On the road (yet) again – Ambalavao to Ranohira

Friday 14 June 2024 – We had a comfortable enough night at the Betsileo Country Lodge, disturbed only by the occasional ghastly-sounding and very loud gurgling from the water system, and, when we went to take a morning shower, the water pressure was so low as to make the ablutions merely case of cleaning the Important Bits.  We heard later that someone, one of a party of German tourists, had left their shower running, and completely emptied the tank!  Another problem was very intermittent electric power from the hotel’s generator. This didn’t stop us from having our breakfast, but it did mean there was no internet access, meaning I couldn’t publish my latest update. The manager explained that they were still waiting for some new batteries, which strikes me as probably being a common problem in Madagascar.

Anyway, the morning dawned cool and misty,

but the sun soon burned the mist off as we started our journey south, now with a significant westward component also.  Our target for the day was Ranohira, which is near the Isalo National Park, a place we would be visiting the next day. All we had to do was to get there, a distance of some 230km. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll remember that a previous journey of 210km took all day because of the vagaries of RN7; but today was different – the road surface was, by and large, very good and so we made good progress.

It was clear at first that we were above a valley where the fog had not yet dissipated

but we eventually had to drop down into the mist.

That burned off pretty quickly, too and so we could appreciate, once again, some good views of a changing landscape.

As we left Ambalavao, we had gone through the “gateway to the south”, an area which marked a significant change in the surrounding countryside. We ended up on a high plain, which was huge.  This was the view from my side of the car

and this was from Jane’s side.

See what I mean? Horizon to horizon flat – and with comparatively much less agriculture going on, although rice paddies were still to be seen – largely in places where the rainy season would allow the one crop per year they expect in this part of the country (cf the three a year in the wetter, cooler north). The houses in the villages we passed were generally much smaller.

Here are a few of the sights we saw as we went along:

Herding Zebu near a village

People flocking to market in the village ahead of us

People flocking to market in the village we had just passed

Seeing people on the road in any number quite often meant that we were approaching a village or town, and people were walking to the market there.

A roadside shrine – the first we’d seen, actually

Kids in their school uniforms leaving after the morning

Taking tomatoes to market

Taking goats (or maybe sheep, we couldn’t separate them) to market, on the top of a bus

The collapsed ruin of a house built with unbaked mud bricks and washed away by the rains

Drying rice before packaging and carting it, presumably to market

Zebu grazing

View of distant sandstone cliffs – this particular formation is known as the Pope’s Hat

More sandstone hills in the distance

The sandstone hills mark the edge of the plain and the start of the Isola National Park

The sandstone in the landscape is a distinct shift from the granite we’d seen so widely before this point.  Eventually, we caught sight of Ranohira,

the town from which we would access the Isalo park tomorrow. You can begin to pick out the detail in the sandstone in the photo above. Our hotel, the Jardin du Roy, was 20 minutes’ drive past the town, and was through a wondrous landscape of sandstone eroded by wind, rain and time.

It included a “statue” which is locally nicknamed “The Queen”; one can see why.

The Jardin du Roy is a very swish hotel and we were staying for two nights, so we were able to relax for the rest of the day and gird our loins for a hike the following day. A walk through a canyon is the main item on the agenda, but there may be some wildlife to be seen as well. Who knows?  Only time will tell.


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