Author Topic: Madagascar : The Masoala Experience  (Read 3323 times)

Offline laucnj

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Madagascar : The Masoala Experience
« on: Feb 13, 07, 02:35 PM »
 :hello:

sianz....now job hunting so got lots of free time at the moment. might as well contribute a travelogue here. i don't write very well so please excuse my strange sentence structure. my last big trip was to madagascar last year. i was there with a friend for 2 months but here, i'll just write the most memorable & dramatic part of the trip - tackling the masoala peninsula !

the masoala peninsula is located in the north eastern part of the island of madagascar. it's well known for its pristine rainforests & boasts nice coral reefs & picturesque beaches. the peninsula was our very last national park visit. we went all the way up north to the town of diego, & then traversed clock-wise around the vanilla-producing towns to reach this place called antalaha. we had tried to book a domestic flight to get to the town of maroansetra from antalaha but flights were all full. we were a little concerned about this as the alternative way to reach the peninsula was to travel down the coastline via cargo boats. it was then the winter season, & the seas were extremely rough. very few cargo boats were leaving from antalaha & making that risky trip down south. we had no choice, either backtrack all the way we came from (jesus christ !) & totally missing out on the peninsula, or risk the possibility of drowning at sea (titanic part deux). the 2 of us had a very serious discussion about our situation & we both decided to take the risk. oh well, if you gotta go, you gotta go.... :-[

we managed to find a cargo boat captain who was leaving from antalaha in 2 days time & sailing down to the village of vivanivao. we analyzed his boat carefully & decided to travel with him. since we were traveling on a cargo boat, the ship was filled with all sorts of items ranging from food supplies, & even a diesel generator. there were also other passengers traveling with us & once onboard the boat, they were all hugging together at the boat's rear end. the 2 blur sotongs (which was us) went to the front of the boat & later realized why everyone else was at the back. the seas were indeed extremely rough & the boat kept swaying up & down, side to side. in addition, sea water was splashing up onto the boat at the front & we quickly went to the rear end to seek some shelter. unfortunately, there was not much space left & we resorted to sitting at the side. i put on my rain jacket & sat with my back facing the front. seawater kept dowsing on me & the swaying of the boat made me very seasick. we flung our heads over the board & vomited as if there was no tomorrow ! after throwing up my breakfast, i turned to look at the passengers & my friend for some relief but they were also vomiting out stuff, & i could not resist the urge to throw up again ! i kept lamenting to myself as to why i had to undergo this hell trip in the 1st place  :( & wished it to be over soon. my wish did came through as the captain decided to stop halfway at this place called cap est & to resume the trip down to vivanivao the next day. i was extremely delighted to get off the boat but realized that getting to shore, entails a shaky ride on a dugout canoe. why are there no jetties ? it was an equally terrifying experience to ride on that canoe as it felt so unstable. my eyes were squeezed shut & my mind was strictly focused on maintaining my balance. after like eons of time, we eventually got to the shore with our bags & found ourselves a cheap hotel to stay for the night. for the 1st time, it really felt good to feel the earth/sand under my feet !!!

on the 2nd day, the boat trip was a lot more bearable. we had taken extra dosage of motion sickness pills & had jostled our way to secure 2 nice spots at the back of the boat. to hell we were not letting go of those 2 precious spots ! i held on for dear life as we endured another few hours of swaying & rocking on the high seas. we eventually reached vivanivao in the late afternoon & was glad to see the last of that cargo boat. the next climax of the masoala experience entails the 3 day very "siong" trek around the tip of the peninsula.

vivanivao is a small village that also offers basic huts for transiting cargo boat travelers or to backpackers like us who wanted to start our trek across the peninsula tip from there. the accomodation offered there was indeed basic, water for showering had to be retrieved from a nearby well & the lavatory was a gross sight to behold  :o! i did not imagine that someday i would have to force myself to squat over a rectangular plank hole filled with human waste & infested with maggots  :-X ! the lady owner of the huts was a creative cook & meal times was something we would look forward to during our 2 day stay in the village. i remembered we had this meal which consisted of mainly palm heart but prepared in several ways. my friend told me that palm heart is expensive in other countries but seems like it's plentiful in the village. we had our guide & porter all sorted out in the village, & was ready to embark on our 3 day trek !

