Walking this paradise of giant trees, unique animals and coral beaches I went to Madagascar to admire the baobabs of Morondava, but I found an island 1,600 kilometer long that loved me for its varied landscapes: paddies, lush vegetation, animals as curious as lemurs and magnificent beaches south and north.
In Madagascar almost all it starts in the capital, Antananarivo (Tana for friends), a noisy city that spreads by 18 hills, with street markets, a lake and a palace. In Tana I became familiar with the local currency, the ariary, I learned that rice is the staple food and rented, with my friend Patrick, a French guide who has spent years on the island, an SUV to go to Morondava vehicle.
Tana Leaving everything changes. The urban chaos is diluted and overlook the Highlands, A green landscape of rolling hills, red soil and paddy fields. " The mixture of Africa and Asia in the landscape because the Indonesian island peopled ", Patrick tells me .We passed many Taxi Brousse , minibuses loaded in excess whose drivers risk their lives to earn a few minutes.
In Antsirabe, 160km south of Tana, the pousse - pousses (carts pulled by a man) Asian confirm the vocation of the island. Here the road is diverted to Morondava through a landscape where meadows where grazing zebu alternate with sugar cane plantations and forests depleted illustrating deforestation of the island. A mouthwatering samosas (typical South Asian dumplings) served lunch in one of the many stops next to the road.
Shortly before the first baobabs Morondava appear, reigning over the rice fields. They are the type Adansonia grandidieri, reaching 30 meter high. Baobabs only grow in Africa and the west coast of Australia, but in Madagascar live up to seven species. Hence to be known as "the mother island of baobabs” although the British writer Gerald Durrell (1925-1995) preferred fauna, whose protection is still devotes Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Just at the entrance of Morondava a poster announces the school Le Petit Prince with a drawing of the Prince de Saint-Exupery. Beyond, a dusty streets and a beach battered by cyclones Morondava become a soulless population.
When evening falls we approach the so-called Avenue of the Baobabs , close to the city. The slanting light of evening shadows lengthen and beautifies the red trunks, while a cart moving on the road. "I came from Tokyo just to see this," Japanese confesses me with tears of emotion.A few steps, a few baobabs entwine their trunks: the tree lovers.
About 200 kilometers north of Morondava is the Tsingy Bemaraha Park. It's like an enchanted forest of stone, with sharp limestone pinnacles that also populate the reserve of Ankarana in the north. Here we must be careful with the fady, the Malagasy word for taboo and indicating, for example, you should never point a tomb with your finger.
Madagascar is a large island you learn as you go devouring kilometers. In my journey south, herds of zebu and Malagasy shepherds, wrapped in colorful blankets, foreshadow the arrival in Ambositra. In this city jams pousse - pousses are repeated, but there is also a special agitation as Savika parties are held. We followed the crowd to a stadium where young people compete trying to mount threatening zebu horns.
A few kilometers away, around Fianarantsoa they are an ideal place for trekking through rice fields and villages minimal field. But it is in the gorges of Isalo Park with lakes and waterfalls, where the view of the ringed brings me back to Madagascar lemurs dreamed. Improvised settlements seekers sapphires, fever Madagascan gold, preceding later the return of baobabs in the region Tulear, a population that has sandy beaches and restaurants serving steak flavored zebu with spices on the island especially vanilla.
A few days later we flew north to the island of Nosy Be, where tropical vegetation surrounds beaches where fish, lobster and black coral abound. On the east coast of Madagascar there is a similar paradise in Sainte -Marie Island with palm fringed beaches and crystal waters.
Back on land, we follow the north coast by taxi - brousse to Diego Suarez, a city which left its mark French colonial presence. It was here that pirates founded in the seventeenth century, the utopian republic of Libertalia. "The spoils were divided equally," Patrick tells me, "but did not have the local population. One day down the Madagascan Mountains and ended with everyone and everything. “Long ago there is nothing of that ephemeral pirate republic, but on the main street of Diego Suarez a painted recalls the utopia that reigned in the north of this island dream.