(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)
Monday, March 16, 2009
we arose for our 6:00 am pick up and went on to the airport. After much teasing about the tiny plane we would be on, we boarded a plane that held about 40-50 people so not so bad.
when we landed, the usual gaggle of fellows awaited us, pressing for taxi service and touting the hotels they knew. We sat on the terrace and debated where to stay ... each of us consulting our guides (one French, one English)... JY's won out and we headed for le Mangoustan.
the road paving quickly disappeared and the ride was spent dodging potholes and rocks. Every glance out the window viewed paradise ... lush greenery and pristine waters.
le Mangoustan was positioned on a cove, the bar and terrace were quite welcoming. A week's bungalow stay was 36 euros. no, there is no typo there. Before you get too excited, let me tell you the accommodations were spartan. There was a sink and shower with cold running water but the toilets had no evacuation. So you had to fill a bucket with water and pour. The bed was clean and covered with a mosquito net. The bungalow exited to the sea ...
This little spot had loads of potential ... amazing position, charming buildings ... but the host didn't seem completely aware of all aspects of running the place. more on that later.
I immediately changed clothes and decide to swim a bit. this little islet wasn't far from the beach. I began wading out and discovered the ocean floor was covered with sea urchins in this spot. spiny sea urchins. I did have on my rubber diving/swim booties but they wouldn't offer great protection from the spines so much caution was required. I made it out to the islet and looked around. not much going on there! so I returned and strolled the beach. Thus commenced my two weeks of shell collecting. It is impossible to describe the treasure trove of amazing shells littering the beaches. Huge shells, shimmering porcelains, every shape and color ... so many in perfect condition it was hard to choose. and coral too. This was to be a daily pastime.
We rented bicycles from our host and headed for the village. This is a very poor country. As we rode, we observed many one room bungalows, wooden mostly though some were stucco. Some had dirt floors. Some of these bungalows had little shops set up in front of them. Basically a few shelves with bottled drinks, candies, a platter of home made food. I saw refrigerators in some, but when we stopped to buy a drink and asked for it cold ... we learned the refrigerators weren't operating.
We continued to town as we wanted to exchange our euros for some ariary, the local money. As we rode, we noticed the seats on our bicycles left much to be desired! especially with the conditions of the roads ... and the fact that my padding in certain areas has disappeared! who knew I'd miss my cushy ass?!
It was hot. No I don't have a thermometer reading but I'd guess it at low 90s. and humid. We rolled into town and parked our bikes. Four men in security-type uniform sat outside the bank so we felt our bikes were safe. We entered the bank around 10:30 and got on line. and proceeded to wait. By around 11:45 it was my turn and my 100 euros yielded 250,000 Ariary!! talk about a bank roll. it was hard to put in my sac.
We nattered around a bit and returned to the hotel. I'd guess the ride to and fro to be 2km. Our asses were chapped. We showered (cold water was good by now) and lounged about the terrace drinking beer and then rums. Dinner was really nothing special...in fact the food here left much to be desired. The owner sat with us most of the time, like we were long lost friends.
The next day we rented a motorcycle. This proved to be a big adventure. So big, I'll have to save it for the next installment.