our guide was the lady owner's son & he is half chinese/malagsy. we had high hopes for him as our guide but did not expect a major disappointment from him later on  >:(. our porter was a tall malagsy guy who had to carry our heaviest backpack & was invaluable during our 3 day walk. on the 1st day, we started out really early. i decided to carry my own backpack (which weighed about 5kg) & do the 1st day walk. it was an easy coastline trail, mainly flat land & with lots of villages & beautiful coastline to admire. along the way, we saw some wildlife like birds, snakes & chameleons. the walk on the 1st day took about 6 hours & involved a river crossing on a pirogue. towards the end, i was getting a little foul tempered as the strain on my shoulders was getting to me. we eventually arrived at the village of ratranavo, which is based at an idyllic cove setting. we promptly enjoyed a bath at a nearby river mouth & also retrieved fresh water from a waterfall there. this was also the place where we discovered our guide's incompetence. my friend had to consistently ask him to arrange accomodation for the 2 of us in the village but he was just holding it off. we eventually kicked up a fuss & was offered a basic hut  to spend the night.

on the 2nd day, we continued our walk & have had only a banana each & bad coffee for breakfast. it was a rainy day & the 1st part of the day's walk involved walking through rice paddy fields. it promised to be a very dirty & messy walk  :'(. my friend's right knee was also acting up & i was extremely worried for him. our guide did not know the correct way out of the village & we got lost during the 1st hour. we wasted invaluable energy climbing up a hill & eventually had to backtrack to hire a village local to guide us out. while in antalaha, we were informed that this section of the trek was extremely long & strenuous, & having a guide who had no good knowledge of the trail worries me. as mentioned earlier, we had to traverse several rice paddy fields & being a rainy day, the mud had become soft & it was difficult to walk on it. sometimes, we would sink into the mud up to our thighs & had to be pulled out. i told myself i never wanted to see another rice paddy field ever again !!!!  :( after a good 3 hrs braving through all that mud, we were unhappy to start the 2nd part of the trek. this time, we had to continuously ascend & descend the forest hills. we did not have lunch nor any rest. time was against us as we had wasted invaluable time getting lost. as it was winter then, the skies would turn dark at 6pm so we had to reach our destination before that. my only worry with the forest were the leeches & we had experienced plenty of them during our previous treks in the other national parks. however, i was surprised to find that encounter with leeches were rare & i wonder if the rain had anything to do with it. there were many river crossings to do as well & it was a good time for me to clean up my mud ridden shoes and legs. surprisingly, we performed well for the forest trek though it was up & down constantly. we eventually reached a clearing & had to do a river mouth crossing. river mouth crossings were much more difficult to do as the current was stronger & of greater depth. i watched the porter cross the river mouth first, remembering the path he took before i did the same. the current was strong, hindering my progress & the water gradually rose up to my neck  :o but i eventually made the crossing successfully. we then came upon an elderly fisherman who gave us the bad news that we should not have crossed the river mouth  :'( but had to continue walking in the forest to reach our destination. it was to take another few hours & i was extremely unhappy with our guide. luckily, help came along in the form of a pirogue where we could take a short-cut by rowing upstream along the river to reach the hill base. it was to be another few hours of scrambling up the hill forest & we were extremely exhausted by then. we decided to take a much needed rest & ate the remaining baguettes we had with us. the rest of the walk took us another 2 hours & it grew dark by then. it felt really scary to be walking in the forest in the dark. we eventually reached our destination - the village of antalaviaina after a long 12 hour walk  :o ! at the village, a kind granny offered us accomodation & food. i went to bed really early at 8pm, not even taking a shower  :P. (yeah, i probably stinked a lot !)

