Madagascar – October 2007
Wednesday 10th October 2007
The boat is anchored at Hellville surrounded by massive prawn trawlers. Luckily it is dark and there is a champagne reception and home made coconut chips to welcome us aboard.
The boarding party:
Patrick Vaughan – Head of the Vaughan family with his fat foot.
Lorna Vaughan – Wife of the above with a fear of water and boats.
Charles Vaughan – The Well Known Prawn, quack of the first order and 2nd son of the above.
Loubie Vaughan – recently married into the above. First family holiday. Terrified.
Blanche Vaughan – professional lemur impersonator.
Thursday 11th October
Get the hell out of Hellville scouting for somewhere to swim. Come to a tiny island with a wooden light house, weigh anchor and eat breakfast. Charles, Loubie & Blanche dive in to the Indian Ocean for the first time. Next stop the Honey River which is brown and teeming with sharks. We visit a village, dole out sweets like Princess Di but dare not swim back to the boat for fear of our limbs.
Friday 12th October
Up early breakfasting on the hoof. Loubie landed the smallest tuna they have ever seen. But we ate it anyway as delicious sashimi and on we went.
We got to a beautiful deserted bay and attempted to do some wake boarding. Blanche got up eventually and Charles was left floundering and swearing in the water. Wrenched backs all round.
Said rowed all the way out to the boat to offer us crabs. We ordered 6 and never saw Said or the crabs again. There was a small expedition to find him that ended up with us buying vanilla and shells off his family instead.
At dusk we went for a sortie to the local village and within seconds of our regal landing, were covered in mosquitoes and scurrying back to the boat to the huge amusement of the villagers. Scott promised to come back later with repellent.
American Tom and 2 Freedom Fighters came for drinks but Lorna kept stealing them (the drinks!). Blanche made coconut and mango salad and Loubie scratched her bites.
Saturday 13th October
Beautiful peaceful morning. Especially for the fish we attempted to catch round the mangroves with Scott. Bought some rotten potatoes but loved seeing the dolphins swimming lazily around the bay.
We leave after breakfast and head for Nosy Sakatia. Catch two good sized tuna, Blanche filleted one under the manic paparazzi burst of her family.
Boat out to a private beach where Lorna has her first swim with flippers. Very hot water, gorgeous bay.
Later we take a promenade in the tender and photograph a passing blue dhow and wind up talking to 3 odd South Africans on a messy sloop. Invite them for a drink but suspect they won’t be coming. They don’t.
A small party go ashore after dinner to watch England beat France for a place in the final of the Rugby World Cup.
Sunday 14th October
Today the whales came. Four of them. Adults and calves. Spouting magnificently and slapping their tails. You could tell they were Humpbacks by the ridged spines. After the whales the reel screamed, a marlin leapt dramatically, there was great excitement - but Charles lost it.
Dead calm. The exhaust has gone. Joni comes up from the engine room and says that it is a broken elbow. It may take him a while to set it. We are going nowhere. A few of us clamber into the tender for a snorkel around Nosy Fany while the boat edges its way along with hardly a breath of wind.
But during our expedition the wind picked up. Boo Too was forced to circle the island in a fury. We arrived back to 3 pursed mouths and terse note that the horn had been sounded ten times.
Distraction was found when a magnificent Sailfish took the line and leapt many times into the air. But again Charles lost it!
Success finally came to him with another screaming reel and a 16lb King Mackerel on the end of the line. Scuba diving round a rock saw a turtle briefly before it was swept away by the strong current (or maybe we were).
Appropriately that night at sunset it was a mackerel sky.
Monday 15th October
Lazarus is still in his hole. He has whimpered all morning, we think he may be putrefying in the heat.
Charles just managed to get up on the wake board, Blanche managed to mono ski. It is boiling.
Lorna was allowed to do some breaststroke today. It got her around the boat. Mr and Mrs Charles Vaughan escorted Blanche and Olly on a swim to the shore. It took them 22 minutes according to Patrick, who monitored the situation through binoculars with a raised swollen foot.
Cray fish sellers arrived at the transom. Green and orange and the size of lobsters.
By lunch we all had a major Gregory Peck on and consequently bolted our food when it eventually appeared and gave ourselves terrible indigestion.
Olly organised a spectacular BBQ on the beach that night. Matting laid out, 2 fires, 1 fire pit, 2 locals, 1 vociferous chief and plenty of Simone’s excellent rum punch. Charles was cornered by the village chief for extra chats. Clear sky packed with stars and phosphorescence in the water.
