We woke on New Years Day just as it was getting light. Today was the day that we would drive back to Toliara, and then to Ifaty for a one night stay at the Paradisier Hotel. After we packed, we all gathered in the bar area with our gear for the trip back. While we were waiting for our group to assemble, we found out that Ray was really sick, apparently with a pretty high fever. As we only had 3 vehicles, and only one had working air conditioning, we decided that Ray needed to be in the one with the A/C. Klaus and his team loaded the trucks and we started on our trip back to Toliara.
We headed back through Itampolo, the site of our wedding the night before. Suzi and I were with Bill in one of the trucks that did not have A/C, and it was going to be another very hot day. The drive was only about 200 miles, but it was going to take us all day to get back to Toliara due to the condition of the roads. Bill was great to travel with, and kept us entertained most of the way with stories of his previous visits to Madagascar. Unfortunately, we kept him talking so much that later in the trip he was coughing and lost his voice, due to the amount of dirt that was blowing in through the open window and straight into his lungs. Sorry Bill!
We were taking pretty much the same route north that we had taken south 3 days before. Around mid-afternoon, we again reached the town of Fanantenana. We stopped to have lunch and all of us piled out into the restaurant. There was a big table set up for all of us and we relaxed and waited for our food. I took my hat off to let my head cool, and I noticed that everyone started laughing at me, so I asked Suzi what was going on. She let me use her small travel mirror, and I saw that several hours of being sweaty in a truck with the windows down and my hat on had given me a very noticeable line of dirt on my face. I figured we had a good 6 hours left on the road, and since there really was no running water to be found, I left the dirt alone.
After lunch, we piled back into the trucks and continued toward Toliara. I was still mesmerized by everything about the country, and watched it go by as Bill continued his stories. Around 5 pm, we pulled into Toliara and made a brief pit stop at what I believe was one of our drivers homes. The town was very run down and the roads, though paved, were in very bad repair. After 11 hours on dirt though I wasn't going to complain.
We headed north out of town and along another paved road. We could see the Mozambique Channel, but unfortunately, the view also included large areas of garbage dumped alongside the road. After another half hour, we pulled into the hotel.
The Paradisier Hotel looked really nice from the outside, and when we got out, we weren't disappointed with the inside. The hotel was beautiful, with a large open lobby, dining area and pool. We were greeted with complimentary drinks, after which the bungalow keys were passed out.
Suzi and I found our luggage and made our way to the bungalow. The fronts of the bunglaows were all facing the Mozambique Channel, right on the water. When we walked into the bungalow, we were very pleasantly surprised! The bungalow was divided into two separate rooms, each with two floors. The upper floor was just the bedroom, but the bed was very nice, with a mosquito net draped over it. The first floor had a small living area and a bathroom, which had (drum roll please) a shower!!! I was so excited that I was going to have my first real shower in almost 6 days!
As dinner was in an hour or so, Suzi and I broke out some clean clothes and got cleaned up. I let her shower first and then I took mine. Oh, how good that water felt! The dirt on my face practically came off in layers. I was so happy that I even stayed in the shower after the hot water ran out. After I was done and had a good shave, we got dressed and made our way to the dining room.
There was a large pool next to the restaurant, and the walls of the restaurant were open to the air coming off the Mozambique Channel. Dinner was all set up for us, and consisted of a really tasty fish curry. I enjoyed a cold beer, called Three Horses. The bottles were 65 centiliters, which converts to just about 22 ounces, and cost roughly $1.50. This was the price we found it for in most places, a pretty good deal I thought. It was quite good, however it was obvious that the bottles were recycled. I don't think recycling in Madagascar is the same as it is in the states. The bottles looked like they had been used several times over, probably just cleaned out and sterilized (I hope).
After dinner, we continued to look around, and finally said our good nights. Suzi and I went back to our room, and got our mosquito net ready. It was a very calm night out, and even being by the water didn't help out as far as a breeze went. We still weren't adjusted to the heat, and it took a while for both of us to fall asleep.