my shoes were badly damaged from the trek on the 2nd day & i decided to discard them at the village. i wore my sandals instead. thankfully, the trek on the 3rd day was relatively easy. however, our bruised & battered legs made the trip to our destination a little more painful  :(. we reached the marine park of tampolo in no time & had lunch there. our guide & porter were probably delighted to get rid of us & left after we had paid them for their services. while lunching there, we were offered a speed boat ride to maroansetra for a small fee. rather than taking another 2 hour walk tomorrow to the next village of ambanizana to catch our ferry to maroansetra, we decided to take up the offer. while speeding across the bay of antongil, i looked back at the peninsula & was amazed at the mysteriously dense forests & thick clouds that covered half of the hills. if a dinosaur  :o were to pop its head out of the forest, i would not be surprised at all. along the speed boat ride, we saw the exposed fins or tails of humpback whales in the far distance. it was breeding season for the whales & many had sought refuge in the bay of antongil. it had been a wild ride for the past few days & the next few days were certainly spent nursing our wounds & relishing our achievements ! the masoala expedition was to be the closing chapter for our madagascar trip & i'm certainly glad we did it !  8)
« Last Edit: Oct 05, 11, 05:50 PM by Karel »

Offline kolya

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Re: Madagascar : The Masoala Experience
« Reply #1 on: Feb 13, 07, 10:52 PM »
hey...
that sounded really exciting! at least you can look back and say you had the time of your lives. heh.
it kinda seems to feel good that you've gone through it, and gained a level of experience.
i'd have done the cargo boat ride over the plane ride anytime... if time isn't a concern.
how long was the boat ride?? 2 whole days?
Half the fun of travel is the esthetic of lostness...

Offline nuts

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Re: Madagascar : The Masoala Experience
« Reply #2 on: Feb 14, 07, 02:28 AM »
Wow, really sounds fun & exciting! :)
Yeah, would have love to experience these things....

Offline laucnj

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Re: Madagascar : The Masoala Experience
« Reply #3 on: Feb 14, 07, 03:16 AM »
hey...
that sounded really exciting! at least you can look back and say you had the time of your lives. heh.
it kinda seems to feel good that you've gone through it, and gained a level of experience.
i'd have done the cargo boat ride over the plane ride anytime... if time isn't a concern.
how long was the boat ride?? 2 whole days?

jesus christ, i was thankful it was not 2 whole days ! the 1st day took about 5 hours while the 2nd day was 7 hours. time was a major concern for us as we had already booked our flight from maroensetra back to tana on a certain date & we had to reach there by hook or by crook.

Offline Jeanne Kira

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Re: Madagascar : The Masoala Experience
« Reply #4 on: Feb 14, 07, 05:08 AM »
 ;D I had a good laugh reading your recollection. It certaintly sound like an autobiography, hilarious and entertaining..as if I was there myself!
« Last Edit: Sep 22, 11, 07:12 AM by Karel »

Offline relaxlife

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Re: Madagascar : The Masoala Experience
« Reply #5 on: Feb 14, 07, 10:29 AM »
wow ... your trip so challenging, think not many ppls can do that.
Amazing trip ....
« Last Edit: Sep 22, 11, 07:13 AM by Karel »

Offline weecheng

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Re: Madagascar : The Masoala Experience
« Reply #6 on: Feb 17, 07, 04:38 PM »
laucnj - cool - your stories reminded me of my own journey to Madagascar in 2003.  I only spent 2 weeks in the country...

By the way, have you been to our gatherings?  You must join us next time if you hadn't.

Feel free to check out my website at weecheng.com and drop me your comments.




Offline laucnj

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Re: Madagascar : The Masoala Experience
« Reply #7 on: Feb 18, 07, 12:49 AM »
hi weecheng,

i would love to attend the next gathering. we've met before but it was several years ago. would love to catch ya with ya !  ;)