Sunday, January 22, 2012

Final Moments in Madagascar

The next morning was our last in Madagascar, and we began it beautifully, lingering briefly in the ambiance of La Varangue...

... admiring the daylight view from the balcony outside our room (that's a litchi tree)...

... then sharing breakfast in the hotel's perfectly appointed dining room...

.... before heading out to explore a touch more of Tana on our way to the airport. Antananarivo has two distinct levels, giving us the opportunity for some great glimpses and views of the city as we were driven about:

Antananarivo is definitely one of the place sin Madagascar where I wish we had been able to spend more time. While much of the country is hot, Tana's location at a higher elevation leaves it relatively mild year round, or so I understand; and it just seems like a really interesting and vibrant place.

Certainly, my incredible and inspiring wife and I look good posing in front of it:

During our tour, we drove past the Presidential Palace - though it is not currently occupied by a President. From what I understand, Madagascar's political situation is not that stable. In fact, the owner of the Anjiamarango resort where we stayed on Nosy Be had told us how that instability had at one point cost her almost an entire year's worth of business, as not too long ago she had only gotten three guests during a year when no one was traveling to Madagascar due to changes and uncertainties in and around its governance.

This is the Queen's Palace, also unoccupied:

We continued to explore this fascinating capital city, learning about its history as we went.

Returning to the upper city, we again enjoyed the views of Tana afforded us:

This is Lac Anosy (it is shaped like a heart), constructed for the Queen, I believe, back when there was a Queen to enjoy it:

All too soon, we needed to turn toward the airport, but Kathy took these great shots of laundry day by climbing an embankment alongside the main route out of town. They serve me as a great reminder to never take indoor running water for granted...

We caught a few last looks at the rice paddies:

And the bush taxis, which really do get so full that they need to have that back door open (there is actually a strap there for whoever gets that spot to grab and hold):

And I had been wanting to get a decent shot of how full they get on top, as they are carrying not only everyone's bags, but also often goods for delivery to local shops along their routes:

Alas, we were soon at the airport and leaving Madagascar. All I can say in closing this chapter in our adventures is that it was one of my all-time favorites, for there is nothing quite like exploring a magnificent paradise with the love of my life. If Madagascar is not on your list, it ought to be...

Bidding Farewell to Paradise (and a Taste of Tana)

The following morning was our last on Nosy Be, and it was truly difficult to depart. We could easily have remained and there were moments when I suspect we almost did...

But we roused ourselves for a final breaking of our fast by the shore and surf of Nosy Be, where we could not help but smile at one another:

Here is that infinity pool I mentioned. Oh, and by the way, it was a salt water pool...

Here is my gorgeous wife admiring the view from upstairs at the lodge:

This is where we dined while we were there:
Seen from above:

And this is the greeting area, where guests are treated with towels to wipe away the road and freshly squeezed juice to welcome in paradise:

After our meal, we returned to our bungalow for our final few hours at Anjiamarango, where I just had to to feel the surf one last time:

And make some more music:

Or just stare at the view

Then it was time to take a deep breath and bid farewell to our beautiful bungalow and the beach on which it rested:

To take in the blue, blue water one more time...

... and catch our flight back to Antananarivo. We arrived at the Nosy Be airport, such as it is, early, and so wandered across the parking lot (all twenty meters of it) to a small, two story stone building, all painted white and open to the air on the second floor, where a smattering of tables where blessed with the breeze of a few strategically placed fans and I could imagine Kathy and I as Bacall and Bogie.

When we arrived back at La Varangue in Antananarivo, the night view from our room helped me hold onto that sensation:

Dining on the veranda at La Varangue completed the picture, especially when Kathy donned a dazzling blue dress!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Colors of Water

As you might imagine, then, we woke next morning to a glorious light and sublime view.

Such a space shifts my perspective on the world in a wonderful way...

Though I must confess there was a bit too much morning beach traffic:

All too soon, we had to rouse ourselves and get ready for another adventure, this time distinctly of the island variety, as we began with another drive across the lush landscapes of Nosy Be:

Soon, we were boarding a boat and setting sail for two nearby islands for some exploring, entertainment, and a picnic. Of course, on our way we hit more traffic...

Our first destination for the day was Nosy Komba (noh_SEE KOHM-bah), seen here on approach:

Keep in mind, now, that our transportation for the day was boarded in the water, which was wonderfully warm. We simply removed our shoes and sandals and waded out, or waded in and then donned our footwear before wandering off. One of our first encounters on Nosy Komba was groups of children with painted faces and singing songs. This photo cost me about a thousand ariary (or roughly fifty cents U.S.), as that is how these singers make their living:

Nosy Komba is perhaps most famous for its lemur denizens, and there was certainly no shortage of them.

Some were friendlier than others, as this young South African discovered:

And as did my adventurous and beautiful wife:

Me, I stuck with the more stoic and staid chameleons:

Though the lemurs certainly continued to make certain we knew who was supposed to be the center of attention:

We did take some time out to visit with some of the islands most venerable inhabitants, who made the chameleons look like absolute speed demons:

Then we found a woman sporting a boa. No, I mean a real, live boa, not a feather necklace!

That, we just had to try... (Kathy and I are nothing if not true fashionistas!)

Our South African friend decided to try a slightly more cumbersome accessory:

And we did, of course, take the time to stop and admire our seascape surroundings.

Soon, though, we set off for Nosy Tany Kely (only ever saw it written and never heard it pronounced), where we settled into this spot:

The water was warm to make immersion an act of instant relaxation. We went in and Kathy went snorkeling - the predominant activity - while I just sat in closer to shore. Eventually, though, curiosity got the better of me and I put on a mask and took a look at the under water view. Even close in to shore, the colorful fish and coral formations made me feel as if I was inside a National Geographic special or one of Jacques Cousteau's adventures. Just incredible!

Of course, the shades of blue achieved by the water there were equally mesmerizing...

Eventually, lunch time arrived, and our picnic took shape. Very definitely not your average picnic. Everyone else dined on fish and crab and piles of rice while I stuffed myself with a special meal prepared for me by Roger.

Here we are, savouring the fruits of the sea (or in my case the fruit):

It was actually during this meal that the subject of our car came back. We were chatting with a young South African couple (one of whom is pictured above with her animal friends), who told us that during the course of just one year they had had four cars stolen. Their advise was to spend more on insuring the car than on the car itself... Knowing that locals had such troubles with cars thieves, while also a sad commentary, seemed somehow to make us feel better.

But then again, maybe it was really the view as we were departing that did that:

Or more likely still, the view from our bungalow back on Nosy Be, whence we returned to spend the remainder of the in our romantic paradise...

... where the sunsets are always long and luscious.

In fact, I think this was the evening we went for a sunset swim in the infinity pool before sauntering over to the outdoor dining area to taste what Roger had prepared for us. Did I mention Anjiamarango Resort has an infinity pool? Or that the dining area was mere meters from the shore line and that we were serenaded by the surf at every meal? It does, and we were...