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Christophe’s itinerary included one night of ‘camping, please bring a sleeping bag’. As regular readers of the Cactus Trip Diaries might know, camping is not my favourite activity in a ‘looking for plants’ trip. As usually we fly into cactus country, we are keenly aware of checked-in luggage limits, normally one case weighing 23 kg. Once you look at what is available in terms of camping equipment, it’s easy to see that the equipment can take up most of the weight allowance. The afternoon before the planned camping event has to be spent shopping for provisions, it’s best to arrive at the chosen site while there is still day light, the ground where you lay down your sleeping bag seems to get harder and less comfortable as you get older and the next morning it’s best to wait until the sun has dried off the dew that has wetted the outside skin of the tent, before packing it away. Increasingly, I wake up with a headache due to the amount of wine consumed to act as an anaesthetic to cope with the hard ground.

So, as the night under canvas approached (tomorrow) I decided to ask Christophe for a bit more information. Was this event in permanent luxury tents, with beds etc? He laughed, not at all. Was there an alternative option? Not really. Ah well, it’s only for one night, but I wasn’t looking forward to it!

I turned to the internet and Triadvisor to learn more about last night’s stay at Sous le Soleil de Mada and found an excellent 5/5 review by SSSuchan from Canada who had stayed here last year:

‘This is a peaceful hotel set on a high plateau surrounded by farmland and villages. Construction of the complex started 11 year ago by the owner and was completed with the help of the local Zafimaniry people. The hotel consists of one main building which serves as the dining hall. The rooms are small private bungalows scattered about the property. All of the buildings on the site are constructed using Zafimaniry methods, design and materials.

The rooms are clean and smartly decorated. The bathrooms are small but efficient with constant hot water provide by an in-room instant gas heating system. Electricity is provided via generator but only for a few hours a day. I found the bed to be quite comfortable. Being winter it was extremely cold but the bedding provided ample insulation for a good night of sleep.

I only had one dinner at this property and both preparation and the quality of ingredients were excellent. Breakfast was less spectacular but it was good nonetheless.

Service here was exceptional. Brigitte and her son Pierre are both on site and they are warm, kind people who are constantly attentive to the needs of their guests. Conversation was pleasant and guests were treated to some of their flavoured rums. The local staff whom they employ were friendly and efficient as well.

The property offers opportunities to sit around a fire pit, lounge under the stars or just sit back and relax. Due to the location and availability of resources some things being very basic and availability of some things cannot be guaranteed but there is much here to make up for any lack. Definitely worth a stay.’ I totally agree!

Ravenala madagascariensis

Ravenala madagascariensis, a.k.a. the ‘traveller’s palm’, native to Madagascar.

I has been looking for a nice specimen of Ravenala madagascariensis, that is native and kind off a symbol of Madagascar and here, in the garden was the above plant. It is not a true palm but is closely related to the southern African genus Strelitzia and the South American genus Phenakospermum.
Back on the road, we made one stop, a low hill S3524 to see
Kalanchoe tomentosa

Kalanchoe tomentosa

Madagascar Tree Boa - Sanzinia madagascariensis

Madagascar Tree Boa – Sanzinia madagascariensis

Also on this site, Christophe found this large snake, a Tree Boa, in the grass. We were reassured that there are no poisonous snakes on the island!   The Aloe here is:
Aloe conifera

Aloe conifera

We had lunch on the terrace of Hotel Aloes, apparently with an Italian owner, judging by the plaques on the wall:
Ferrari Fan Club

Ferrari Fan Club

There was a similar plaque for Juventus.

We had been bumped by the Hotel that Christophe had booked due to the arrival of a coach party of some 20 French tourists. They felt bad about the double booking, but I could see the economic sense of it. They had found us rooms in the house owned by a former Madagascar minister who had moved to the capital before she was sacked on corruption charges. The rooms were comfortable but the shared toilet and shower facilities were a little primitive with state of the art toilet, washbasin and shower – but no running water – the water pipes to the house were still stored in the garden. So there were large water tanks with smaller containers to fill up the cistern to flush the toilet or to pour water (cold) over yourself to have a shower.  When we got home from dinner at the original hotel, the landlady in our hotel asked if we wanted some hot water for a shower. Thanks, but she was too late.

While waiting for dinner, we witnessed guests running wrapped in bath towels from the shared shower cubicles down stairs to their rooms upstairs, past the dining room. Serves them right for pinching our rooms!

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