OK, where was I? Oh yeah, more rainforests, and that time when my parents ended up in a brothel with a bunch of crazy Peace Corps Volunteers. I've posted a few pictures as well.
After Antsirabe we kept driving south to our next destination: Ranomafana. In Malagasy this means “hot water” because of the natural hot springs that are around the area. It's also a huge rainforest. We stayed at a really nice lodge that overlooked the forest and that prepared delicious 3-course dinners. We were there for two days, and both days we went hiking in the forest. There were really beautiful rivers and rapids, chameleons, and TONS of lemurs. Between Andasibe and Ranomafana I think we definitely met our lemur-watching quota! On the second day we visited the thermal public swimming pool which is filled by a hot spring. It was non-chlorinated, which is a little skeezy, but no one got any weird skin diseases so I think we're in the clear. We swam for a little bit and then went to a hotely in the town for lunch. I don't know if I've talked about hotelys before, but just to clear up any confusion -- they aren't places to sleep, as the name might suggest. They're restaurants that usually serve Malagasy food, i.e., rice and side dishes. This hotely, despite being recommended by the Bradt guide, was a little bit grimy, and Matt ended up sick after eating the fish. My general rule is that in a country where the travel time from coast to wherever you are is more than a couple days, beware of seafood! I ordered ravitoto (pronounced rahv-TU-tu), which is cassava leaves that have been boiled and pounded into a spinach-like mash and everyone got to sample that for their first time. Not everyone is a fan of the "rav," but to me it tastes really fresh and “green.” After lunch we met up for beers with my friend and fellow volunteer Mike, whose site is in Ranomafana. He's been here about a year longer than I have, so it was nice to have another person's perspective about what life here is like to share with my parents and Matt.
The next day we headed to Fianarantsoa (Fianar for short), a town where several of my friends were meeting up to do some business. It was so fortunate that our schedules lined up the way they did so that my parents could meet the people I talk about all the time. After doing some brief introductions at the Peace Corps Meva we let the PCVs get back to cooking their breakfast while we went to the old city to try to check into the hotel where we had reservations. The old city is really, really pretty, and is pedestrian only. Unfortunately, this meant we would have to be carrying lots of luggage up some pretty steep hills. We were also immediately mobbed by children trying to sell us postcards as a “school fundraiser”. It's interesting though, because a lot of the kids spoke excellent English, far better than any of the oldest highschool students in my town. I talked to one little girl while we walked to the hotel and she told me all about her family and the town, so I did buy a card from her. In the end, we ended up staying at a different hotel in the center of the new town.
After settling in, my parents and I went to have lunch with my friend Amber. Matt was still feeling under the weather, so he took a rest day at the hotel. I was so glad Amber and my parents could meet in person...after all, they've been facebook friends for months! Later that night we all went out to “the brothel”, which is a bar close to the Meva that also happens to be a brothel. Peace Corps Volunteers frequent it because it has the cheapest beer, but it can be pretty grim. Anyway, lots of merriment was had, and I ended up staying out way later than I should have (for which I paid the price the next day, blah). It was great seeing so many of my friends in one place though and totally worth it.
The next day we continued on down south with my friend Amber to drop her off at her site. Ambalavao has a lot of silk weaving, and Amber was kind enough to take my parents and Matt on a tour of the weaving that goes on by her house. It was really interesting to see the process step by step, and everyone ended up buying lots of scarves to bring back to people in the states. Fortunately I was still in the car, otherwise I would have ended up adding to my scarf collection! They're just so lovely.
Next time: West side, best side? Maybe, maybe not.