"""" Madagascar

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Andasibe and Parc Perinet are, roughly, here >

Madagascar is actually a bloody big country, something we didn't quite realise before we went. It's the world's 4th largest island apparently, so you can absolutely forget about doing Madagascar, unless you've taken a few months off work.

The CIA factbook is quite interesting (honestly, I kid you not!) and can be found by clicking here.

We actually stayed in Andasibe village which is apparently not really the usual thing as there are a couple of resort hotels around, servicing one of Madagascar's biggest wildlife parks, Parc Perinet, which is why we were there. The Orchidee is a bit comically basic, but clean and quite familiar to experienced backpackers. It is run by quite possibly the most laid back individual the world has ever seen, but he is friendly and nice and it is a good place to stay.

Andasibe:

Next morning we walked down to Parc Perinet which is within walking distance of the village. We were up nice and early due to the morning call of the Indri (a kind of lemur, of which more later). The noise is generally described by travel writers as 'haunting', and we can confirm that is really like nothing we've ever heard before - almost like a gathering of hundreds of doleful ambulances singing songs of woe to one another - it really is impossible to describe. You have to hear it for yourself. The morning in the jungle is misty and cold and with the sound of the Indri echoing about the hills is one of the most affecting things we have ever experienced. Bewitching.

Some important points here: a/ it gets cold at night. This may be the jungle but bring something relatively warm; and b/ unless you're planning on doing serious trekking, you probably don't need specialist kit. We were too disorganised to bring any, but it was no big deal. I'd have appreciated a jumper though.

The Andasibe Gallery is quite big, click here to view...

Parc Perinet itself was a resounding success. We walked around Perinet on the first morning, you do have to get up early, and were rewarded with plenty of close up time with the Indri. They did their level best to shit all over us, but they are very tame and have no problem letting you get close. They're among the biggest of lemurs, I think, and really quite amazing animals. The next day we decided to pay a bit extra and go up to the bigger wildlife reserve at nearby Mantadia, which is primary forest and home to the Diamdemed Sifaka. Sifakas are a kind of lemur, much less domesticated than the Indri, and we wandered around the park all day before finally finding a small family group late in the day. They are amazingly beautiful creatures.

After our morning exertions we returned to Andasibe to have lunch at the amazing Hotel Buffet de la Gare. It is a decaying relic of colonial times that has played host to David Attenborough and Phil the Greek at various times in its illustrious past and we were rewarded with a fully dressed colonial dining room with no-one but us in it on both days. There was something quite surreal about the whole scene, but the food was good and we were able to wander down with a beer to sit on the platform and watch the antique train puff in and out of the station (once a week). We were also able to watch a basketball game on the dirt court across from the station and show some of the younger kids the wonders of modern digital cameras, which they found rather fascinating.

Hotel Buffet de la Gare:

Two days of not charging around was pretty much all we'd planned for, so on the third morning we packed up and wandered off to Moramanga again to change some money and strike out for Tamatave on the coast, before heading up North to Soanierana-Ivongo and the Ile Ste Marie.