News From Madagascar on “So Basic” (2)

By – Hemraj Gokal

Since I last wrote Stuart has completed the final installation of the water maker which works splendidly. We engage it while charging batteries so the cost is minimal. Our passports have now been returned from Diego Suarez so we feel a lot more confident about wandering around the place. Dealing with bureaucracy turned out more pleasant than anticipated. They do however have a propensity to stick to laid down rules and procedures.

We did an overnight to Nosy Mitsio. Very quiet and pleasant though the anchorage does become a bit roly-poly when the wind kicks in at 25 knots. The lobster in these parts can certainly be described as “sized” – measuring some half metre from feelers to tail. Recently caught, the guy was willing to trade three for a couple of T-shirts! Stuart has declared this a definite re-visit with the intention of diving for them on his own. Kevin left the boat on our return to Crater Bay.

The visit to the lemur park (Nosy Be) was pleasant and informative. The lemurs happily sit on your shoulder while eating the banana that the guide uses to attract them down from the trees. There were also tortoises and boa constrictors (caged) in the park. The local artists tend to favour vibrant colours while the sculptures and other artefacts are of a high quality. We took in most of the other sights and sounds of Nosy Be on hired scooters. There are many up-market spas and lodges aimed primarily at the European market.

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The weather has been simply splendid. Apart from a couple of nights when it rained, every day has been sunny with cooling breezes. The heat at mid-day does become a bit stifling, however, giving explanation as to why most things tend to shut down between 12:00 and 2:00pm.

In case you were wondering about insects, let’s just say that it is always prudent to look into your beer glass before taking a sip because the flies are fearless and often dive in for a drink. Insect repellent is a necessity because the mosquitos are monstrous and tend to leave blisters as a going away present.

Having been “persuaded” I have since donned flippers and gone swimming with the lads. It was rather enjoyable. I am now looking forward to doing some diving off the reefs off Nosy Sakatia which will be our next destination.

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It would appear that the camaraderie and sense of kinship in the cruising fraternity is very much alive and well. Almost everyone is a character in his own right, each with interesting stories and eagerness to share knowledge and tips, and to lend equipment. Most interesting were the Russians – cruising the world on a boat without even basic refrigeration!

In Mitsio we met a very nice French guy who happened to be sailing a South African boat (Leopard Cat) with us South Africans sailing a French boat (Beneteau) – gave Stuart and him something else to talk about. Almost everyone we met was coming down through South Africa. The Americans will likely wind up at RNYC! Notable among other interesting characters are Des and Nel – a South African couple involved with a little lodge in Nosy Sakatia. Needless to say we spent many a long evening with them drinking (warm) beer.

For me personally, it has been a most interesting and rewarding trip so far – very different to the Mediterranean. We saw an amazing number of giant turtles and other sea life off Sakatia. Visiting deserted beaches is fast becoming one of my favourite past times.

Tomorrow (Sun) we return to our Crater Bay base to tidy up the boat, replenish stocks and plan the next adventure.

‘Till next time

Best wishes to all at the club and fair winds to the Vasco fleet.

Warm Regards

Crew of So Basic

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