Island Greetings from Madagascar
Lazy days and balmy nights
Captain’s call to action
Stretched out on the deck, at first we scrutinized the horizon. Between Bossi heaving and swaying on the ocean and the heat of the day building up, it was not long before we were lured into a state of sloth.
Suddenly a high-pitched whizzing noise created a compelling call to action. All of us were alert and running amok, screaming and shouting. Chaos reigned...
Life on board the yacht
The previous evening we jumped on board with a tad more than just undies. We settled in and the following morning we left our overnight mooring spot. Our skipper, Willem, charted a southerly course from Nosy Bé. Our holiday had begun and as the boat moved, exhaustion took over from excitement and lack of sleep. It was a good opportunity to relax until we dropped anchor at the next bay.
The sluggishness didn't last long though. While we were moving we put fishing lines and lures in the water and started trawling. We decided to take turns to catch fish so that we all had a chance and Jacques was first, seeing that he was and still is the most ardent fisherman in the family. The first wzzz was heard as something took the line, Jacques jumped up, and the rest of us whirled in commotion around him. He grabbed the rod and following instructions from Willem, started reeling the fish in. He pumped and played the fish with rod tilting backwards and forwards. The fishing line disappeared into the depths of the water with very little left on the reel, his aching arms only just managed to reel enough of the line back in. I’m sure it’s the first time he sweated so much but he was determined to hold on to the rod and the fish. Potentially this would be the first biggish fish he could catch.
After struggling for about 20 to 30 minutes, he landed it. A very wide and happy smile soon replaced the exhaustion on his face. It was indeed a worthy prize after struggling for so long; a kingfish. Dinner sorted!
We moored at a beautiful island called Iranja. It consists of two islands linked to each other by a sandbar that is only accessible at low tide. On the bigger island there was a village and a school with a lighthouse on the top of the hill. The rudimentary steps leading up the hill was carved out of the clay on the slope of the hill, necessary because of poverty and difficulty of getting supplies to the island.
The rusty lighthouse, with gaps and bits missing was daunting to climb, but the view from the hill was quite spectacular. The school was very basic, but I am sure the inhabitants of the island were very proud that their children could be educated there. We’ve discovered when we visit isolated places, the locals always ask for books, something which is in very short supply. They are even happy if you give them an old magazine.
The smaller island had no inhabitants, although it now has a holiday resort. Occasionally there are a few travellers that camp and sleep overnight, then move on to another island or bay. There were no amenities on the island – no water or ablution facilities, apart from the sea and certainly no restaurants! We were very fortunate to have a very comfortable yacht as a base but just as fortunate to see it in its unspoilt state.
First lesson in diving
Back on the yacht, lunch was served and our chef, I think her name was Tsakina, had made us a lovely light lunch of chicken soup with noodles. Although the outdoor temperature was about 30 degrees Celsius, it was just what I needed to settle my stomach as it still took a bit of adjustment for me from land to sea.
No rest for the wicked
No time for an afternoon nap. Next on the agenda was our first diving lesson. After some theory, we then practised a bit. Paul had dived before, but our sons and I had never dived. What a performance to put on all that gear in the heat! Brand new stiff wetsuits refusing to slip onto sweaty bodies. Bought for conditions along the South African coast – not humid and hot Madagascar! By the time we were kitted up, with BC's, weightbelts and regulators, I felt like I was being squeezed by a cross between a boa constrictor and an octopus. I couldn’t wait to get in the water, which wasn’t much cooler than the air temperature. Our first dive was in about three meters of water. We had to practise using our dive equipment, but Philip was more interested in what was going on around him. We all chuckled when he started talking under water with his regulator in his mouth. We couldn't understand a word he was saying. He pointed at our audience: all kinds of tropical fish that swam around us and watched us with interest as we continued our lesson. Eventually our dive master had to force Philip to look at him and concentrate on mask clearing and buddy breathing.
Explore, swim and snorkel or scoff delicious delights
And so, our life continued, stopping off at islands and bays, we explored and observed the lifestyle of the local inhabitants. We swam and snorkelled and of course learnt how to dive. At night we moored in a sheltered bay where we always had a delicious meal –either ‘catch of the day’, prawns, chicken or tasty coconut crab. Then with hunger satiated and thirst slated, we could have a peaceful night’s sleep, rocking gently on the water. We were glad the mosquitoes didn’t bother us on the boat, like it would have in the thick of the vegetation.
Every time we sailed, the fishing lines were in the water. We were all rewarded with decent sized fish. When we had enough for our meals we stopped fishing eventually, because there was no place to keep it.
Ablutions or drinking water?
At one of the bays on the mainland, we met up with locals and were hoping to supplement our water from their supply. They took us to a small stream where they were scooping their daily supply with a coconut shell attached to a long stick – possibly bamboo, into a container. Quite an arduous task. The appearance of the water didn’t quite look suitable for human consumption. Needless to say, we declined their offer because it would take even longer to fill our tanks, shell by shell. Our deck hand, Albert, decided it was a great opportunity for him to have a shower seeing fresh water on board was limited.
At that stage we were all adapting very well to the lifestyle on board and had already spent half our time on the yacht. It was time to turn around and head back to Nosy Bé for some fresh supplies then go north… for a premeditated meeting. Will tell all next week, as usual!
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