Ranohira is our base for the next over-nighter. It’s a small country outpost and supply point for backpackers in the canyon rich National Park of Isalo.

We orginally booked into the town based, Orchidee d’Isalo but after Tiana and Lova were assigned a room that could’ve doubled for an immaculate nativity scene we made like foxes in the night from the hen house, threw our bags in the boot and hit the gas for Isalo Ranch. This proved the move of the day.

Isalo Ranch is out of town smack bang on Isalo National Park’s (NP) outer fringe. In fact the closeness of Isalo’s NP is accentuated by the prominence of a Wild West style wall of rock only 1.5km from the pool, completely dominating the horizon. Two rock monoliths stand overlooking the ranch with a wall of rock between as if the monoliths have out-stretched arms locked together challenging the intrepid explorer to enter.

Whoever owns Isalo Ranch has made careful plans and paid attention to all the details. Simple things like surrounding the unsightly large bank of solar panels by well maintained hedges or sealing all windows with fly-wire add up to a more satisfying experience. You would think fly-wire on all the windows is an obvious, inexpensive way to improve customer comfort but it appears many hotel proprietors would rather have house-keeping spend their time wiping small blood blotches off their cream coloured walls.

Today we give the body bean bags a workout chasing canyon oasis’s and escarpment clifftops on the Namaza trail, Isalo NP. The morning began exceptionally well photographing local school kids playing sport on dirt fields next to the ticket office for NP. One kid appeared to have spent the night before with his head encased in a beacon full of saliva and snot. The Doctor’s words prior to departure rang out in my head “if you plan on spending a lot of time on the street I would advise going to the trouble and expense of receiving a series of rabbis shots.” Cursed, thriftiness I thought as the salivating gremlin fought his way to the front of the bubbling mass of happy, go-lucky faces. Come time to leave it may have appeared the camera and I had been through the carwash with the windows down. Mess and greasy streaks on the lens aside the kids here are so gregarious and unaffected by the brainwash of money. Time skipped away with the kids and before I knew it I was receiving the “get back in the car or get left behind” look.

The hike with Hery our guide covered wide varying terrain and altitude. From black opal, oasis pools deep inside the interior of the lush, green, canyon base to the sandpaper textures of the tabletop hundreds of metres above. It was all very idyllic but I couldn’t help but feel the walk would be so much more in the predawn light rather than the blazing noon sun.

What we had planned as a 2hr hike morphed into a four and a half hour expedition complete with water rationing. The girls still managed a weary smile on return to the carpark which was good for my health as I’d talked them out of spending the day by the pool on account of how brief the walk would be.

 

 

 

 

Ranohira school kids reenacting favourite scenes from "Shaun of the Dead".

 

 

Hery the Guide pointing out features of the Namaza trail.

 

Buldging silhouette of a treetop ants nest.

 

Loved the mirror-like qualities of rock pool wall.

 

 

 

 

The striking Pachypodium plant of Isalo National Park.

 

Grasshopper endemic to Madagascar and Borneo.

 

 

Red-fronted brown lemur.

 

Waitress at Chez Alice.

 

Chaff collection point (at least I think). Isalo Ranch.

Rock outcrop. Isalo Ranch.

 

Rock outcrop. Isalo Ranch.

 

Farming crops behind Isalo Ranch.