one zebu for the carriage, which has small car wheels, and not large horse car wheels like the south on. There are longer between carts and shorter between taxis ...

Catch one of them by the main road, and drive into Hell-Ville. They are either old Peugeot or Renault. Jump off at the first square and walk through town. It was probably a nice city where the French were here, but now most of the large colony houses in the main street are dilapidated and many abandoned.

Finds ATM and it raises the mood tremendously. Had only for the taxi home but not for the room. We hadn't done much to find one down south, we had to go up to this tourist trap. Which turns out to be a tourist loose. There are few whites in the city and they are permanent residents. Strikes out to the promenade. Once upon a time, there were fine brick fences and paving. Now here's wild nature and some garden-like piles. The view is still beautiful.

Hear some puzzle in the withered leaves. It is large skink, dark gray with two yellow stripes and a very large safety distance. It is quite different with the daggers. Their curiosity overcomes their fears. They sit in many places, enjoying the heat, but not the sun.

At the end of the pier, we meet the ferry berth. Here are some people, but not much to look at. Back towards the centre, where there has been the Easter market. Now there are only some stands with white tablecloths with holes in it.
The wild park parks in the boulevards are thriving. Here are many colourful flowers, including a Jatropha with huge fruits.

It's time for soft drinks and since they now claim they have internet we will try. It is very complicated. A scratch card, the right page and a email address. Is finally on, and then the machine locks. Coming in to what must have been the replacement-main street. That's the one we went walked yesterday. Now it is light but partially closed. Even the Pirates tourist resort, which has been made rather good, is closed.

Going out to the end of the street, pointing a taxi home - or almost. There were some police on the way out, and now our several mile long dirt road is blocked. We have to settle for the neighbouring town on the beach.
There is also traffic chaos. I see two orange chameleons from the car. We can't get into town at all, so we jump out. Goes far back to find the orange chameleons. They just aren't going anywhere.

Just before we are back in town, we are about to step on a big brightly coloured chameleon. It crosses unchallenged the road between pedestrians and vehicles. The beach is covered with people, quite literally. There are many thousands, and we are the only pink ones. Just before we get home, we find a restaurant that has pesto.

Trying to plan. Has more or less wasted three days on nothing and we have no time for that! Jesper had learned that this was a diving paradise with countless opportunities. We were just afraid it might be too touristy. Just can't find the tourist trap. Have seen some whites, but either the fat gray-haired Frenchman, who lives here or the younger / old guy with a local girl under his arm.

Trying to find the diving Jesper would like to spend fourteen days with. There are few places that advertise, even fewer that might have something similar. Our hotel is advertising, and has a great figure outside, but it takes a long time to explain the girls we want to dive.

We end up running most of the village around after one of them, and then the man is not home. Sometimes I think it would be easier to communicate, if they couldn't speak French - or we could ... Have to wait until he shows up.
Continuing out of the way, hoping to get out into nature. The large wooded hill above the city lures; shade and a light breeze. Down by the beach, and in the city, it's suffocating hot. Our comfort is, some of the locals sweat more than us. We try to get out of two paths, but they end up in private lots with a concierge or in a hotel.

On the slopes grow various colourful shrubs, including the yellow / orange butterfly bushes that have blackberry-like fruits. Have to turn around: Then it must be seen on the beach. It ends with some black volcanic rocks. On the flabby part, some Begonias grow and I take seeds for Jens in the orchid house. Between the rocks, crabs and scavengers jump for life.

The sun has been strong again today, and we have got a great deal. Back at the hotel, we update diaries, and Jesper is washing clothes while I am running a personal batch job.
I wake up - uh - get done in the sunset, and we try the dive shop owner's home again. Meet a German couple looking for bread for their little son. They tell the tourists have been gathered on another beach. She mentions, I've got a lot of colour in my face. Maybe I shouldn't have thrown the T-shirt?

The beach is gone. The high tide is twenty meters further in, and you cannot walk along the water for the buildings. Afternoon bathers have been lucky.
Finds the house where the dive guy should live. They've come home. A cute French / Norwegian couple who seems sensible. We agree to meet in the morning early at their shop and take two dives. It costs €60 for two dives, about 225 kroner per dive.
Enter a restaurant and get a little hot and cold, followed by a few slices of tender zebu with Madagascar pepper sauce. A little French and Englishmen show up here, but as the resident Norwegian said: There are not many tourists.

18. Finds the Frenchman at the other end of the beach. He is most reminiscent of a French version of the crocodile-hunting Steve Irving. Small, dense and dynamic with humour.
Where the other companies use small boats with large engines but no shade, he has a somewhat slower cruising boat, which is mainly used for longer trips, even all the way to Reunion island.

