Last day was a long one on the small roads of central Madagascar. The next one was going to be a completely different experience : minimum of driving but lots of hiking, almost entirely outside paved roads and overnight lodging in a homestay in a village.
We had a very early wake-up at 6:00am, to prepare our stuff for the homestay. We just took a daypack with what we needed just for one night. The rest of our luggage would stay at the bus. It had also to be light because we would carry it ourselves through the hiking. So I prepared just a change of clothes, some reading material and my camera bag
Breakfast was at a small cafe just downstairs from the hotel. Very nice and cozy. We then next door to change some money … but the money changer was not there, seems it was too early for him (the Malagasy have the saying ‘mora-mora’ which literally means ‘slow-slow’)
Anyway, we left for a walk in the center. Antsirabe is built on a colonial French architecture, with wide boulevards, a central post office and some squares and churches. There is a lot of ricksaws (called pousse-pousse in Madagascar) around, both man-driven and bicycle-based. You see so many because the town is flat and it’s practical, in contrast to the extremely hilly Antananarivo
We also stopped on a supermarket to get some provisions – lunch and dinner would be provided by the homestay but we could get something on our own for a light snack and/or a refreshment. We also got some writing pads and other writing material to gift the village children – more on that later.
After this walk we finally reached again the money changer which was open this time. I exchanged 150 Euros – I gave him 3 bank notes and got back 30 – around 500.000 Ariary. Crazy?
Then we left Antsirabe. Our first stop was the nearby lake Andraikiba, around 20-30 min away – a nice lake with a sad story on the Malagasy folklore : seems that there was a prince that was loved by two beautiful women. He made them race the lake to choose which one would be his wife, but one of the two was already pregnant (to him) and she was drowned. So people believe she haunts the lake and even today may be seen at dawn
Apart from that haunting story the lake was very quiet, there only some local people doing their laundry. We had a short walk there and then we drove for another 20min and then got down, got our daypacks and started hiking.
It was a rather easy walk, as the ground level was more or less straight, apart from a slope we tackled early on, and the temparature was quite moderate. August is winter time in Madagascar and temparature is around a pleasant 20 C at the central plateau, ideal for hiking. We walked through dirt roads and we met with locals on foot, riding bicycles or motor bikes or zebu carts (sometimes racing them!). Not a car on sight!
We passed through 3 villages on our walk. On the first which was the biggest all children were excited to see us and gathered round, examining the ‘strange’ faces. Some followed us, joking and laughing. After walking past the villages, we ended in the homestay (which seemed to me more like an agrotourism, i.e. we weren’t staying with a family but on simple bunkers, separate for men and women (and some more rooms for the couples). Anyway, did not matter at all.
The total length of the hike was supposed to be 3.4km but my smartphone tracker recorded 5,9km. Not a real issue though, it was very nice to seem all these villages and the way people live in rural Madagascar
After reaching the homestay, a simple lunch was ready for us. But that will be the next chapter of the story 😉