Chilling in Madagascar

11 September 2017   Russian Bay to Nosy Komba, Madagascar
We decided that we’d had enough of Russian Bay and headed for Nosy Komba.  Once again, we were too impatient to go and instead of waiting for the afternoon sea-breeze, we left at 09:00 - we had very little wind, so we motored most of the 23 miles.  If we’d have waited until midday, we would have had a cracking sail.

The anchorage at Nosy Komba is on the north-east corner at 13°26.54S 048°21.16E - we anchored in 10 metres of water.  The village that we’re anchored off is a bustling place with tourist boats, restaurants and at least one dive operation.  We’ll investigate tomorrow.

Nosy Komba

We had a quiet time for the remainder of the afternoon doing research into anchorages further south and downloading aerial photos into SAS Planet…  I don’t often use this program, but the Google Earth images for this area are not very good, so my KAP charts are not as detailed as usual.  SAS Planet can store Satellite images from Bing which are much better - we’ll be using this for the tricky anchorages further south. 

12 September 2017   Nosy Komba, Madagascar
After beaching our dinghy at the Chez Yolande restaurant (13°26.60S  48°20.96E), we walked through the narrow sandy streets of the village.  No cars, motorbikes or even Zebu carts are to be seen in the island, so everything is moved by hand.

Tourists come over to Nosy Komba for day trips and the village has scores of small souvenir shops selling wood carvings, Pandanus weaving, t-shirts etc.  The villagers also specialise in making embroidered “Cutwork” table cloths that are hand stitched with parts of the material removed to give a lace effect.  The streets and beaches are lined with a colourful display of the tablecloths rippling in the breeze.  

Glenys bought a large, dark blue Table Cloth, which has a tropical theme and some nice details of Lemurs.   She also found an interesting hand-stitched Tapestry which is 3ft * 2ft and depicts various aspects of Madagascar - village life, lemurs, Baobab trees, etc.  Not a bad find for £10.  

Another item on sale in many Madagascan streets is the Cola Nut.  This can be bought as a 1” diameter nut for about 500 Ariary (£0.15) and slivers are chewed as a natural stimulant - as one guy told me, “It helps If you need to do a lot of work”.  I found this information:

The Kola nut is the fruit of the kola tree, which is native to the tropical rainforests of Africa.   It’s chewed in many West African countries, individually or in a group setting.  It is often used ceremonially, presented to chiefs or guests.

Cola Nuts

Kola nuts comprise about 2% caffeine, as well as containing kolanin and theobromine.  All three chemicals function as stimulants.   The first taste is bitter, but it sweetens upon chewing.   The nut can be boiled to extract the cola. The trees have yellow flowers with purple spots, and star-shaped fruit.   Inside the fruit, about a dozen round or square seeds develop in a white seed-shell.   The nut’s aroma is sweet and rose-like. 

Kola nuts were used as a form of currency in some West African people groups. They are still used as such today in certain situations such as in negotiation over bride prices or as a form of a respect or host gift to the elders of a village should one move to a village or enter a business arrangement with the village.

Kola nuts are perhaps best known to Western culture as a flavouring ingredient and one of the sources of caffeine in cola and other similarly flavoured beverages.

In the 1800s, a pharmacist in Georgia, John Pemberton, took extracts of Kola and Coca Leaves and mixed them with sugar, other ingredients, and carbonated water to invent the first cola soft drink. His accountant tasted it and called it "Coca-Cola".   Cocaine (but not the other extracts from the Peruvian Coca Leaf) was prohibited from soft drinks in the U.S. after 1904, and Coca-Cola no longer uses either Kola or Coca in its secret recipe.

We had a quiet afternoon and in the evening went to Chez Yolande for an evening meal with “Red Herring” and “Jackster”.

13 September 2017   Nosy Komba, Madagascar
We went ashore at 08:00 and strolled to the Lemur Park - we were advised to go early because the Lemurs don’t bother to show up later when they’ve been fed by groups of tourists.  There’s a small park office tucked down a narrow side street next to a biggish souvenir shop.  It’s not very well signposted, so we just asked around.  We had to pay 4,000 Ariary each (£1), which included a guide and his bananas.

Mother with Baby

Most of the walk is along a dirt track, which is lined with dozens of stalls selling the inevitable carvings, basket work and cut-work table cloths.   There are only Black Lemurs on the island and they are wild animals, attracted by the bananas handed out.  We’ve already seen this species of Lemur, but our attention was grabbed by a female with a one-week old Baby clinging to the mother’s chest - very cute.

The guide spoke good English and was very knowledgeable, so it was an interesting little tour.  He found us a Chameleon and showed us a couple of species of Tortoise that they are breeding.  Along the way we bumped into Karen and Graham from “Red Herring”, so we went for a walk together up to the top of the island.  

The guides try to charge you 20,000 Ariary to show you the way, but there’s no need - just get your guide to point you in the right direction at the end of the tour.  We followed a well-used path which climbs steeply up to a few villages.  There are a series of yellow and red paint marks on the rocks, which I believe are used for an annual mountain trial run - we followed the red marks.

The trail passes a few small farms and settlements and eventually comes to a Christian Shrine complete with a large white cross and a crucifixion - it was a surprise to see it as we rounded a corner.  A little further on, there was a school off to the right and then, at a three way branch in the trail, we took the right hand path and walked into a very tidy looking village.  The path started downwards at the village, so we retraced our steps and walked back down to our dinghy.

We didn’t walk down through the Lemur Park, but followed the main path down to the village, which came out next to Chez Yolande.  So, if you want to walk up by yourself, turn left outside main entrance to Chez Yolande and head roughly south until you come to a set of concrete steps leading up past street vendors.  At the top of these steps, bear right and you will come across the main path up the mountain, turn left and keep heading up, following the red paint marks on the rocks. 

Foolishly, we’d only taken 500ml of water and no food, so we were feeling dehydrated and tired in the afternoon, so we had a long siesta.