Sifikas

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Sifikas

 

Madagascar had been on my agenda for a number of years although for various reasons I always ended up going somewhere else instead. However in September 2008 I finally made up my mind to make the trip.

The most feasible way to get there from Europe was flying from Paris to Antananarivo (Tana). However, due to the poor condition of the Malagasy roads it seemed advisable to arrange a few internal flights before I left which fortunately proved easy using the Air Madagascar website. Enquires also revealed I could get the required visa upon arrival at the airport. I left for a three week trip in November 2008.Antananarivo from Lake AnosyAntnanarivo - Rova Palace Reconstruction

My plan was to fly immediately to Taolagnaro (Fort Dauphin) in the far South. After a few days there I would fly North-West to Toliara (Tulear) due to the non-existence of any credible roads - seemingly a 200 kilometre journey could take four days! From Toliara I would make my way back North up Route National 7 for the 900 kilometre journey back to Tana, stopping off on the way at a few National Parks.

Saturday November 8th, 2008: I left from Edinburgh Airport in the early hours of the morning. The one hour transfer at Paris, Charles De Gaulle Airport was rather fraught due to the almost total lack of directions and the fact they had forgotten to open Security. I finally made it to my plane five minutes after it was due to have left although as it turned out I was one of the first to actually negotiate security and get to the plane it left an hour late rather than with no passengers. I slept fitfully through the ten hour flight and we arrive at Antananarivo Airport on time. Then after a seemingly never ending queue for a visa (why is there always only one cubicle, with one person, to issue visas for a whole plane load of passengers?) made it through Immigration and Customs and collected my rucksack. Despite all expectations the taxi drivers were courteous and not at all pushy - surely a first, especially in a third world country. Another first was when I got too my hotel and found that my internet reservation had actually worked and my arrival was expected. Finally got to bed in a nice comfy room at about half past one on the Sunday morning.

Sunday 9th: I got up at nine o'clock to a pleasant, warm morning. I had one day in Tana beforeFort Dauphin - Setting out on the Canoe Trip flying South and decided to do a walking tour of the town. IAntanarivo - Lake Anosy started off with Lake Anosy just across from the hotel then walked up to the top of the hill and along until I eventually made it to the Rova Palace, currently under reconstruction after an arson attack in the 1990's. This was a shame - nineteenth century Madagascar history being one of my more obscure interests - especially as the stone cladding on the palace had been added by a fellow Scotsman. Across from the Rova was the history museum which had few exhibits and was rather disappointing. However there were great views of the city from the top of the hill. Despite being a third world city it was surprisingly attractive and being a Sunday extremely quiet, except for the never ending armies of young males pestering me to be their guide. However by pretending that my knowledge of French was even sketchier than it was I was able to put off most of them pretty quickly - and anyway it was apparent my knowledge of Malagasy history was more substantial than theirs!

After a quick lunch I retraced my steps, had a tour of the city centre and main shopping areas, found an internet cafe and sent some emails home then took walk towards the rock cliffs at Ampamarinana which translate as "The Place of Throwing". These were the cliffs where Queen Ranavalona 1st, a cruel and ruthless despot who none the less succeeded in keeping Madagascar free from French and British colonial aspirations in the nineteenth century used to through Christian converts (and anyone else she perceived as a threat) to their death, and which, for some perverse reason, for many years, I'd always wanted to see in real life. But after all, in the greater scheme of things,Fort Dauphin - Above the Beach aFort Dauphin - Above the Fishing Village cliff is just a cliff, so my twisted desire fullfilled, I returned to my hotel where I enjoyed a candlelight dinner due to a power-cut.

Monday 10th: After breakfast I got a taxi to the airport. After check-in we boarded the aircraft for the one hour flight to Fort Dauphin, sat in a sweltering cabin for thirty minutes then got chucked back off while they repaired a "mechanical fault". A new elastic band fitted, we finally got airborne two hours later and after an extremely turbulent flight landed in late afternoon. I got a taxi (very pushy drivers with an entourage of prospective "tour guides") and ended up installed at the "Hotel Népenthès", which was a small complex of pleasant thatched cottages. I organised a canoeing trip to a fishing village for the following day. It was getting dark by now and it was becoming apparent that in the South of the country (the poorest and least developed part) at least, most people went to bed when it got dark and got up when it got light. So I went to my room, read for a while then slept.

