Jun 28 2007

South Africa to Madagascar

Jeffrey Larson

We’re now in Madagascar, and this posting is coming straight from Antananarivo, the capital of this interesting country.
Since we last posted… Internet has been hard to come by. Between lack of availability and it being the national holidays this last couple (many things are closed), just haven’t made it. We have so many photos to share with you guys, but the connection isn’t great so you’ll have to wait.

Hmm, now where to start. We had a day of diving in Cape Town before we left South Africa. It was great, pretty much a full day, with 2 dives in False Bay, 2 different locations. There was lots of active coral, anenomes, sea urchins and even a seal. We swam through kelp and a couple caves (with light at the end), took some cool under water photos too! We finished the day with a delicious seafood platter at the waterfront in Cape Town, sitting outside at the Hildebrand restaurant while the sunset sipping local cabernet sauvignon. We called that our anniversary and birthday dinner… it was awesome.

The next day, don’t worry you divers, it was a full 18 hour interval after our multiple dives, we had 3 flights. Cape Town to Joburg (SA), Joburg to Fort Dauphin (Mad), and Fort Dauphin to Antananarivo. We weren’t expecting to have to fly through Fort Dauphin to get to Antananarivo (Tana), but that’s the way it went. We had to clear Madagascar Customs there and get our Tourist Visa’s. It was all fine, we were glad we didn’t have 3 surf boards to carry through customs as some of the South Africans on the same flight did. We stayed in Ivato that night, which is the small town where the Tana Airport is. We paid way too much for a taxi that was falling apart, to get to our hotel which was only a few meters away, well, you have to learn somehow. Another thing we learn that day too, was to either try and buy Malagasy currency in SA, the ariary, or bring a lot more smaller euros when arriving here.

The next day we were to fly to Toliara at 11:45am so we made it to the airport an hour before. Well the flight had been changed now, to 2:25pm, argh! Anyway, we hung out in the airport as we couldn’t find anywhere to store our luggage in lockers, and we weren’t allowed to check in earlier. At 1:25pm we checked in no problem, passed through security. We waited a little bit extra to get on the plane but not too bad. We had read that Air Madagascar (aka Air Mad) was infamous for being late, slow, problems, cancellations, etc. Anyway, after taxiing around the tarmac and actually accelerating for take off we stopped and were told that there was “technical problem” and we needed to deboard. While we were sitting back at the gate, Sarah looked out the window, saw a bunch of people standing around our jet’s dismantled engine and laughing. Sarah and I were trying to figure out if we were ever going to get to go to Toliara, so we sketched out alternate potential plans. We re-boarded the plane a couple hours later and this time our fingers were crossed. We taxied, accelerated, and took off! Awesome, finally we get to go where we’re going, only 6+ hours after we had originally expected. That’s not the end of that story. About 5-10 minutes into the flight we circled back and we were told that due to more “technical problems” we were going back to land. This time we got off and they gave us indication that they were bringing in another plane. The next time we boarded, this is the 3rd try, we took off and actually arrived in Toliara! Yeah! Only 9 hours after we expected… alright Air Mad! Anyway, we stayed in the most expensive hotel we knew of in Toliara, which was about $60 CDN. We needed a comfort.

The next day (June 23) we took a taxi on a sand road North, to Ifaty, which is a string of 3 fishing villages on the coast. The road was very poor-giant potholes strung together by mounds of sand and who knows how old chunks of asphalt- to be precise, it took more than 1 hour to go the 25 or 30 kms. The hotel we checked into in Ifaty, well it was in the village of Mangily, was called Hotel Vovotelo. It was awesome, we had a little bamboo bungaloo (read shack, nice though) right on the white sand beach in front of the torquoise water of the Ifaty lagoon, Atlantic Ocean. Sarah woke up the next day with a terrible head cold/clogged nose so could not dive, with the shop next door, Le Grand Bleu. I (Jeff) went without his lovely wife, she was in bed resting. The dive was a sweet 26 metres with just the owner of this dive company, Richard, originally from South Africa. I saw some sweet line fish, a scorpion fish, some cool coral, and a giant potato bass which was huge (40 kg!). We hung out on the beautiful beach for the rest of the day, before taking another bumpy taxi ride back to Toliara. Oh, so this taxi ride was amazing. We got to see how most of the people in this province live… in tiny villages of huts made of grass and branches from bush. Fires, mostly naked children running around, chickens, mangy dogs, zebu (Madagascar’s Cow) pulled carts, many women carry more than I think I could lift up on top of their heads, like a different planet.