I've taken a pill, it's almost ocean view and we're on a big boat: It can't go wrong! In fact, I fall asleep before arriving on the first dive, out on an island.
We were provided with equipment in his cabin, and it is of good quality and fits reasonably well. Jumping in, and after the usual ear problems, we get down to an open coral landscape. The visibility is up to 30 meters - really good. Here are crocodile fish, sea anemones, clownfish, sea cucumbers, huge fan corals, blue-spotted pygmies, trunk fish, parrotfish, dragonfish, lionfish, whitefish, potato bras, snail, moraine, large clams, harlequin shrimp and much more.

There are a number of fishermen, but they use small pies, hollowed-out tree trunks and small nets. There is a large shrimp factory on the island (that was the one we ended up with on duty yesterday), but they are caught by large ships far from here.

During the break between the dives, we are in on a Bounty beach. Maybe it's Nosy Tanikely. Here are some tourists, but we come for the little lemurs. A bunch of females, brown with bright faces. It can be crown lemur: Eulemur coronatus. Previously, people were allowed to make bonfires on the beach. It is no longer allowed as the coals darkened the sand. That meant the turtles' eggs got it too hot.

We sail back a bit, and jump in again. Here are several huge fan corals, and otherwise the same. We've dived in places where colours and species richness were better, but the comfortable 28 degrees of water makes it a good dive for me. We talk a bit about whether to book a few dives tomorrow. Agree he may have other exciting things to offer. Now we are here anyway and the 450 kroner from or to ...

Home and have a bath and some lunch, looked out into nature. We got some tips from the French, and wanted to find some lemurs and chameleons. Inside the restaurant Anabella, and looked up the hills. There are still scattered buildings, but everything is green. Scout in vain for chameleons, but not yet. Here are many exciting plants and really many of them flowers. I'm just not sure they're original.

We pass wells where the water is drawn up by hand, and you sit next to it and wash. Most houses are pile huts with palm roofs. The walls are wide hand-carved dark precious wood. Naked children romp around outside, and some wince and shout "boun jour".

We come out on the other side of the peninsula. Here, a major dirt road leads out to a harbour. The remains of an old steam locomotive testify to better times for the industry. Here is probably tried sugar and maybe banana plantations. Now it's the remains of a marina, which has also seen better times. Have heard rumours that the virus that takes its share of Reunion's population is also in Madagascar, and it keeps French and Italians from visiting the island.

We find the other way across the hill. Immediately before we reach our city, Ambatoloaka, chameleons emerge. They seem to sit in pairs. One sits low, and is dark orange and black. The other is really brightly coloured, with a light green base colour. Many red spots and streaks, mixed with yellow and blue patterns. They are not quite comfortable with us, and are slowly sneaking into the thorny bushes. However, not without being photographed many times.

I sit down on the terrace to cool down and write a diary, but end up giving the receptionist English course. Then we go down to the water, and watch the sunset with a cold bottle on the table. The tide is coming in and the twenty meter beach is being swallowed up. The height difference is just over four meters.

Must also have something planned for the next days. There are minibuses going up to the northernmost part, that was maybe an idea and we need to get a plane back to Tana or somewhere nearby, from somewhere up here. We need to find some lemurs and some more rainforest.
We sit at an Italian restaurant, so why not try pizza? It's really Italian - it takes an eternity before it shows up, but then it's mediocre too.

19. Quick breakfast, and then out to dive. The bath is skipped as the water heater "blows the fuse": The generator stops.
Amazing dives. As we ascend for the first time, two large and different manta rays appear beneath us. I don't bother diving back in (it has nothing to do with, I'm very close to running out of air ...). The second time we reach some highs at a depth of twenty meters. They are covered with corals and the water around them is a pure fish soup.

We see a small white-tipped reef hay and a completely white porcelain snail whose body is completely black with small bright spots. In some places, there are fantastic conchs, up to 30 centimetres long.
The water is 28 degrees, and sight is fantastic, up to 30 meters. Unfortunately, I get used to my air in just under an hour, and then it's up. After two dives, it is home, and then just pay a few centimetres of money. It is only 230 kroner per dive, but when you pay in fifteen kroner banknotes it looks crazy.

I would definitely recommend and Gérald. Nice guy, good gear and good English.
We need more money, and one more flight. Found both in Hell-Ville. Book a flight from Deigo, located on the north tip, to Tana in six days. Walking slowly through the city's long - and only - commercial street. Most outlets are primitive and there are almost only fruit, fabric or hardware stalls.

I saw a guy in a village come carrying a black octagonal French deep plate, which I have been hunting for years. Tests at the hardware stores, but only finds the matching candle holders.
Falling into a coffee shop. As we sit there, a huge funeral procession comes by. In front is a group of white-clad with crosses and the like. Then a pickup with the chest protruding half comes out. A mixed crowd follows. There are an incredible number of people dressed in traditionally colourful robes, white nuns, uniformed police / government officials and quite plainly dressed. Some groups of singing passes, one led by a large choir.

