Week five marked the half way point of our time here in Madagascar. As crazy and a little sad as that seems, it also meant the start of our cross country adventure!! Yaayy!!! However, week five started off with our first exam. The exam was as fun as your standard exam, so I was excited to get it over with and start the cross country trip.
The cross country tour started off with heading to Isalo National Park for a few days. On our drive to Isalo we stopped at Anja village reserve where we saw the really chill ring tailed lemurs and their adorable babies. When we first arrived in Isalo the first thing I noticed was how amazing and different the landscape was from what I had seen in Madagascar so far. It was hard to believe I was just a few hours away from the rainforest I had been hiking around and living in for the past four weeks. During our first day in Isalo we went on a awesome hike where we got to climb around on these sick rock formations and got to go swimming at a couple of really awesome natural pools. The following day we had a hike to see Verreaux’s sifaka. We later went to hang out at an incredibly fancy hotel. This was an interesting experience for me because I’ve never been on a trip/vacation where I went to visit a really fancy hotel like it was some type of tourist destination. It was pretty cool because it was kind of like getting a little taste/look at the lavish travel experience but without really having to pay for it.
Speaking of tourism, this cross country trip was one of the first times on this study abroad where I felt I came in to close contact with tourists and really even felt like a tourist myself. Many of the other tourists we encountered were different than us in that they were significantly older, spoke French, and liked to fashion tiny little speedos at the natural pools. Despite these slight differences though, it seems that tourists no matter where you go are similar, and many aspects of the tourism experience were familiar, like dealing with obnoxious tourists or occasionally even being that obnoxious tourist who is oblivious to what going on around them.
Anyways, getting back to the activities of the week, toward the end of the week we packed up and left for the beach in Ifaty. Staying at the beach was something I was really looking forward to because I just love the beach in general. I particularly like the beach because it feeds into my habit of collecting a ridiculous number of cool things I am able to more or less fit in my pocket or bag. For me this mainly applies to shells and rocks, so mom and dad this is your warning that I am coming home with an absurd number of shells. The hotel we stayed at was right on the beach, which was awesome because we were able to hang out on beach or go swimming essentially whenever we wanted. However, the one slight problem with the beach was that there were venders who would try to sell you copious numbers of wooden boxes or jewelry. The venders also seemed to be under the assumption that if you bought one box or necklace that meant you definitely wanted to buy ten more for a premium bundle price. I fell victim to this phenomenon when I walked away with about five carved boxes when I only intended to buy one. There were also some women who tried to convince everyone that they were in dire need of some braids no matter how long their hair was. I did end up getting some braids and actually really enjoyed rocking the whole ten year old girl who just returned from her Caribbean vacation look for a few days. At the very end of the week we went sailing out to some coral reefs were we got to snorkel and explore. While I really enjoyed snorkeling, I realized that my snorkeling technique is awful. I managed to use the snorkel more like a straw to swallow what felt like half of the Mozambique Channel. Overall, the first week of the cross country was a success and I really enjoyed myself.