Tuesday 16th October
Loubie caught Charles buying eggs from a passing dug out. They appeared later scrambled with some salmon on the breakfast table.
Set sail for the Four Brothers and passed the organ pipes for a better look in the sunlight. Charles, Blanche and Joni went over to explore them. They are huge.
Dived around one of the Brothers. Saw 2 massive crayfish, a stingray, a box fish and a moray eel. Very good diving.
We ate the crayfish which were delicious. Sweet juicy flesh. Jen did them with garlic parsley and butter.
Went ashore for dinner armed with lots of good wine from Boo Too’s cellar. Reckoned Jen’s cooking bested it by a wide margin. In fact no comparison. Charles drank rather too many cocktails and started showing off. Blanche was sick. Loubie was sober. Again.
Wednesday 17th October
Breakfast on the move to Lokobe. First experience of a dugout and having to do some work ourselves. It is hot. But we can handle it. We also handle a walk around the rain forest above the village. But by the end Loubie is hungry and shouting “lunch” at the poor guide who is still desperate to find us a boa constrictor. See lots of plants, lemurs and chameleon and Charles is showered by a traveller’s palm. The vanilla grows like bunches of green beans.
Lunch is so exceptional that even Jen is nervous of her top dog position. Traditional Malagasy; coconut rice, fish slashed and rolled in a spice mix, curried crab in a fresh tomato sauce, beautifully succulent, spicy juicy prawns and tomato and onion and cucumber salad as a refreshing relish. We drank milk from green coconuts and scooped out the soft flesh to eat with baby bananas and papaya for our pudding. As we boarded the tender to return a herd of Zebu wandered across the beach.
Olly finds out he has got us all for an extra day. Just imagine his joy!
Head off towards Nosy Komba and a squall approaches. Action Stations! The cushions fly down the hatch into the saloon. The cockpit sides come down but only a few spats of rain fall.
Yet another delicious dinner of our King Mackerel, with magnums of haut medoc, Jen’s position reaffirmed. Can we take a moment to point out the napkin situation. Simone has gone berserk. Every day we are serenaded by a new ingenious creation out of the humble napkin. Last night it was an artichoke; tonight it is a tulip.
Thursday 18th October
We wake up in a pretty bay with a few other boats and a cruise ship lurking around the corner.
Early start for the Vaughans, minus swollen foot, who head for the hills. A delightful walk into the forest which is lush and green with red earth and feels like a jungle. We pass a class of 4 year olds being taught under a tree. They all wave and say “bonjour”. We think about kidnapping but press on.
On the way down while Charles and Blanche are buying tomatoes, Loubie and Lorna encounter a huge snake on the path. Loubie tries to run, but Lorna forces her to inspect it.
Our reward is cinnamon French toast with bananas and maple syrup for breakfast.
Charles fails again to get up on the wake board and the whole bay hears about it. Swims back from the shore with Olly and Blanche to cool down.
Scott is goaded by Joni into kite surfing and all of the Vaughans do an outing to the village. It is the largest and most charming they have seen and full of children playing games at dusk.
Friday 19th October
We’re all up early. No point slugging abed on the last day. Flat calm, and we all swim. There are two dark dolphins swimming around near us. Scott gets the Zodiac out and takes Lorna, Blanche and Carlos off to have a snorkel. Lorna sees an old rusty can under water near the beach, but is pleased to learn how to snorkel. There is better coral out from the beach.
After breakfast we motor on round to Hellville, having fully abluted on the transom for the last time. In fact, we think we’ve seen the last of the transom until the line spins and Loubie springs, like a Brandt’s Gazelle, into action and puts plenty of arm into reeling in a very senior Barracuda. It fixes Scott with its large beady eye as he tries to unhook it, snapping at him with its sharp teeth, but he succeeds in freeing it to go its own way and maraud around the sea for another day.
The Famille Vaughan goes ashore and jump in taxis at the port. Patrick is dropped off at a café, the rest push on in the vehicles to the market. Bustling with life, full of food, we buy various spices and then later, ornaments in a boutique. We wander the town and see crumbling buildings and many Renault 4’s, and gaggles of happy school children. Then it’s back in a water taxi to the boat for a final fantastic lunch of curried crabs and salads.
What an amazing time we’ve had out here.