Thursday, December 10, 2015

My First Week in Nosy Komba

It's Wednesday here in Nosy Komba. So it's officially my third day here and I couldn't possibly be loving it any more.

It was an insane journey to get here from Antanarivo. There were actually five other people in the people all traveling here at the same time, so instead of taking a taxi brousse, we paid an extra $40 each and took a private van. Jacko, our driver spoke broken English but was really nice. 

We left from Tana at about four in the afternoon on Saturday. We stopped and got cash before taking off. We wound through the tight streets past rows and rows of stalls full of goods, mainly fruits or snacks or even raw meets just hanging out in the sun covered in flys. There were so many people it was insane. The streets were full of cars (even nice new cars surprisingly), scooters, and wooden carts pulled by zebus. 
Finally, we got outside of the main city. The landscape was stunning and as we drove over, down, and between large hills you could see for miles. Most of the land was open without any trees, just shrubs and some small lakes. The road was also insanely narrow, barely wide enough for a single car yet we would constantly pass huge trucks and such. 

After about an hour on the road it unfortunately started raining and our trip turned into a nightmare, at least for me. As many people who know me well know, I hate riding in cars when I'm not driving. It terrifies me for some reason. Planes, boats, motorcycles, whatever are fine, it's just cars that make me nervous. 

Well this drive was one for the record. For FOUR hours, we drove at night, in the pouring rain, on the tiniest, most winding road ever, with cliffs on either sides. I literally thought at one point that this is how it was all going to end. I have no idea how our driver could even see the road. It was horrible. I was also in the front passenger seat so I had a front and center view of the struggle. Seriously if we would have gone off the already narrow road by a foot on either side it would be unavoidable doom. I thought at the very least I was going to die of anxiety. I was also exhausted and I kept trying to make myself go to sleep so either A) I wouldn't know what was going on or feel the pain when we wrecked or B) at the very least the time would go by faster.  

Unfortunately, every time I would close my eyes and almost fall asleep we'd go around a tight corner and my eyes would slam open and my heart would start racing and I'd freak out again. It's not easy to put your hands in the life of some African dude you just met who barely speaks English. Especially when he answers his phone in the middle of all the madness.

Luckily though it finally stopped raining and we stopped for the night about an hour later. We went to some random restaurant. I ordered pasta and it had the weirdest taste to it that I couldn't eat more than two bites. Good thing it was only a dollar. The hotel we stayed in was pretty sketchy. My room was super hot and reminded me of a jail sail. We slept about four hours then got back on the road. 

The second day of driving was a lot better. There was no rain, and the road wasn't quite as windy. It was also a lot wider. So, for ten hours we watched as village after village went by. Each one consisted of a number of tiny huts made out of mud and sticks with thatched roofs of dried leaves. All the people would be outside either cooking or just sitting. There were some old people but lots of little children. It was really eye opening to see such truly poor people and how they live. They literally have nothing. And no opportunities either. I don't even know what they do all day. I didn't see much farming or any businesses. Just huts. Some people would be tending to zebus but that's about it. Speaking of zebus, they were constantly on the road. Our driver was always honking at them to get out of our way. Our driver was always honking in general. At virtually every car we saw, every person close to the road, and just basically at anything. And god forbid if there was a pot hole. He would literally slam on the breaks and drive all the way to the other side of the road to avoid them. I guess when you don't have much you take care of what you do have, in this case his car is in fact his livelihood.

About halfway through the drive we came up on a small town with a city center. We got out to stretch our legs and try to find some food. One guy actually took a picture of all of us. It was hilarious. I guess they don't see many white people. We were out of luck on the food though. One lady tried to sell us raw beef on a stick. About an hour later though we found a gas station with food though. Best Pringles and Fanta of my life. 

After ten long hours we finally arrived in Ankify where we caught a boat over to Nosy Be. It was maddening though because they loaded the six of us into a boat and made us wait for literally an hour and a half in the blazing sun. Meanwhile they loaded up two other boats that left before ours. It was frustrating. Once we finally made it to Nosy Be, someone from our program was there to meet us. Unfortunately since we were so late, we had missed the last boat to Nosy Komba, our final destination. After some talking and another hour and a half of sitting in a boat, we were able to take off. The boat ride took about forty minutes. 

