June 15th – Driving Day 1 from Tana to Palmarium
Flag off was set for 8.00am for Magical Madagascar Day 1. Nervous crews gathered early to check their cars and familiraise themselves with the on-board equipment and roadbook. The flag dropped and the 14 cars moved off for the very first rally in Madagascar.
Due to the early start the traffic wasn’t too heavy as we left Tana and within 20 minutes we were in the lush countryside. The windy mountainous roads took us through a number of villages with rows of stalls lining the roadsides interspersed with chicken and children wandering in the road. Sharp eyes were required to avoid either! It’s clearly banana season here as the stalls and lorries were laden with the fruit.
The entourage obviously made an impact as many villagers paused in their daily schedule to watch us and waved smiling as we passed by.
Our lunch stop was a hidden gem at the Hotel Feon’ny. Coming at just the right time everyone enjoyed their meal in a very picturesque setting. After lunch we headed towards the coast.
The final 7km of the day was the first taste of 4×4 dirt track driving with a mixture of slippery mud, rocky surfaces, rickety bridge and generally tricky conditions. At the end of the track the cars were securely parked before we boarded taxi boats and headed to Le Palarium Reserve and Hotel which was an hour up the coast on a freshwater lagoon. Arriving in the dark we saw the twinkling lights of the hotel as we approached.
Everyone had their own wooden bungalow with hammocks on their verandas overlooking the sea. A gentle paradise on the east coast of the island. This is also lemur central with a wide variety of species sharing the same forest.
The lemurs kept trying to join us during dinner but were shooed away by the staff as they have a tendency to steal the food from the tables. After a delicious dinner of fresh seafood everyone got an early night before lights out at 23.00 when the generator is turned off. It doesn’t come an again until 07.00am. With wi-fi also non existent everyone had to relax as communication with the outside world was suspended for a couple of days.