Saturday 22 October – Morondova to Belo Sur Mer
I don’t remember too much about today, so it must have been a driving day, after a somewhat late start. Today’s images don’t help very much. So I’ll explain the car conditions. As I have mentioned earlier we are in Christophe’s Land Rover Revenger, bought in 2010. It is ideally suited as the reliable work horse in these demanding conditions although is rather limited in its comfort features. Windows are moved up and down with a manual winder, the air-conditioning consists of driving with all windows and central logging consists of Christophe walking round the car to check that we have all remembered to push down the lock button on our doors. Luxury extras are all well and good but potentially can break down and do not help our aim to get face-to-face with the plants. Today’s drive led along soft sandy tracks through the dry forest – dense shrubbery that was difficult to penetrate in person or with our cameras.
Christope spotted some large parrots in a tree, but it was difficult to get a clear (camera) shot of them, due to the camera insisting on focussing on near invisible twigs in the way.
For a while it seemed as though there were cacti growing between the trees and shrubs, but a closer look revealed that these were the first Didierea madagascariensis.
Christophe did all the driving during the trip, although John would be more than able to drive in an emergency as he also owns a Land Rover Revenger back in the UK. Nadia made her home behind Christophe and although John and I had agreed to take turns for the front passenger seat, I found a low shelf below the dashboard rather uncomfortable as it crashed into my shins as we speeded along the sandy track. And so I volunteered for the right hand back seat position.
We also passed and photographed numerous more baobabs, but reaslly, how many do you want to see!?
As the sun was on its way down, a signpost suggested that we were in the Kirindy Mitea Forest Reserve. We reached the edge of the forest and looked over what looked like a snow covered field. With temperatures of 30C plus?! Not likely! A salt flat? Or just white sand? Whatever the substance was, it seemed to fill Christophe with a mixture of fear and respect. He had become stuck here before and we saw a number of very capable pick ups and 4×4 SUVs including Toyota Landcruisers stuck up to their axels in the stuff. There were several tracks on to the sand. We avoided those with cars already stuck, as they were surrounded by locals offering advice and moral support. There were also number of large trucks on the track at the edge of this dry lake, hanging about like vultures, ready to pounce to charge the victims for their towing services.
Christophe and Nadine had a chat with one of the crews who advised that the track we had selected was fine. We drove on, until we reached an area where the track had been badly churned up by a previous victim. The truck with our ‘advisors’ had followed us and their leader now suggested a route that would see us through.
As the sun had all but set, the time for discussion was over – action was needed! Christophe had left the engine running, so no need to attempt a push start! Get her into 4×4 second gear and drive her through at a steady even pace. It seemed all so easy after we got through safely!