Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rock Climbing in Andringitra

January 15, 2013

After Thanksgiving, 7 of us decided to head a little further south to Andringitra National Park, home of the highest peak in Madagascar.  The park is definitely off the beaten path.  We had to take 2 taxi-brousses south to a tiny town and then walk about 9 km to get to the places to camp.  The actual park entrance was an additional 5 km.  After spending the first night all together, the group decided to split into two to pursue different activities.  Jessie, Eric, and I remained at the campground to pursue some light hiking and sweet rock climbing (my first outdoor climb!) while the other group decided to do the 2.5 day trek to Pik Boby, the highest peak in Mada.  But before splitting up, we decided to head up to the nice hotel to visit the lemurs and have dinner.  It is baby season for the ringtail, and they all have twins!! They were sooo cute.

So after dropping the other kids off with their packs at the park entrance the next morning, Jessie, Eric and I took a shorter (4 hour) hike to a peak called chameleon, with a giant rock that really does look like a chameleon.  The next day, we rented climbing equipment and a guide to take us climbing.  The first thing we did was hike to the starting point (which was blazing hot and nearly an hour itself) and then we did 2 pitches of a 3 pitch climb up the mountain.  This meant that the guide went up and laid the rope for us to belay.  Then, we can go up until the end of the rope (first pitch) and clip ourselves to the rock and sit while he lays the work for the next climb (second pitch).  So cool!  The view was amazing.  Then we came back down and did some sport climbing, which is more like what you would see at a climbing gym.  It was a big boulder with 3-4 different ways you could go up.  So we spent the rest of the day doing that ad cooking dinner together with the staff at the camp site, who got a big kick out of us speaking gasy.

The next day, we went back to the boulder without the guide, since we already knew the way and Jessie and Eric are quite experienced climbers.  We climbed around for a bit while we waited for the rest of our crew to come back down the mountain so we could start heading back to Fianar.  Part way through the morning, a ringtail lemur popped up from behind a tree and bounded up the path that had stumped the three of us for the last day and a half.  If only we could climb like that! It was pretty funny.

The rest of the crew surprised us and beat us back to camp, they must have booked it!  So tired and sore, we started the hike back to town to catch the two brousses back to Fianar to head back to Tana the day after.  Needless to say, we slept pretty well that night.

Overall, one of my favorite trips here in Madagascar.  I can’t wait to go rock climbing again!


Helllo everyone!  My apologies for the radio silence, but the last two months have been a whirlwind!! So backtracking to November and my trip to Fianarantsoa to spend Thanksgiving with a whole bunch of volunteers.  Fianar in itself is not a particularly notable town, but it is the next large town after Antsirabe heading south from the capital.  We also have a large number of volunteers stationed around it and our own transit house there, making it a great place to have an even together.

I headed down from Tana to Antsirabe with a few other volunteers to break up the trip.  So on actual Thanksgiving, we stayed the night in Antsirabe and had amazing bleu cheeseburgers.  Very American!  I also got to skype my parents, sister, and cousins celebrating at my house in the states, which was great fun.

The next day, we began our trip down to Fianar, picking up a few more volunteers along the way.  Most of us stayed the night in a hotel, because our transit house there only has 6 beds and there were over 30 of us!  We went out on the town to celebrate our friend Cha Cha’s birthday, her last one here in Madagascar as she is in the group leaving in May.  My friend Christina and I turned in a bit early to watch the new twilight movie (yes, judge me, but they are hilariously terrible.  Also Helina Misikir I miss you and watching those movies!!!!)

The next day was Saturday, the day we had decided to celebrate Thanksgiving.  We had 3 different houses that people were cooking at all day, starting with killing the turkey at about 6 am.  Eric, Emma, and I made guacamole (because Emma’s town is the only place we have seen avocado in the off season) and stove top stuffing (because Eric brought it back from American with him).  People made delicious turkey, chicken, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, green beans, and all kinds of other wonderful things.  We also got to share the day with a few Malagasy guys to attend an English club with some of our volunteers.  They got to see what a real starchy, delicious, fattening experience American holidays are.

Of course, following the meal I felt a need for a nap, but also the need to watch American football.  Not only because my family always watches the lions play the packers on Thanksgiving, but because that Saturday was the OHIO STATE MICHIGAN GAME and I had wifi at the hotel.  However, I discovered very quickly that ESPN and Big Ten Network have changed their websites so you need to provide your cable information.  So I spent awhile trying to find a different website and managed to get small 5 second clips of the game.  So that was disappointing (as was the score) but I did cheer my boys in blue on ESPN gamecast.  Better than nothing!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well and I can’t wait to spend it back in the states again.