So much more to say, so watch for the next part posted here.

Jun 19 2007

Cape of Good Hope & Robben Island

Jeffrey Larson

Today is our third wedding anniversary and we had a great time.

This morning we got up and purchased tickets for the ferry/tour to Robben Island, which is the island near Cape Town where Nelson Mandela spent 17 years in a prison. We then drove out to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, there’s a cool park there.

The drive out was cool, through small beach towns the whole way, about an hour South of Cape Town. We walked up to the old lighthouse at Cape Point and had lunch on the rock at the Cape of Good Hope, which is the South-western most point of Africa. On our way there in the park, we saw an Ostrich, he crossed the road right in front of us, cool!

We hurried back to catch our ferry, and had to run from the parking lot to catch it. Made it just in time. The view of Cape Town from out on the water towards Robben Island is nice.

The tour guide on the bus that drove around the island told us about the island, it’s landmarks and also about some of the political prisoners that were treated so poorly there. He made an appeal to all of us to stop racism, and it was very touching as he shared his experience having been a black man affected by the apartheide system here in South Africa.

Tomorrow we are doing a couple scuba reef dives from the shore of False Bay. Should be pretty fun, I’m excited to try out our new skills and test out my new diving camera case.

Cape Town has been really great to us, we’re having a fantastic time. At the same time, we’re stoked at the change it will be to check out Madagascar which should be quite a lot different.

Jun 17 2007

Cape Town

Jeffrey Larson

Hello from Cape Town.

We arrived last night at about 7pm. After a bit of a kafuffle (ie forgot which rental car company we went through…) we managed to find our car and our hostel in Cape Town. The car is a VW Polo – we both think it’s pretty sweet, wouldn’t mind trading it with our Jetta (:

Today was fantastic. Cape Town has certainly lived up to my high expectations thus far. It is a lovely city – maybe not the “prettiest in the world” as some have told us, but on the Top Five for sure. Today we took a cable car up to the top of Table Mountain which allowed us to see the whole of Cape Town from 1088meters. We took a hike down (Platteklip Gorge) which was quite nice (but we missed all of our hiking buddies from Canada!). About half way down this storm just flew in. The top of the mountain was covered in dark angry clouds, we’re glad that we made it down before the torrential downpour. After the hike we took a drive trying to get to the Cape – but the rain was coming down too hard, we’ll go another day. Now it is beautiful, clouds have rolled away.

We have quite the trip planned for Cape Town. Tomorrow we go wine touring in Stellenbosch. Tuesday we reef dive in False Bay. And Wednesday we will tour Robben Island (the prison that kept Nelson Mandela) and the jackass penguin colony near Simon’s town.

We’ve posted some pictures from Kruger National Park – more to come over the next several days.

Jun 16 2007

Kruger Park

Jeffrey Larson

We spent 2 days in Kruger National Park here in South Africa with Sarah’s parents Dave and Donna. It was very cool, saw lots of wild animals including: leopard, elephant, zebra, rhino, hippo, and hundreds of impala. We’re at the airport going to fly to Cape Town where we’ll base from, with a rental car for 5 days. No time to post photos right now, but watch for them soon.

Thanks for the comments, keep them coming! It’s always great to hear from you guys at home.


Jun 12 2007

Day: 2

Sarah Marttunen

Guten Tag!
The first leg of our travel to Africa is nearly complete. We arrived in Frankfurt yesterday morning at 11:00am local time. After several laps around the airport we found the baggage storage and the train station. We hopped on a standing room only bombardier (200km/hr train!) and made our way to Heidelberg via Mannheim. By the time we settled in to our room at the Kranich Hotel we were ready to go to bed, unfortunatly it was only 2:00pm (6:00am MDT). After a short nap we walked into the town and had a delicious meal of schnitzel and spetzel – of course with a hearty German beer!
Today we checked out the 250yr old Schloss castle along with the Apotheke museum. With all the walking we’ve done, we’re all tuckered out for our flights to Dubai and then Jo-burg.
Stay tuned for more later!