Tuesday 11th: ! got up at seven, breakfasted, and was picked up in a car by my guide and the driver. As soon as we left the town the road condition immediately deteriorated to a pot-holed dirt track; this it turned out was actually quite good by the standards of most roads in Southern Madagascar. We jolted along at ten kilometres an hour then stopped by Lake Lanirano where I was met by two others with a dug-out canoe. We set off, myself sitting in the middle and the other three paddling. From the lake we paddled for a while through a labyrinth of Mangrove swamps. At one point we encountered a Customised speedboat, containing two rows ofFort Dauphin - Canoe Under Sail customised EuropeanFort Dauphin - Wrecked Ship Being Salvaged tourists wearing identical customised lifejackets. They proceeded to motor round and round us taking photographs, waving and laughing before buggering off. So perhaps I too had now become a tourist attraction?

We crossed another couple of lakes with an increasingly strong headwind. Eventually this became so strong we couldn't make further headway and had to beach the canoe. In my broken French I agreed to continue the trip on foot, walking along the beach. I thought this would take perhaps fifteen minutes, however after an hour of trudging and with nothing but never-ending sand ahead I began to regret this decision. At one point we passed a wrecked cargo ship on the beach which was being dismantled for salvage by an army of men armed only with ropes and crowbars. After almost two hours we made it to the fishing village, (where there was no evidence of any fishing) and had a Coca Cola. Then we walked over the hill to a very beautiful secluded bay where we stopped for lunch.

While my guides lit a fire I sat on the beach, relaxed and took in the scenery. That was until a drover appeared over the hill with a large herd of zebu (African cattle) which he proceeded to drive into the sea for a wash. After this they crapped all over the sand then disappeared. By now lunch was ready, rice (the Malagasy staple) and small, whole grilled fish. Dissecting and eating small fish like these is an art form, not quickly acquire by cosseted Westerners used to prepared foods, but I managed to eat five without choking on any bones, fins or scales. Then it was the long trudge back along the beach to the canoe again. It was still windy, but the canoeists rigged up a sail made of rice sacks and we made the return trip fairly briskly.

Back at my bungalow I declined the offer of a further excursion the following day. Instead I wanted to have a look around Fort Dauphin and also check out alternative strategies for future trips. A problem for the sole traveller in Madagascar is that due to the lack of infrastructure, and the lack of any meaningful tourist industry (except from all-inclusive package tours aimed at rich French and Italians) all excursions have to be organised on an ad hoc basis.Nahampona Reserve - SifakasNahamposa Reserve - Sifakas Unfortunately it costs the same for one person to hire the require vehicle, driver, guide etc as it does four people. Although not making it prohibitively expensive for myself I wanted to check out whether there was anyone else in town who I could team up with.

Wednesday 12th: After breakfast I took a wander around town where it soon became apparent there was little of interest to see. It was possible to walk from one end to the other in about fifteen minutes and apart from a few general shops and a few dusty streets that was about it. Unfortunately this was to turn out to be about par for the course for most Malagasy towns I was in outside the capital. Also there was no other tourists in town as far as I could see either. I tried the tourist information office. Despite glowing reports in my guidebook it was open but with no staff in attendance. I eventually found someone, who may or may not have actually worked there and arranged to go for a morning visit to the Nahampoana Reserve which once again involved a driver, vehicle and guide. After another bone-shaking drive along the track we arrived and I had a pleasant guided tour of what was to shortly become my "home" for three days. I saw my first ring-tailed lemurs and had a pleasant walk, but compared to what I had come to Madagascar for it all seemed a bit tame and sanitised.. On the way back I tried to explain this to my guide and we agreed to go to the Manantantely Reserve in the afternoon. This was a bit better, we spent an hour or two walking through dense forests up the mountainside, over a couple of waterfalls and the views were fairly good. In the evening the town was beset by a series of power cuts although electricity was finally restored.

At dinner I had my first encounter with that unique Malagasy gastronomic delicacy, boiled riceManantantely Reserve à la stones. Malagasies eat more rice per head of populationFort Dauphin -  Market than any other country in the world but for some reason a lot of it is contaminated with small stones. In fact on this occasion I thought I had chipped a tooth but it turned out to be only a small piece of rock. However I had noticed before (and afterwards) that rice often had a slightly gritty texture and was careful to chew gently. I was told that some rice vendors use this geological filler to add weight for market but it seemed a bit bizarre and I couldn't help wondering whether the Malagasy dental guild had a vested interest in the racket.

