The boat trip started out in traditional Malagasy tradition of being about 3 hours late. Ask any local when something is due they will reply “Mora Mora” meaning “slowly, slowly” . Not “slowly, slowly wins the race”, just “slowly, slowly” as if there is no moral or reason for it being late, it just is!
Our boat is called “Noah” and is trimmed in navy blue sails and is the elder of the two catamarans. Soon after the 2nd catamaran appeared and three days in I still have no idea how to pronounce or spell it’s name. No sooner had it appeared than the competition for “who’s boat is better” started and was carried almost exclusively by the boys. I’d like to say I stood above all the petty squabbles but I hadn’t had any lunch and as such wasn’t in the mood to be magnanimous.
Already on day one, the Noah was making me proud but it did not stop their. I think the best part of the first day was entering my cabin with my room mate Alex (a French/Swiss boy who grew up in Dubai and had the best music playlist I’ve ever heard). It was the best moment purely for Alex’s reaction. At first we took note of the double bed and we were both fine with that. we then noticed the large amount of storage space which put us in a good mood. I remember saying “Ah, cool ! We won’t have to live out of bags” to which Alex said “Yeah, it seems pretty cool and IS THAT A F***ING JOKE?!?!” He said noticing the charging station on our bed side table.
Now as this is a blog for families and children I cannot describe in verbatim his reactions to the on-suit shower and toilet, the TV, the ship wide sound system, the lobster for dinner, chocolate donuts for pudding, the bed side fan, or how our supervisor has a laptop with quite literally hundreds of films on it, but take it from me, it was spectacular. Imagine if Gordon Ramsay was actually happy or if children could swear on Christmas. It was that magical to him. It was magical to all of us as we only have hammocks and bunkbeds on camp.
We spent to rest of the day. sunbathing on the deck as we left the broken boat behind and set out across the sea. We were all told in preparation for this trip that we would spend so much time in the sun that our tans would be amazing and everyone have made been putting 100% into making this come true. Jess, one of our group, is now so brown she gets mistaken for a native Italian constantly. As a ginger Englishman I understand that I will never have the golden brown skill of Greek gods and that all I can hope for is even more freckles, but that doesn’t stop be getting in the sun (with 3 layers of factor 50).
If we aren’t listening to music we are reading in the sun. We’ve all brought at least 3 books with the hopes of sharing. I have brought War and Peace, the diary of Ann Frank (which Linde, our Dutch leaper, has made clear we are all mispronouncing apparently) and a book called slaughter house 5. I hadn’t heard of it but Fran gave it too me saying “this book reminds me of you”. I soon found out that the book is about the Dresden Bombings and I’m still trying to figure out what she meant. It does however complete the trio as probably the worst books to read while tanning. While the others are getting into young adult fiction or romance novels and slowly moving across a turquoise sea in the most beautiful country on earth, I’m hugging my knees thinking on the horrors of war and asking “what does it all mean !?!?”
At the few islands we’ve stopped at so far in the past few days, we’ve fed lemurs (or rather they mugged us of our bananas), climbed waterfalls, jumped into rock pools, snorkelled, hiked through and over islands, had campfire parties and played football with school children. It’s hard to believe but it still feels like our first day.
Day four and we wake up to the boat gently swaying with the purposeful rhythm of sailing on open water. Although idyllic in any other situation, this was the morning after our camp fire where we drank beer and what we are going to call “Rhum”. We’re calling it that because it is nothing like the rum you find in Europe. The man who sold it to us said that “a little bit you go numb, a bit more you go blind, even more I visit you in hospital”! However it was amazing, it has to be said. I got vanilla Rhum and Will got coffee flavoured Rhum. His tasted like an espresso from Satan and mine tasted illegal in most countries….. in a good way?
Anyway, we wake up “feeling delicate” shall we say and after a breakfast of crepes and chocolate spread we head up on deck for our daily sunbathe. After a good hour of doing nothing we finally spot our destination on the horizon. Nosy Iranja. To us it was at first yet another island on our list to visit, yet at about 2 miles of shore we realised this island was gonna be special.
It was Alex, perching at the very front of the boat, who first noticed the water. It had gone from the deep turquoise we had grown accustomed to at sea, to a brilliant clear sapphire. We could see the reef and the fish with such clarity it was impossible to believe that we were looking through 12 meters of water. Soon everyone was on deck peering down and spotting different types of coral, species of fish and even a few turtles.
Before we knew it we were at the shore of Nosy Iranja and could appreciate the absolute perfection of the island. It’s probably better to describe it as two islands linked by a sand bank acting as a winding bridge between to two islands (where they apparently filmed Pirates of the Caribbean according to Rosh but about half of us don’t believe him) . The sand there is so white it was almost blinding in the light of the midday African sun. Walking on it was like treading on a liquid, viscous Persian rug (in short, it was really soft).
After a lunch of kebabs and tuna pasta prepared by Mama (our chief who spoils us rotten with her cooking) we wander around the island. We soon discovered we weren’t the only foreigners on the island that day. In fact it’s probably more accurate to say that there were more French tourists on the island than there were actual Madagascans. We could tell they were French by the way almost all the men wore horrifyingly small speedos. We found it very easy to explain the term “budgy smugglers” to non English leapers, what with so many examples freely provided by middle aged Frenchmen.
We made it to the very top of the island where there was a solitary lighthouse…. in the middle of a school playground (for some reason). Alice, the staff member “in charge of us” magically pulled out the key to the lighthouse and we all stepped inside. As you would expect there was a spiral staircase, but unlike what you would expect, it was covered in rust. So much so it was hard to believe that it was holding together. In fact in some areas it wasn’t. There were more than a few holes in the steps and in one case a hole so big the step just want there! Regardless we trusted Alice and went up, until she panically shouted “ONLY 11 PEOPLE AT A TIME!!” To our group of 16.
I now respectfully question Alice’s decisions whenever my life hangs in the balance.
After we were finished kissing the ground and thanking God we decided to shop for souvenirs with our new appreciation for life. Being a tourist destination, the locals have taken full advantage and offer almost everything from bracelets to tablecloths. You can’t even look at a sarong without some random person coming up to you and haggling. Although I’m perfectly happy to buy souvenirs, I myself know that the best gift I could give to my mother is a very generous bottle of Rhum, not a table cloth. Therefore I happily just watched Alex and Linde peruse the island (Linde’s family: apparently your quite hard to buy for. Not commenting. Just reporting.).
We spend the rest of the day in the sapphire water, playing and talking with the local children who I’ve never seen without a smile. We all reunited at the beach from our various missions. Most went shopping as we did but a few of us (Namely Will) had spent the better part of the day posing under palm trees for a new Facebook profile picture.
Although to be honest almost everyone has been guilty of this. In fact Jess damn near killed me getting me to take a picture of her diving. No matter how many pictures I took it was never enough. I consider myself a strong swimmer but I don’t think anyone can tread water for an hour with one arm holding a camera. At the end her comment was “Crispian some of these are really good…. but most are just ****” she said as I was on my knees vomiting salt water. Jess if your reading this, you’d better give me all the bloody credit for the pics on Facebook.