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I like to move it mo..... hmmm Madagascar + Reunion (part 2)

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Joined: 19 Dec 2006
Posts: 2325
Location: BLR, DXB

PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2018 1:02 pm    Post subject: I like to move it mo..... hmmm Madagascar + Reunion (part 2) Reply with quote

Day 6

0600 alarm for a 0730 checkout. Hotel Nature Lodge was indeed 'natury' ... the roosters started crowing at 5am apparently 😜. Didn't bother me I slept thru that commotion but I did hear some 'clucking' from the geckos. We had this fairly large green fellow in the bathroom at night which meant R was very verryyy cautious when she went in that morning 😂.
Breakfast was nice but small. Fruits + mango juice and some homemade yogurt + crepes and bread. The bread was so so and the crepes were yum but we only got 2 each. What the heck 😕.

The drive to Ankarana was about 3 hours. We stoped a few times on the way to stretch our legs and when we spotted a few interesting chameleons and snakes. We also witnessed a funny fight at a village when we stopped to pick up water. Who knows what happened but it got really loud and within 3 minutes there were 100 people all cheering and laughing and egging on these 2 ladies going at each other Rolling Eyes Everyone (except the 2 involved) apparently had a good time.

We reached Ankarana Lodge and had a great welcome drink - corossol juice (soursop in English). A white fruit juice tasted like a mild guava and litchi? Maybe the litchi influence was just the colour. Anyway after a long bumpy drive it was cold and refreshing.

Ankarana National Park - The highlights were the Tsingy and Hanging Bridge.

Dried up river bed.

Tsingy = translates to 'tip toe'. When the inhabitants walked on the surface they had to walk slowly (no shoes back then 😜) .... apt name.
The Tsingy used to be underwater at some point of time (how many ever millions of years ago) and the limestone rock is made up of fish bones and sea shells. Madagascar was attached to India so when it split this limestone mixture came up as the continents moved. The back rock is volcanic rock mixed in.
The extent of the Tsingy used to be much more, but over time the rain + acid rain broke it down. The Tsingy Tsingy is about 30km wide.

After walking under the hot sun on the jagged rocks this chap was hogging our rest spot.

We saw lots of these guys

The famous Baobab tree has an Arabic name. It means 'fruit with several seeds' in Arabic, these trees compete with one another to grow and reach the sunlight.
The baobob fruit isn't eaten in Madagascar, but they eat it in Africa. No idea why ....
Not a particularly healthy looking one

The Adenia or adenya- same family as the baobab tree. It looks like a giant onion Laughing and has creepers which climb trees in search of sunlight. It never flowers though it just looks like a big ole onion with vines coming out. It also has roots. Basically it has no human use, they don't eat it nor use its leaves or whatever- I just like it because it looks like a giant onion.

Dinner at the lodge was so so, I had a fish soup + pasta, R a beans starter and lasagne. We played with the resident puppies that was a plus!

Day 7

0700 checkout and another 3 hour drive to the port of Ankify.
Timber is one of the countries big exports, Rosewood being the most popular. China buys most of it and now the UK, but basically there's global demand. It's ALL cut from the forest, none is farmed. Sad face. Crying or Very sad On the drive to the coast it was depressingly evident. On one part of the hill was the edge of the forrest, on the other (as far as the eye could see) was all flat, recently cleared to make way for farms and crops.

Halfway to Ankify we stopped at a cocoa plantation (but they also grew a bit of vanilla and coffee ... probably just a touristy thing).
Cocoa is Madagascars third largest export behind coffee and vanilla. They grow 3 varieties (pollinated normally by the bees/wasps etc.) The cocoa fruits are plucked and the seeds separated into 'first' and 'second' based on colour- that's basically good quality and normal quality. The fleshy part of the fruit is edible (it tasted similar to a sour lychee) but the main use of course are the seeds which are fermented then separated and laid out to dry for a week.

Did you know Vanilla is a type of orchid? I had no idea, not that ill remember this. They are epiphytes which need to be planed next to support trees (Jatrpopha at this plantation) then they grow quickly. The flowers are pollinated by hand (no mother nature) and the excess flowers cut. The pods are plucked and fermented for a day and then put to dry for a whole month! (disclaimer .... I think thats what the guide said Cool ).

We were sucker tourists and bought some cocoa for hot chocolate and vanilla extract. Here's a random pineapple

We reached the port in good time and thought we were taking a normal public boat to the island of Nosy Be, but it turned out to be a private speedboat 🤔. Took about 30 mins to the port of Hell-Ville then another 20 mins drive to Palm Beach hotel.

We had one day of not doing anything at the Palm Beach Hotel at Nosy Be.