Thursday 13th: Today was the weekly market at some place about twenty kilometres out of town. However it still took an hour to drive there despite parts of the road being partially surfaced. The zebu auction was being held although it was more a place for negotiating sale and purchase rather than a bidding type auction. However the market itself was very crowded and colourful with everything from local food to counterfeit medicines on sale. But like everything else so far I felt I had seen it all before in other parts of the world although it was still quite enjoyable. It started early and was over by eleven o'clock. In the afternoon I decided to find an internet cafe I had been told about to send some emails home. I eventually found it and ended up with an extremely slow machine in the backroom of some sort of shed. Unfortunately after five minutes the strong wind outside blew down the telegraph line and I was told to come back at four o'clock when it would be repaired! I wandered rather aimlessly round town trying desperately to find something of interest - even the ruined fortress was cordoned of into some sort of "military zone". Returning to the internet cafe without any real hope I was surprised to find it had reopened and was able to send a few brief mails back to civilisation. However I still had three days left before my flight out and deciding I had definitely exhausted the attractions of Fort Dauphin I resolved to try and get out of town for good tomorrow.Ring Tailed LemurFort Dauphin - Herding Zebu

Friday 14th - Sunday 16th: I had noticed some sort of travel agency called "Air Fort Services" in town so went to see them first thing. One of the staff spoke English (which made me immediately forget all the French I had been remembering over the past week) and I arranged to go back to Nahampoana Reserve and to stay there for three nights. I checked out of my hotel and was installed in a huge en-suite room on the reserve by eleven o'clock. This turned out to be a good move. I was the only person staying and in effect had a sixty seven hectare reserve all to myself. Half the reserve comprised of a laid-out botanical garden and the rest was forested with lots of relatively tame lemurs. Once I made clear I wasn't interested in guided tours of the grounds I was more or less left to myself. In the morning I went up to the lodge for breakfast, wandered around the grounds all day, lay in my hammock reading and generally relaxed. Occasionally a few tourists would come for a one hour tour (as I had on the Tuesday) and one evening a party of Italians came to dinner but apart from that I was able to do what I liked. In the early morning a troupe of gorgeous black and white Sifakas lemurs would emerge from the forest and play in the trees and on the lawn. In the evenings I would tempt a huge golden cockroach out of its hiding place in my room with offers of lychees picked from the tree outside my room. I paid a guide to take me out into the forest during the night where we saw chameleons and bamboo and long-tailed lemurs and I even managed to tread on a snake.

Monday 17th: I got a lift to the airport and a flight to Tulear (Toliara). The flight was uneventful although three hours late, and after a prolonged baggage reclaim (no carousel or baggage vehicles, just a solitary baggage-handler unloading all the baggage, hauling the trolleys manually across the tarmac and individually giving each piece of baggage to its owner; needless to say mine was last), it was late afternoon before I checked into the "Hotel Plazza". The Sifikashotel itself was fairly run down but they had an excellent laundry service and a great restaurant serving Malagasy and French food. And unlike Fort Dauphin this was a proper town with a bit of life to it and even proper internet cafes where I was able to get my emails and digital photos sorted out.

My plan from Tulear was to make my way up Route National Seven (RN7) the nine hundred and fifty kilometres or so back to Tana, stopping off at various towns and national parks on the way. Being tall and having long legs, I had decided to use a company called "Madabus" who operated the nearest thing to a Western-style coach company in Madagascar. Myself - Nahampona ReserveThen the waitress in the hotel restaurant informed me that Madabus had had all their assets embezzled by crooked Tana accountants two weeks earlier and were no longer in business. This left me with no alternative but to make the journey by "taxi-brousse" which were the unreliable, crowded, unpunctual and often unroadworthy mini-buses that plied the roads between every town. The prospect didn't exactly fill me with joy but the waitress was able to get me some information on taxi-brousse companies to try and those to avoid.

Tuesday 18th: This was a fairly lazy day. Tulear being on the coast I had a walk along the front and through the town. Had a good lunch in a French restaurant. Although I had read about this, it took a bit of getting used to that the main form of transport in Tulear was by rickshaw (called a pousse-pousse). And not bicycle rickshaws either, but ones pulled by a running man yoked in front of the passenger. But as the hotel waitress pointed out everyone used them, and  the pousse-pousse pullers needed the money, in fact she found it rather hilarious when I seemed a bit embarrassed to using one. So I did, and once I got over the initial self-consciousness it was fine although totally pointless as it would have been just as quick to walk. In fact the only purpose of pousse-pousses I could see was to artificially create employment. But when in Madagascar.