At this point I was completely exhausted and had barely eaten in days. Looking around, I noticed the stars. They're insane. We have stars in Texas but I've never seen anything like this. It's like the stars aren't just in the sky, they are the sky. They surround you and seep into your soul. Looking at them literally makes me feel brain washed. It's beautiful. To make matters even better, there was bioluminescent algae in the water. So as the waves broke against the boat and across the surface of the water it glowed. Looking into the water was like looking into another galaxy full of stars. I was so tired and so relieved to finally be here, on Nosy Komba. It made it all worth it. 

The first thing we did once we got to camp was devour some food, which was rice with carrots, peas, some kind of sausage, and sauce. It was actually pretty good, but at that point I think I would have eaten almost anything. After we had a tour of camp I took a shower and went straight to sleep.

The first day here I had orientation where I learned some rules and more about Madagascar, Nosy Be, and specifically Nosy Komba. Then we went on a hike to Anpang the main village here. The hike took about 30 minutes and went along the coast. We had to traverse tons of boulders and walk across some beaches. The views are absolutely breathtaking though. Hands down some of the most raw and natural beauty I've seen in my entire life, all on the walk to town. 

A few pictures from the walk to the village. 

Anpang has lots of little shops and homes and some restaurants. It's exactly what I thought a little African village on a tropical island would look like. The only place on the island that has wifi is a restaurant at the end of the village up above the water. It's a really cool place with great food and burgers. Burgers! The food and everything here actually is really cheap. A pizza is like $3 and a burger and fries is $5. Even oreos here are cheaper than back home which makes zero sense. 

Also while we were in town, we went to the Lemur Park. Entrance only cost about a dollar which is hilarious. It was really neat though. A guide took us on a walk through the forrest and called "monkey monkey monkey" over and over in a weird tone and groups of them would come down to us. We fed them pieces of banana. It was literally one of my favorite things ever. I mean, you know you're doing something right in life when you're handing  feeding a lemur in Madagascar as it sits on your shoulder. You'd be surprised at how soft there hands are. Its like touching the softest leather in the entire world. 

We also saw some tortoises, boas, and chameleons in the park. 

Fun facts about Madagascar and Nosy Komba:
-Madagascar is the 9th poorest country in the world
-It is also the 3rd most unsanitary
-Polio is a major problem here, luckily I have had all my vaccinations
-On Nosy Komba, 50% of the population is under the age of 5, so there are little children everywhere
-80% of the tourists in the area are Italian, so a lot of the youth is actually learning Italian as well as English

Yesterday I had my first dives. We did a scuba review in the morning where we did mask clearing and just basic skills. Afterwards we did a turtle snorkel where we found three turtles. The procedure is to take a picture of the turtle and then when you get back to camp you use the marking on its shell to see if it is one of the ones they have identified before. All three turtles we saw were new individuals, which is great. After that I started studying fish species. I've learned quite a bit already which is really fun. I love being able to recognize the fish I see. The last even for the day was my first Advanced Open Water dive, which was a fish identification dive. We took slates and pencils with us and had to sketch five different fish. Once we got back we had to identify them using books. It was so much fun. It was like playing underwater pictionary. 

Today was a lot more relaxing with more free time. I had another AOW dive this morning which consisted of Peak Bouyancy Performance. It was fun as well. We had to maneuver through an obstacle course and knock weights down with our regulators, as well as other hovering control exercises. 

The rest of the day I've been relaxing. Went for a swim and threw the frisbee around on the beach. I have to turtle watch here in a few hours. UPDATE: I saw 18 turtles in the span of thirty minutes. 

Camp is really cool here. There is a main house that has some sitting areas. It's all open air and has a good view of the beach. Everything here is also made out of wood and has tall, steeped ceilings. Behind main house you walk up some steps to the kitchen. There are four long tables where people eat. It's again all open air. To the left and to the right are cabins. My cabin is up a lot of stone steps to the right. It's called Sunset cabin. I share the cabin with five other girls. Our patio overlooks the top of main house and right out over to the ocean. It's an unbelievable view and you can see the sunset perfectly every evening, hence its name. The whole camp is kind of wedged onto the side of the island, right in the middle of the forrest. It's all so crazy pretty and I love it. 

Overall I am really enjoying it here so far. The diving has been good, the camp is really neat, and the people are really nice. There are about thirty people from all over the world. The U.S., Austrailia, Columbia, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Romania, England, Denmark, China, and some other places I can't remember. It's really cool because everyone here is working to help make the world a better place, whether they are teaching the local children and adults, working in forest conservation, or to monitor and preserve the coral reefs. It's just really neat to be around people that care about the environment and the world like me. 

This is the view from my cabin.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome Sauce! Claire, this is amazing stuff! You're amazing!


Theme by: Pish and Posh Designs