Manambolo River Trip, Madagascar – Sand and Wind

This post is part of a 10 day trip with Remote River Expeditions.

Early in the morning, before light, I hear a rhythmic splashing in the river reminiscent of the elephants we heard at Goliath camp in Zimbabwe. It’s the local people starting their day.

Beautiful color before daybreak.

Alex fries up the fish he got from the zebu rustlers the evening before.

Women pass on their way to Akavandra. One loves the camera and can’t stop looking back and smiling.

In addition to the usual breakfast of bread and jam, they break out a box of muesli and a fresh carton of milk. Yay!

The calm morning heats up quickly. It’s the same pretty scenery as the last two days. Some shallow sections where pushing the canoe through the sand is necessary, but mostly the river flows pretty well.

We chase kingfishers and bee eaters down the bank while Memena paddles slowly down stream.


Near noon we have lunch under a mango tree. They put out a cloth for us in the shade while they finish preparing lunch –the fried fish, potatoes with cheese with a selection of condiments – tartar sauce, mustard and ketchup.

We pump Alex for more information about the rustlers. “Does any money exchange hands?” “No.” ”Do they know tourists have money?”’ “No.” “Are the girls prostitutes?” “Yes.” Despite my concerns Alex doesn’t see any harm in bringing tourist to this area unaware of the presence zebu rustlers.

Back on the Water

We leave around 2PM as we still have a ways to camp. I don’t know if the river is slow or if we still need to make up the time we lost because of the problems with the vehicle days before.

Memena finds more chameleons for us.

At first the river channels are deeper and they are able to paddle more than push the canoe, but then the wind picks up and the river widens and becomes shallower slowing our progress.


At around 5:30 we see our campsite for the night but the river is very wide and shallow here so we get out and walk the rest of the way to the beach.

The others aren’t too far behind and Alex and Vunje also get out and walk while the boatmen struggle to get the canoes to shore.

The steady wind keeps the flies and mosquitos down but also whips up the sand. For some reason they decide to set up camp in the most unsheltered section of the beach right in the path of the wind coming down the gorge.

It’s a battle to get the tent up as it flips in the wind, but we manage with Vunge’s help. He drops comments that they don’t usually set up camp here, but rather down at the other end out of the wind. He complains that it was Alex’s idea to come here. We know this is not true as Don was with them earlier when they made the decision. Alex wanted to set up camp at the other end out of the wind and Vunje said it would be better to set up camp here. Some kind of power struggle is going on between the two of them.

Don and I get organized and clean up a bit with wet wipes and sit in the sand in front of the tent for sundowners. The blowing sand coats us in a fine grit. Not the most pleasant situation but at least we don’t have to use deet this evening.

The guys have set up one of the canoes on its side as a wind break and prepare dinner behind it.

Alex calls me down to the beach to watch them kill the chicken. I had asked how they do it before. The kid takes the bird to the edge of the bank puts one foot on its body stretches out the neck with one hand and saws through it with a dull knife. It takes way too much sawing to be a clean kill.

Don and I go back into the tent out of the wind to wait for dinner. By this time everything is coated in the fine dusty grit. Nearing 8PM they come to our tent and ask if we can eat inside. We clear a spot in the middle between our air mattresses to put the trivet and a very hot cast iron pot of ramen chicken soup with hard boiled eggs and 2 chicken quarters. Very hot, tasty and not much sand. It’s way too much food for the two of us. We eat about half and take the rest back.

We try to sleep with the tent flapping in the wind. I put in ear plugs to soften the noise and fall asleep. I wake a few hours later to dead silence. The wind has stopped.

September 25, 2016

For links to all the posts in this series see the Madagascar page.