I had an extremely hectic schedule planned for my three-day short stay on the island. Faso thought that I was crazy to even think of covering the places but I was determined and ready to push myself physically and emotionally to do what I was there for. Madagascar is the largest island in the world and driving from one end of the island to another was no joke. The first thing on my itinerary was to experience the endangered animals and the Baobab trees on the island. Majority of the animals found on the island are incredibly rare and can only be found in Madagascar. The main reason for this uniqueness is because after breaking from Gondwanaland millions of years ago, the island became isolated and the animals evolved in a unique way without any competition from the outside world. Out of all the wild animals on the island, my personal favourites were the Lemurs. The only problem was that the two main things, which I wanted to witness, were located on two different ends of the island. The Baobab trees were on the southern coast and the National Park where lemurs were preserved was situated on the northern end of the country. It was a 900kms journey from the capital (Tana) to Morondova where Baobab Avenue was waiting to be captured by my camera. Faso told me that the best time to see the trees was at sunset so we hit the road at 3AM with Faso’s brother for company and our driver.
The early morning start gave us a quick escape from the busy roads of the capital and the stunning sunrise welcomed us as we drove away from the city. Most of the day was going to be spent driving except for a few places where we had planned to stop to take some pictures of the stunning landscapes of the island. After 3 hours of driving and covering about 180kms, we had our
breakfast in a town called Antsirabe. Antsirabe is one of the few major cities in Madagascar and the industrial hub of the island. Some of the main product factories the town has are beer, yogurt, stones and chocolate. We found a decent looking restaurant where we had our breakfast.It cost around 13000 ariray (£3) for the three of us. As we hit the road again, we had more than 600kms ahead of us and as we moved south, the temperature increased steadily and it was 30 degrees by early mid-day. The biggest twist in the trip was when one of our tyres burst in the middle of the road and we escaped a near death experience. We fixed the tyre with the help of the driver and Faso but lost an hour of our precious time in the process. I was told that the tyre was not repairable and the thought of more than 500km to go in remaining time with no replacement tyre was enough to make us sweat.
We decided to cut down on our photography breaks to cover for the lost time and within the next few hours, thanks to the excellent driving skills of our driver, we were back on track. The roads were flawless and I have to admit that it was much more than what I had expected from Madagascar. The journey never got boring because the stunning landscapes of the island kept changing with each kilometre and that kept me busy with my camera. Majority of the landscapes were dominated by the agriculture lands and rice fields which were extended to as far as one could see. On the way, we passed through many small villages and had the chance to witness the locals being busy with their daily routine. Most of the landscapes in the island were purely natural and remain unexplored to this day which makes them an absolute nirvana for anyone who loves to be close to nature.
After 12 hours of extensive and smart driving by our driver, we finally made it to Morondova at about 5 pm. The sunset was expected to be at about 6PM so we decided to freshen up before visiting the Baobab Avenue as the long journey had made us all sweaty and unbearably smelly. One thing I can assure is that all the trouble that we went through to get there seemed absolutely worth it once we saw the famous Baobab Avenue. It was a perfect postcard sight and I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing in front of me. All these years, Madagascar had seemed so out of my reach even in my dreams and here I was, standing there in between the huge and beautiful baobab trees. Faso was right about witnessing it during sunset. Being on the sea coast, the setting sun gives that place a totally different look and it made it a picture perfect scene. We took thousands of pictures in every possible angle. Baobab trees are massive old trees with an average height of 260feet. They are found only in Madagascar and that’s one of the facts which make the whole experience even more unique and a must do on every traveller’s bucket list. As I took some time off from the photo session and stood in one corner to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the place all by myself, I felt a tap on my back. It was Faso. He came next to me slowly and said, “We did it man! We made it.” This brought a big smile on my face and as we shook hands, I thanked him for making this possible. We decided to spend the night in a small hotel in Morondova as we would have to drive back to the North coast which was about 1040 kms the next day to visit the National park for Lemurs.
Most of the Madagascans are poor and that was clearly visible in all that I saw on my way to Morondova. Lack of basic facilities like power and infrastructure were clearly affecting the lives of people for no good. While lying in bed after a long day, I was thinking of how I could have taken pictures of the poor people and their lifestyle as the stereotypical ‘Africa’ frame which is often done by most photographers. But I decided that wanted to focus on capturing the positive side of the country. Madagascar has a lot to offer to everyone but by portraying the negative side of the country, I don’t want to discourage my readers from going there. The motive of this blog is solely to inspire people to travel and negativity never inspires anyone. The country’s breath-taking landscapes, unique wildlife, and humble people should be enough reason for anyone to visit Madagascar. Madagascar might not be the most comfortable place to visit in comparison of other countries but mark my word no other country can offer you what this island has to offer.
We had an early morning start again the next day and we drove for more than 14 hours and checked into the Vakona Forest Lodge in the National Park of Madagascar on the North coast. The jungle lodge was awfully scary at night but still beautiful at the same time. Throughout my entire trip to Madagascar, the only area where I struggled the most was food because I am not big fan of French cuisines and most of the food on the island had been inspired from French. On my last day in Madagascar we finally met the famous Lemurs. I have talked about it in my next post here in detail. This was a road trip which was the craziest thing I did on my trip and will always stay close to my heart.