So I hailed a pousse-pousse in the afternoon and was pulled all the six hundred metres to the taxi-brousse station where I was immediately assailed by a huge crowd of yelling and jostling touts trying to convince me to use their best friend's taxi-brousse company. Been, done, seen before. Shouting that I already had a ticket in bad French I barged straight through them to the shack of the company I had been recommended by the waitress, where I bought a ticket to Ranohira for Thursday morning. I was told to turn up for seven o'clock but resolved to turn up earlier in the hope of getting the front seat next to the driver. And perhaps it would even leave on time although from what I had been told this seemed unlikely. After dinner in the hotel that night I read and went to bed.Tulear - Taxi-Brousse Getting Loaded UpCentral Tulear (Toliara)

Wednesday 19th: This was meant to be a day for organising my trip North but after a large lunch I went for a short nap and woke up four hours later. This led to a hasty dash round town, changing money, buying toiletries and provisions for the taxi-brousse journey and attending to my emails. However I got it all finished and after a last dinner in the restaurant said my good-byes, packed my bags, arranged a pousse-pousse for the next morning and went to bed.

Thursday 20th: Despite my forebodings the journey to Ranohera went (almost) without a hitch. My pousse-pousse got me to the station on time and after an hour when everyone's luggage was strapped to the taxi-brousse's roof, we left only ten minutes late. And I DID get the front seat beside the driver which at least gave me some leg-room. There was even an almost unheard of one seat per person for the whole journey. Admittedly we did we break down at one point, in the town of Sakaraha, which is a sort of Wild-West style boom-town at the heart of the Great Madagascar Sapphire Rush and reputedly the most lawless town in the country and where the average life expectancy of a solo white tourist can be measured in minutes. However after an hour of violent assault on the engine with a spanner, the driver got us started again and I was able to escape with my life. We finally arrived in Ranohira in the early afternoon and I checked into the Hotel Berney which was conveniently next door to the offices of Isola National Park which was my reason for comingRanohira here. Within half an hour I had arranged a vehicle,Isalo National Park park guide, permit and driver for a six hour hike in the park the following morning. This was cheaper than expected so I upgraded to one of the best rooms in the hotel and had an excellent zebu steak dinner in the restaurant next door. With chips, not rice. Then an early night for an early start next morning.

Friday 21st: This was probably my best day in Madagascar. Up at six o'clock, I got sandwiches from the hotel and was collected by my guide. We drove for about twenty minutes before being dropped off, then climbed up a rocky path through rugged, red sandstone cliffs onto a scrubby plateau. After about three quarters of an hour we descended to a pool with a waterfall, (the Picine Naturelle). Then we walked the length of the plateau and down and along the sides of the Canyon Des Makis. We walked through woods and I saw my first truly wild ring-tailed lemurs in the trees. Afterwards we climbed down a gully and scrambled along a river bed, which, not being particularly nimble, I managed to fall into a couple of times and was rather pleased when we eventually arrived at a the Cascades Des Nymphs where we stopped to eat beside another waterfall. Then it was back along the riverbed which I managed to navigate more successfully this time. We made our way back up onto the plateau before finishing at to another park entrance, where our driver was waiting. Although we must have covered about twelve kilometres, through some fairly rough terrain I ended up back at the hotel just after lunch-time! Not a bad outing, with some spectacular scenery, but I still felt that the fact that everything had to be so organised, with a constant escort, in what was hardly the most hazardous or fragile of environments diminished theIsola National Park experience a bit.Isola National Park

After lunch I secured a seat in another taxi-brousse for the following morning for what was to be the longest stage in the journey, to Fianarantsoa via Ihosy which was a good four hundred kilometres and not something I was looking forward to. I had a long siesta most of the afternoon, although I also had a wander around the village and took a few photos. After another zebu steak dinner I got packed for the morning, read, and went to bed.