Day 8

Lazy morning got to sleep in till 9!! Haven't been able to do that in days. Left the hotel for Nosy-Be airport at 1400 can’t say we did much all morning. Had a huge breakfast, chilled by the pool and beach, caught up on whatsapp and emails (WiFi after a few days). Just spent the time lazing around doing nothing.

MD-321 (1650-1755)
5R-EBA = 737-800

NOS = Nosy Be, Fascene Airport
MJN = Mahajanga, Amborovy/Philibert Tsiranana Airport
TNR = Antananarivo (Madagascar) , Ivato International

Air Madagascar MD-321 turned out to be very very interesting. NOS was a typical tiny regional airport, a shack. But an international shack 😜. The domestic side had 2 check in counters but only one manned. Thank god we got there early and were second in the queue because the line wasn’t moving. There was some problem with the computers and we stood around for over half an hour. They had ceiling fans but it was a hot and only 10-12 or so lucky people managed to squeeze in the building the rest of the line snaked outside. Finally the hand written boarding passes came out and the line started moving ever so slowly. Around the corner was security check and then the waiting area. Had a nice view of Air Austral 737 and then our 737-800 arrive.
That's the check in, the counter on the right wasn't used.

Well ok it may not have been hot, but it couldn't have been comfortable standing outside for 30 mins a bit hot and humid.

Our boarding passes had no seat numbers so when people thought boarding was starting everyone jumped and formed a line (no info screens it was basic the staff just opened the door and only one flight at a time so you knew when your flight was called). Thankfully (again) since we were one of the first to check in we were sitting in a strategic spot and were towards the front of this line. 5R-EBA it was, her interiors were a bit old but we got the emergency exit row which reclined= so far so good. The flight wasn’t full, just less than half so I guess not having assigned seats wasn't a huge deal. Boarding was late and we sat in the aircraft waiting and waiting without the APU. It got hot practically everyone was fanning themselves with the magazines. The cabin crew made the most helpful announcement .... I'm kicking myself for not remembering what they said but something along the lines of “we are sorry for the delay in departure because we are not ready to depart”. Rolling Eyes Laughing Laughing

We finallyyyy left maybe :30 mins late? :45 mins flight time announced which made sense to me coz it was a 1:05 block. Quick up and down sector with only sweets offered. During descent they made a curious announcement “all passengers to Antananarivo please remain on the aircraft” 🤔. Ehhhhh. Maybe we heard wrong or it was something lost in translation. We were over water which was odd, TNR is nowhere near the sea. Hmmmmm my geography isn't that bad? It was dark but a few minuted before landing we overcame our disbelief and figured out we weren't at Tana heheheh. Landed, taxied and parked but couldn't see any airport signs. I turned on my maps and asked a crew when one eventually walked by= we were at Mahajanga airport..... cool a new airport added unintentionally to my list I didn’t mind one bit. It was a longish turn around, very few pax got off and on, waited :20 mins at least after door closure then another announcement of a :45 mins flight. No destination mentioned, should we be worried? Naaaahhhhhh. Again an identical short hop sector only candy offered but this time we landed at TNR. Parked over 2 hours behind the original schedule.

Our guide and driver were waiting fo us poor chaps even they had no idea. There are no information or arrival screens at Tana. They thought our flight was just delayed 2 hours (quite normal apparently) and were surprised when we said we made a quick stop at Mahajanga on the way. When the tour company mentioned Air Madagascar was highly unreliable I didn't think they meant changing destinations and timings without telling anyone 😂

By the time we got to the Pallisandra Hotel it was late past 2100. Ate across the street at the same little French run cafe and time for bed.

Day 9

How confusing is this Confused Confused
Which genius made a 500 and 5000 the same colour. And then went ahead and made another 5000 a different colour, so two same denomination notes have different colours. Weird.

Exploring the city on our last day ... a bit out of sequence Razz but we haven't spent any time in Antananarivo so not that weird I guess. Had the usual yum breakfast at the hotel, ate lots of crepes and head out for our city tour. The first stop was the Royal Palace (Rova Antananarivo) built on top of the hill overlooking the city. Multiple structures of the palace complex were built/rebuilt over the centuries but the largest building the Queens Palace was built in 1839. Originally the palace was constructed using wood. During the time the belief was wood symbolised life while stone symbolised death (tombs). The wooden palace was burned down in 1994 an now rebuilt in stone.

