The first step is always the hardest. This is true in so many aspects of life, but none more that heading into the unknown. The leap program is no exception to this. Especially as the first step is two days of plane journeys, with all the added nightmares of lost luggage, missing passports, ripped tickets, lack of sleep and of course the endless feeling that you’ve defiantly forgotten something.
But despite all of this, we made it (crazy I know but keep reading). We got off the plane and were greeted with sunshine, heat, dense emerald fauna and a good hour and a half of bureaucracy trying to get a visa in the smallest airport I’ve ever seen. Not complaining, just giving you a heads up. It’s important to know this!
Outside the airport doors, the real adventure begins with a Malagasy taxi. To describe this properly I will ask you to imagine a taxi packed with as many people as possible. Now double it! This taxi redefined physics. We made a clown car look like a shared apartment. Don’t get me wrong. I was having a great time. Best start to an adventure, until my bladder offered a second opinion.
Anyway, regardless of my discomfort, Madagascar is beautiful. You leave the airport and go through jungle valleys and rice fields, heading down a road lined with cows, villages and the occasional group of school children. That taxi ride made two things clear to me: I was now in Africa and letting Imo sit on me was a mistake.
Finally we make it to Nosy be (Nos-ee Bay) where we recharged on the teenage essentials of pizza and free wifi. The village of Nosy Be is vibrant yet small and colourful while still being sensible. My first moments in the town were of awkward “out-of-place-ness” and even intimidation. However my second trip put my fears to rest as the locals were welcoming as they have seen literally thousands of western tourists and therefore know exactly how to welcome you.
We left Nosy Be after a quick tour of the local bars and Internet cafes and took a boat out to sea. The view however was the bleak, empty horizon you imagine. The trip to camp is one over the island coast of Madagascar, where mountains topped with rain clouds stand sentinel across the horizon and fishing boats of all description dominate the explanation of the azure sea.
We then made it to base camp and honestly after 4 days I never want to leave. Where else do you have your own private cove, hammocks overlooking the sunset and an endless supply of of friendly fellow volunteers to share a beer with. I really can’t say anymore as base camp is the best surprise and I refuse to ruin it for you. If you really want to find out, you’ll have to come to Madagascar and find out…