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Day 11 - Ikaka to Baobabs, Tulear and Ifaty

MADAGASCAR | Tuesday, 11 May 2010 | Views [1367]

Ikaka is the name of the river running through a settlement that has literally sprung out of nowhere. The reason; beautiful, abundant and lucrative sapphires. The first was found just over a decade ago by a Swiss-Frenchman who we had the good fortune of meeting today. Since then, approximately two hundred thousand people have migrated from all over the world for a piece of the action.

All the mines here are open cut and still excavated manually by long trains of men (a guided tour by the big chief’s right hand man was 20,000Ar). It is apparently done this way to keep the locals employed and families happy.

The guides in the area have a tendency to tell their tourists that the town is dangerous. It does have a bit of that blood diamond feel about it, but we had no trouble and I’m not sure where the rumours are founded.

The road trip continued and the famous Baobab “bottle” trees finally made an appearance. No great forests like in the west, but quite a few great trees dotted through the countryside as we got closer to Tulear. They are absolutely enormous! It’s easy to understand why Baobabs have become such an icon of Madagascar.

We arrived in Tulear about 2pm and after saying farewell to our driver and lovely BMW, headed straight out to Ifaty by taxi brousse (3000Ar). A small beach town on the west coast, Ifaty is well known for its beaches and seafood, and is cheaper than the resort towns up north. The distance from Tulear is only 25km, however roads are so poor that the trip takes about an hour even with a 4x4.

 

The sun was just setting as we booked into our hotel, Auberge-inn (15,000Ar bungalow no amenities/20,000Ar with ensuite). There is no hot water or electricity and it’s lights out after 9.30pm. I’m writing my blog now by torchlight (btw, you can make a lantern by shining a torch through a bottle of water) but have somehow managed to trap a big fat mosquito inside my mozzie net. Shoo!

Tips for travellers: buyer beware! A group of men approached us on the beach claiming to be fishermen and offering their day’s finest catch as part of a full set dinner they would cook us on the beach. They asked us for a 10,000Ar advance to buy ingredients and we agreed on good faith. Things looked good so far, they didn’t just pick up and run. Unfortunately when the party returned with the goods, our fresh fish (that was advertised as fresh, if not still alive and kicking!) was day or possibly week old pre-grilled fish from the markets. We left after an argument and found food elsewhere but there was no getting around the fact our advance was non-refundable. Two little girls later told us it was a scam they’d been operating for quite some time now. It’s too bad, since there are a lot of legitimate fishermen in Ifaty out to earn an honest buck. So, the moral; check the goods first! It should apply to all purchases here!

 

 

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