Info :
- The name Antananarivo means 'city of a 1000 soldiers' because the King at the time used 1000 soldiers to protect his city.
- The countrys most popular sport is rugby, they're not particularly good at football 😜

The palace gates are protected by 2 pillars, atop one sits a Madagascar (serpent?) Eagle statue gifted by Napoleon. This eagle is an endemic bird which apparently sounds like a frog 😜. Unsurprisingly it's considered a symbol of power.
The other pillar is literally a phallic symbol, a circumcised penis 🤔. For the Malagasy circumcision was a right of passage to adulthood- nothing to do with religion it was just local custom.

- 1787 the first king united the island.
- 1896 the monarchy lost power when the French took over. They exiled the Malagasy queen to Algeria where she died.
- Madagascar got their independence from France in 1960, technically they are a democracy now with a President + Prime Minister etc but they're had their share of military dictatorships in the past.

The older Kings Chambers were made of wood, the bed was in the corner of the room and the King slept on top (similar to a bunk bed), the bottom was used for prayer.
The room had a place for visitors, the King never greeted them. He used to climb stairs and hide in a tiny room above while the Queen received the guests. The king would listen in on the gossip and signal the queen yes/no by dropping a tiny stone on (id hope next to) her. Not dropping the stone meant he wasn't interested and the queen made some excuse saying the king wasn’t available.
Dropping the stone meant he would receive the guests, the queen would tell them the King is in another area of the palace and they would meet there.

Made a quick stop for lunch then got dropped to Ivato Airport. First time on Air Austral and a short hop to the French territory of Reunion.
My starter (bottom) was the garlic escargot. Desert was not good.

UU-612 (1750-2010)
F-ONGB = 738

TNR = Antananarivo , Ivato International
RUN = Reunion , Roland Garros Airport

Check in was super fast and an easy departure form to fill out. Passport control and baggage claim were also super quick as expected no lines at all. A few duty free shops and lots of seating. Definitely more of an ‘airport’ feel than the domestic side. I was flying standby and Ojas Loadmaster had updated me on the loads so not much apprehension about getting offloaded. Thanks once again 😜👍🏻
Turkish was boarding, and a few more than 20 people this time got on the 330 to IST (via MRU) ... but not a whole lot more. I’d be interested to know how many people they carry onwards/from Tananarive 🤔
At the waiting area (at the gate past customs/security etc) they were making announcements about check-in closing for our flight? Hehehehe Maybe the same PA system through the whole terminal?
Boarded at 1655 for what looked like a 70% load on this colourful 737. A good looking 737 wow rarity. Everything either happens early or late here? We must have been airborne 20 mins before departure.
A lot of security and checks on the ramp. First we had to identify our check in luggage then get our hand bags opened and rummaged thru. Lastly a quick sweep of the metal detector. A security guard asked me not to take pictures (but didn’t make me delete what I already took). Soft French music was playing when we boarded. A lot of J seats, 18 of them. Wow. Nothing much to say about the cabin, drop down screens which showed a moving map and a manual demo by the cabin crew.

Tiny fleet, 3x 77W + 2x 788 + 2x 738 + 1x ATR72-500

Landed at 1935 followed by a short bus ride to arrivals. The ramp at Reunion- Saint Dennis had more heavies than BLR Airport 😜. 1 AF 777, an Air Austral 787+777 and a mighty Corsair 747.
3 counters open for passport control (5 mins) and bags were on the belt by the time we got there. Some chap tried to take my silver suitcase from the conveyor belt good thing Ruks saw him. He even looked at the baggage tag and walked away confidently. Fool. His suitcase was he same colour and size but had around 50 stickers on it ..... mine had zero 😶.

Our hotel Le Saint Alexis was on the north western side of the island 32 km from Roland Garros Airport. By the time we got to the room it was late and we were tired, ordered room service pizza and went to sleep.

Day 10-11-12

2 full days spent chilling in Reunion. Basically lots and lots of crepes and fish (mainly capitaine and grouper and sea bass) were consumed (separately) and lots of sleep. Quite a lot of croissants as well 😋. The days started off with a leisurely yet huge breakfast with lots of crepes (should be obvious by now I love them). Sugar overload. Skipped lunch one day. Evenings were spent at the restaurants by the beach. Lazy 2 days.

The one on the left of the fishies tasted like a dal pakora.

I must must come back here there’s so much to do. These last few days of our trip were just to relax but next time there’s canyoning to mountain biking to river rafting to ultralight flying to ..... rent a car for a few days and you’re set. It is expensive tho one downside.
These 3 nights and 2 days went by in a flash but it's finally time to go home. We started missing the dog days ago hehehee. The original plan was to take an afternoon flight to MRU and the night EK flight to Dubai but Loadmaster said the EK night flight was overbooked don’t even bother. To catch the afternoon EK flight MRU-DXB at 1655 we had to take an early morning 0700 departure from RUN which was bad news for a couple of reasons. 1- I would miss the breakfast at the hotel 😕. and 2- we had 9 hours between flights at MRU. Went to and booked a cheap hotel room next to the airport for $27. Check in ...... check out 5 hours later with some sleeping or roaming around in between = long 'transit' problem solved. I wish all airports had short term rooms that would make life easier.

