Friday, November 11, 2011

We awoke to another bright blue sky and calm waters - it was too bad we were leaving so early in the morning. We packed our bags, knowing that we'd be packing again in Antananarivo to account for the fact that we couldn't have liquids, could have a personal item, etc. There were a lot of fisherman out early (6am, give or take) in their canoes, out looking for fish. Some of them were using nets, which we were told was a no-no, so perhaps they were out so early in the hopes no one would see them.

We had breakfast in the bar area, knowing that all the workers would essentially have the day off as soon as we left, so we wanted to eat and be done early so they could enjoy their day. We left the lodge just before 7, but not without a close call. Ernest asked if we had all our bags in the car, and we figured they were there, but in fact there was only 2 of the 4. The other 2 were still being brought over, so thankfully Ernest asked us that. On the drive out, we passed through the villages that Justin and Ernest had walked through the day before. There were far more many people out, doing their shopping and trading. We were told that every day, people from the mountains walk down 10km with a bunch of casava, which they trade for fish and other products, then walk back and sell whatever excess fish they have when they get back to the mountains. We were also told that casava has no calcium in it, and since that is the main staple of the area, that is the reason that many people's teeth are bad or missing.

The drive back to Fort Dauphin seemed a little rougher than when we came, but that could be from the drinking the night before. We got back to Fort Dauphin a little early, so the airport wasn't open yet. We were a little worried by how empty the airport was that our flight had been cancelled, but thankfully we were just early. So we went on an impromptu city tour, seeing the sights of Fort Dauphin. The natural scenery in Fort Dauphin is spectacular, with beach after beach on bay after bay. We were told that during the whale season, it is easy to spot whales just standing on the road above the beaches. Today we saw none, though. In addition to all of the beaches, there are also large granite peaks on the backside of the city, sticking up far above any of the buildings. It reminded us a bit of Cape Town, with all the beaches and the mountains so close to the water. Fort Dauphin, however, is just a relatively small town, best as we could tell.

Back at the airport, they opened the line for check-in about 5 minutes after we got there, and got checked in without hassle. We crossed our fingers that we would finish all of our Air Madagascar flights without issue, and that the Air France flights would be a non-event. After about 30 minutes, a bunch more people showed up, including what we think (we weren't certain) were the loud Americans from Berenty that had been feeding the lemurs at breakfast a couple days before. We thought it was them because they were about the same age, and also the same degree of loud and obnoxious. One lady was talking to her friend 20 feet away, where the entire waiting area could hear their conversation. Meanwhile, the people we had been seated next to for 30 minutes contuined to have their quiet conversation that we couldn't hear a word of. It's no wonder Canadian pins sell so well.

We were supposed to leave at 11:10, and then we were told 11:35. We ended up boarding just before noon, and leaving just after noon. We had a much bigger plane than our previous flights, and because of that the flight was considerably shorter than the one we took from Tana to Fort Dauphin. On the way out of Fort Dauphin, we tried to look for Manafiafy, but there were beaches and nice bays everywhere, making it impossible to distinguish one from another.

When we landed in Tana, we were greeted by Franck, who took us over to Hotel Colbert. Because the flight was delayed, our voucher for lunch was no good since the restaurant was closed, but Franck got the hotel to just transfer the voucher to dinner. At the hotel, we just backed up some of the electronic stuff, and watched International CNN on the television. After we got cleaned up, we went down to the bar, which was quite nice. It looked how a bar should look, with dark wood, dark leather couches, and all the acoutrements. The cocktails were also very good, and we got the bonus of Lionel Ritchie's Greatest Hits. Even though we hadn't heard most of the songs in 25 years, we somehow remembered a good deal of the words.

At dinner, we were trying to stay awake, which didn't make for the best meal. After dinner, we tried to find somewhere where we could sleep without it being obvious that we were sleeping. We had to leave our day room before dinner, so we found some seats in a less crowded part of the hallway, far from the front desk. Justin got some sleep, but only in fits and starts since he wasn't trying to look like he was sleeping. Franck picked us up at 9:30 sharp for the drive to the airport. By this time, we sort of felt we knew the way, if only in a general sense. Compared to daytime, there were only 10% of the cars and 5% of the people on the streets. While this might be considered a good thing, it led to instances like the car passing us going at least 100 km/h almost crashing into opposing traffic going close to the same speed. Perhaps slower was better after all.

At the airport, we got checked in without issue, and they were able to check our bags through to LAX. We thought we might not be able to, in that the US might not allow bags originally checked in Tana to make it onto a plane going to the US without more stringent security. By more stringent we mean not allowing 3 German men to walk right past immigration and right past the x-ray machine (setting it off no less) before the one attentive officer saw what happened and (we think) cussed out his co-workers to fix things. In the waiting area, we waited patiently for our flight (which was delayed), hoping we'd be able to get some sleep.