Saturday 22nd: Up at 06:00 and ready for the tax-brousse by 06:30. It turned up on time and left on time also with only a few of the seats taken. Alas, this was not to last long. In the first hour stopped at least half a dozen times and soon all fourteen seats were taken. After another hour, and more stops we had twenty two people plus assorted boxes of vegetables, eggs, assorted household items and even planks of wood aboard. This was repidly decending into the tax-brousse hell the author;s of guidebooks pretend they enjoy in case the reader decides to go to Benidorm instead, and that was before a giant hornet flew through the window and attached it to my tiny living space. It was hot, cramped and my left leg was going to sleep. After about four hours of this we stopped at Ihosy (about half way to Fianarantsoa) where I was decanted onto another taxi-brousse. This wasn't quite so bad, in so much as I got most of a seat to myself and we eventually made it into Fiana by mid afternoon.FianarantsoaIsola National Park

Once again it was the usual scrummage of aggressive wanabe porters, taxi-drivers and guides scrambling, shouting and pushing for attention and business. However years of experience had made me quite adept at handling this situation and by equally aggressive tactics and ignoring the demands of those who knew better hotels, guides etc etc I got a taxi who eventually took me to the hotel I wanted. Unfortunately it was full so I let the driver take me to another he knew. Dodgy sometimes, but on this occasion I came up trumps and the hotel turned out to be excellent with English speaking staff (which meant I immediately forgot all my rapidly improving French yet again) and I got a big room which even had a proper bath with hot water. By now it was getting dark so after checking out the credentials of a prospective guide for a visit to Ranomafara National Park at reception (he was ok) I went out and found an internet cafe (the slowest so far) and sent an email home. Back at the hotel I had dinner in the rather good restaurant downstairs then went up to my room took advantage of the bath, read, then went to sleep.

Sunday 23rd: I had decided on a restful day so got up late. I managed to find a proper internet cafe this time and got my emails up to date - I even succeeded in sending some photographs. After lunch, and despite the fact that the weather was beginning to look like thunder, I took a walk town which was at the top of a long hill. Being a Sunday everyone seemed to be going to or returning from church and just like Tana and Fort Dauphin almost everything was closed. The view from the top of the hill was fairly good - from a distance it almost looked prosperous and attractive. However by now it looked as if a downpour was imminent so I didn't linger and hurried back toLemur - Ranomafana National Park theRanomafana National Park hotel. There I found my (now vetted!) guide waiting to arrange details for the following day. After dinner I tried watching TV in my room. However for some reason five of the six TV stations on offer were marking the Sunday by showing only religious services interspersed by a video of Cliff Richard singing "Auld Lang Syne". Rather than throw a brick through the screen I got my luggage in order, took a bath and read.

Monday 24th: I was picked up at six o'clock and we drove for an hour to Ranomafara National Park. There I met my park guide and his assistant. By now it was seven thirty in the morning and I had a driver, vehicle, park guide and assistant for the day. Once again this was going to be a fairly expensive day, and once again the cost would have been a quarter if there had been four of me to split the bill. But I was still within budget.

Myself, guide and assistant crossed the river into the forest. The set up was that the guide would scout on ahead, looking for troupes of lemur, then radio back their position so we could follow. This worked well although it soon became apparent that lemur troupes move quickly and had an irritating habit of doubling back on themselves. Over the next few hours we did a lot of running, scrambling and (myself at least) falling about in the undergrowth. It was hot, humid and I was soon covered in mud and also a few leeches - fortunately Malagasy leeches are tiny little things and have problems penetrating human skin especially when, like me, you have taken the precaution in covering every piece of exposed skin in concentrated anti-beastie chemicals. At one point we bumped into a party of slightly elderly Italian tourists, dressed as though for a night at the theatre rather than a scramble through a forest. However it was worth it and we managed to get close up to five different lemur species. Afterwards we walked out of the forest, down a river past a waterfall, through a village then past a bungalow I wasTea Plantation near Fianarantsoa assured was the private home of the President of Madagascar (if so he could doRanomafana National Park with getting a gardener), and back to the road. From here I was picked up and driven back to Fiana with a detour to have a look round a rubbish tea plantation and processing factory. It was getting dark and I was tired so after dinner I went to bed early.