UU-102 (0705-0750)
F-ONGA = 738

RUN = Reunion , Roland Garros Airport
MRU = Port Louis (Mauritius) , Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Intl.

Our pickup from the hotel was 0430 for our flight to Mauritius at 0705. The car showed up late which meant the driver drove to the airport like a madman. Check in took a while they had 3 counters open for this flight (looked like the only Air Austral flight checking in at the time) and the line moved slowly. 2 other airlines were busy checking in people, Air Mauritius had a flight 5 mins before ours and French Blue was headed to Orly.

No forms to fill out on departure, the check in lady handed us the Mauritius arrival forms (2 each) which is always helpful. Up the stairs and thru the automated boarding pass scanners and no line at passport control. Security was small, well laid out and hassle free.

The terminal kinda reminded me of BLR for some reason.

Great airside views with the ocean!

Our ride this morning was the other 738 UU has, so I’ve flown their entire Boeing narrow body fleet 😜. The window was a tad dirty so no good pics. An AF 77W pulled up besides us and a French Blue 333 (?) was on our other side. A UU 77W was besides him I guess MK had left already.
Pushed 10 mins late. The drinks service started rather quickly as expected on this very short flight, RUN-MRU is 144 miles a tad shorter than BLR-MAA. Top of descent in no time and we started our way down.
Touched down at 0750 after less than 30 mins in the air. Greeting us on the tarmac was a star alliance livery Lufthansa 343, a Condor 767, an Edelweiss 330 and a few MK wide bodies (2x 343, one 350 one 330)

A few hours of sleep at VG Residences, a small cozy and cheap accommodation 5 mins drive from the airport. I wouldn’t recommend staying there on vacation (not much to do in the area it would be way better to stay by the beach) but it was ideal as an in/out sleep break. Total cost = 900 Mauritian Rupees = $26 or 97 dirhams. Booked on the day before and I informed them in the comments section about a late check in + asked for a late 1430 checkout which they happily agreed to. The 'restaurant' (rather fast food joint) downstairs had decent/passable food.

EK-702 (1655-2335)
A6-EUT = a388

MRU = Port Louis (Mauritius) , Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Intl.
DXB = Dubai

Fun flight back, not much to say. They served 2 flavours of ice cream on board coconut and passion fruit- must be an island thing. Best of all they had coconut water which I’ve never seen before. Apparently it’s only for MRU flights but that was a nice touch.

Some salty fish starter. Tooooo fishy for me. Desert was good.

Thanks for reading.
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4685
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2018 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One always learns something new when one goes through stealthpilot's trip reports. Your geography lessons are superb: the places, the ways, the flora and fauna of the region, and here, local food and culture make a strong point as well. And all this in your inimitable style, with beautiful photographs.
The Tsingy descriptions took my breath away.
Interesting parts about the cocoa, and Jatropha: the latter is the bio-fuel plant. Vanilla: the second/third costliest spice. I have seen some plantations in India, in Goa and Kerala.
Antananarivo: fascinating pictures and descriptions!
The airline delay announcement...ha ha! Trust you to note such funnies.
(You seem to love crepes Smile I like the South Indian crepe pancake better...the dosA(i)!)
The scary baggage experience at Reunion- Saint Dennis...this is always my worst nightmare while travelling with checked-in baggage. I am glad Mrs.stealthpilot detected this in time!
Lovely MRU pictures.
Please keep it up...and coming!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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Joined: 22 Dec 2006
Posts: 5031

PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2018 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Super set of picutres .. and good airport coverage!!! .

The A359 of MK looks stunning!

Thanks for sharing ... awaiting your next TR!
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Joined: 19 Dec 2006
Posts: 2325
Location: BLR, DXB

PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sumantra wrote:

.... and you will remember these details no doubt. Your ability to throw up interesting facts always amazes me.
Dosa, then crepes for me as well 😋😋

avbuff wrote:

👍🏻 Need to get back to RUN at some point for sure!
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Joined: 16 May 2017
Posts: 48
Location: Bangalore, Ann Arbor

PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2018 7:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome Part 2! I thoroughly enjoyed the details on the wildlife and vegetation.
-The Air Austral livery looks really good! Really nice pictures! I personally love the A350 wingtip, extremely elegant. Thanks for sharing this with us Smile
Best regards,
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