Here are actually souvenir shops, and I manage to spend an euro on myself, and some dollars on Rikke.
Turn down at the harbour, and note that the restaurants did not open at six. Walk home and gets settled with the hotel: MGF 1,750,000, which fortunately is only DKK 1050. Finds a restaurant that has pork and fish. I feel grossly cheated: Jesper gets a whole fish, and I just get a bit of the pork tenderloin. Feels like that for dessert: Pancakes with flamed banana and chocolate sauce.

The temperature does not drop noticeably in the evening. It may come down to 27, and up to 35 a day. There have been significantly more red people in the streets, and not least in restaurants and bars. Maybe French and Italians have kept Easter at home with Mom?

Diving taps on the energy; At nine o'clock I am pretty much ready, but just have to pack and bathe. The receptionist had not met when we left yesterday, so we pay tonight. It gets quite a lot of Ariary, and many more as she insists on counting in MAf. Even as I start to topple Ariery banknotes. In the end, I strike lines on the individual digits and lay the stack. It helps and I can get to bed.

20. A proper shower comes during the night, and my bathing suits are no less dry from hanging outside tonight. We meet expectantly at the booth, from which the Diago minibus should depart. It's pretty closed. I get the neighbour to wake up a gnawed and miserable Frenchman. He says something about the bus leaving from the city. The apathetic boys who said we should be here now, don't have their strangeness from strangers!

I get bully, and he reluctantly opens his ticket-book, and finds the ticket booklet. DKK 120 per nose, and then we have to pay 45 for the taxi to Hell-Villes harbour.
Here we are put on hold for a moment, and then loaded into a small speedboat with ten others. Fortunately, the sea is quiet, and an hour later, we arrive in Ankify.

Being driven up to a Toyota Privera, which is probably the dumbest vehicle here. The windows cannot be opened and thus it is not created for very bad dirt road. We get packaged reasonably tight, and then scramble out through the primeval forest. In some places there are small cocoa, banana or coffee plantations under the big trees.

After an hour of scrambling, steep brakes and kidney rails, we reach the tarmac road - and a bus station where we change cars. Now we have to squeeze into a fifteen-seat High-Ace. A less eternity goes on, and then we finally tremble on. A short trip out to pick up someone. The driver is one of the most unsympathetic people (and only in Madagascar) I have met. He really has an attitude that invites to head-slaps. He comes to us at some point and says a lot. I tell him, calmly, with a small smile, what he can do and what it strikes me - in Danish. He is completely upset, leaving us alone.

We take a little walk again, and then into the square again. And we do not miss the usual thought about the idea. I have a theory that it is to shake us together, purely physically so that more people can sit. We drive after an hour and a half, 25 people and a few small people. Can't figure out why this should be better than the big public. Next time we'll fly!

I sit with one bale on the metal edge from the seat. The other bale hovers freely. One arm on the backrest, the other - with a shoulder - out the window. Knees up near my nose. My butt sleeps before we get out of the bus station the second time!

The next four hours, after finally leaving the bus seat, I have to remind myself time and again, that it was not to save the 200 kroner on the plane ticket.
The scenery is beautiful. I had read, here was very cultivated, but it is a very small percentage. There are rice fields, some traditionally flat, other slopes where the water trickles down. We cross some large rivers and river beds. Get past very steep hills, dense forests, tiny primitive villages and vast areas of scrub and grass.

Stops in a slightly bigger city, and has lunch. I find tiny little bananas and a fresh flute. She cannot, not unexpectedly, give back my 7.50 krone banknote. It might be a little under a penny, and it'll be a while before she realizes I don't need a change of money. There are some familiar trees of the Sterculaceae family, kapok trees (imported from South America), and some baobab. Masses of flowering creepers adorn the roadsides, including the Clitoria.

It will be half past five, before we reach the outskirts of Diego. The city has 112,000 inhabitants, but seems very provincial and primitive from the side we come. Does not get much better in the centre. Don't quite understand what's happening, but we're all kicked out at a gas station. Despite persistent attempts by the taxi drivers, we enter our hotel: Belle Vue.

Before it gets dark, we will find the recommended travel agent. Located in the other part of town, but it's good to have the bud exercised! He offers two one-day trips, one for each national park. We try one, with English guide. Bloody expensive: 360 kroner plus 75 in park fee.

The next recommendation is the Grand Hotel's cakes. Jesper is content with a beer, and I get a pretty caramel cake with coffee. The Grand Hotel is really something for itself: Where the rest of the city has decayed since the French withdrew 50 years ago, it is on top. Huge under-lit swimming pool, beautiful, large facade and international decor and atmospheres.

However, they do not start with the food yet, so we try the Italian opposite. The city just has power failure so we have to wait for a few beers / Fantas time. The more well-established businesses are putting out small generators on the sidewalk, some are finding oil-lamps and candles, and the last group is getting a nap.

The next recommendation is satellite internet at Plaza Fuch. It seems faster (but later learns that they have none at all. Africa is lacking in satellite), but French keyboards and menus just aren't me! We just can't find a home. We know where the hotel is, and we know where we are, we have a map, but end up with a taxi for seven bucks.
We continue unabated
Diary 4


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