Tuesday 25th: I had thought of getting an early morning taxi-brousse on to Antanaride, my last planned stop off, early that morning but it didn't surprise me that when I awoke at six in the morning I couldn't be bothered. Actually by now I was running a bit ahead of my schedule so decided to take a day off. I had heard of a new coach company called Gassy-bus who, I was told, had an office near the railway station and might provide an alternative to ending my life being suffocated and/or stung to death by killer hornets in another taxi-brousse. However attempts to find it were hijacked by persistent youths who kept approaching me, promising to take me there but instead taking me to their friend's run-down taxi-brousse offices instead. Thwarted, I gave up and returned to my hotel. Later I had an excellent three course lunch in a recommended restaurant and acting on the advice of my hotel manager I went to the taxi-brousse station and bought TWO tickets for myself for tomorrow's journey which would apparently guarantee me the right to sit at the front with the driver, and a whole seat with legroom. I then went to the Post Office and sent some postcards and some emails. However by now it looked like rain was imminent so I retired to my hotel and whiled away an hour or so taking videos of the hotel's pet tortoises on the roof. A local in the hotel tried to interest me in going to Antanaride in his car if I paid for the petrol, but despite protracted negotiations we couldn't agree a price. Torrential rain for the rest of the day put an end to any further forays outdoors.Market near FianorantsoaAntosaribe

Wednesday 26th: I got up early for the journey to Antanaride and bumped into the car driver I had refused the previous day. He came up with a new price and agreed to get my fare back from the taxi-brousse company. This he did, which involved a rather heated, and, as a spectator, highly entertaining exchange at the bus station with an excited crowd of locals. This done, he also picked up a teenage girl (a relative) who was going part of the way. For the first hour the road was extremely winding and hilly and I began to feel slightly ill. But not as ill as our teenage passenger who proceeded to throw up all over the back seat! We stopped of a couple of times to eat, take photos, and drop off the now recovered girl, and arrived in Antanaride by mid-afternoon where he dropped me off at a fairly decent hotel. I had time for a walk around town - compared to other Malagasy towns I had been in this one looked relatively prosperous, with some wide, garden-lined avenues. It also lived up to its reputation as the pousse-pousse capital of Madagascar; rickshaws were everywhere. However at five o'clock monsoon-like rains came on and I retreated to the hotel.

Thursday 27th: This was my last full, free day in Madagascar, so after having a lie-in firstly went to the Post Office and sent off a last batch of postcards. I had a walk round town, checked my emails and then had the most sumptuous lunch I could find. So sumptuous in fact that I had to go back to the hotel and lie down in order to digest it! Unfortunately it was a hot day and I didn't wake up till late afternoon meaning I had to immediately jump into a pousse-pousse and get the driver to pull me to the taxi-brousse station, wait while I bought myself TWO tickets for the journey back to Tana in the morning, then pull me back. All the time the sky was getting darker, the air moister, and my conscience guiltier - I never could quite come to terms with being pulled around theAntosaribeAntananarivo streets by a man in a rickshaw even when, like this it was excusable as I didn't know my directions. Then it began raining torrentially. I was fine under the canopy but the poor pousse-pousse puller got absolutely soaked. So when we arrived I gave him a present of my raincoat. Fleeing the appalling rain into my hotel room the whole town was then plunged into darkness by a series of power cuts: than goodness I had packed a torch.

Friday 28th: I got up at six, knowing that in eighteen hours time I would be taking-off home from Tana Airport. This was not a good day for things to go wrong and fortunately they didn't (although I had various contingency plans ready just in case). I loaded my luggage into a pousse-pousse, arrived at the taxi-brousse station with lots of time to spare, got my seat at the front with the driver, and after an only moderately uncomfortable journey arrived in Antananarivo at lunchtime. After much shouting and pushing I even got a taxi-driver who took me to the hotel of my choice and at a good price to boot. At first the hotel didn't have a room (I only intended using it for ten hours anyway) but eventually they came up with a small en-suite room which suited my needs perfectly. I went out for a last walk round Tana - much busier than last time as it wasn't a Sunday - bought some presents, bought some snacks for the journey, had a meal, went back to the hotel, got myself ready and finally got a taxi to the airport about nine o'clock where I checked-in, changed my remaining Ariary back into Euros and waited for my flight.

Saturday 29th: The flight to Paris went smoothly and on time. I had a six hour wait for my transfer at Charles De Gaulle Airport and was kindly told I had to wait in the transfer lounge which comprised of a huge hall with no amenities or even seats. Aye right! I smiled at them, then as soon as their backs were turned jumped on the shuttle-train to the next terminal and went left through Customs. Then I had a meal, a wander and a seat, then checked back in. The flight back to Edinburgh was on time and I arrived back in Scotland in late afternoon.

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