After celebrating Thanksgiving with 37 other Peace Corps Volunteers and eating American inspired dishes (including turkey, chicken, mashed potatoes, cornbread, stuffing, guac, macaroni and cheese), some volunteers and I took a quick trip down to the National Park of Andringitra. Andringitra is off the beaten path. It involved two taxi brousses and a two and a half hour walk from the nearest village (an hour and a half to the camping grounds outside of Andringitra and then another hour to the village of Morarano that houses the offices for Andringitra Park.) Only hardcore backpackers and hikers take the time to travel to Andringitra and do the three day hike to Pic Boby, the highest peak in Madagascar.
First hour of the hike I had an asthma attack. But I calmed down, took deep breaths, and pushed through it. All I was thinking for the first day of hiking was “Heck no! I already paid for this, I will be hiking.” Scenically, it was one of the best experiences. The scenery changed from standard Betsileo of terraced rice fields, to a field of long flowing grass, endless rolling rock mountains, the “moon” (it was called such in Malagasy and really did look like the craters of the moon), “The Land Before Time” valley, a field of daisies, and so on. It was a wide range of scenery and absolutely breathtaking.
We camped at two different base camps throughout the trek, and bonded over how rude, demeaning, and tricky our guide was. “You can’t carry that because you’re a woman; you’re not strong enough”; “You know you really should have made a reservation”; “I’M the guide, I WILL tell YOU if we can make it”; “You’re too weak, you can’t make the journey” just to name a few. We fit four people in a two person tent the first night, until it got so hot and stuffy that we said “screw it” and figured out another plan.
After more than 5000 steps, a day and a half of hiking, and countless thoughts of “oh if I fall this is going to suck,” we reached the top of Pic Boby. I have never been so excited and yet so exhausted. Of course our guide instead of congratulating us for overcoming this feat mentioned that we should have made it to the top an hour and a half ago, but we didn’t care. Most travelers take 72 hours to climb to the top, we did it in just under 35. I would say that’s a pretty mazoto of us. So take that condescending guide!
All in all, it was an extremely rewarding experience; I wouldn’t classify it as fun because the entire time I was cursing the choice to hike it. But rewarding.
The view from the top. Pic Boby is in the upper left corner with the stack of rocks.
Getting ready to go out for dinner on Thanksgiving weekend.