Thursday, October 08, 2009

October 8, 2009 - Nosy Ankarea

We have been anchored in Nosy Mitsio for the past two nights. We had a lovely run up here from Nosy Be, with detours to check out some basalt islands on which sea birds nest, and the pipes, a striking geologic formation on the southwest corner of Mitsio. Our first full day here Sten celebrated his return to this anchorage, in which he previously spent a full day working on the watermaker, by (you guessed it) working on the watermaker all day. I'm happy to say (tho, not as happy as he is) that it is fully functional again, thanks to the twenty pounds of parts Suzy brought in her luggage.

The anchorage at Mitsio is the best one for getting a decent night's sleep for 25 miles in any direction (and even so, it isn't all that great - we've had some rolly, gusty nights here), so there is a steady stream (in Madagascar that means one or two other boats a day) of boats passing through this anchorage. The local villagers have discovered that cruisers are good to trade with. As soon as we rounded the corner, a dug out pushed out from the village at the point, and by paddling and sailing (a primitive version of motor sailing) kept pace with us as we continued sailing the final three miles into the most protected corner of the bay. As soon as our anchor was down and his sail furled, he paddled over to us and arranged to bring us lobster the next day in exchange for an old diving mask. Sten had just caught a big Spanish Mackerel, so we had more than enough protein on board, but how do you turn down a guy who has made that much effort to trade with you? We can't.

Two more dugouts stopped by that evening to talk with us. While we were attempting to communicate in our pathetic French, Suzy noticed that when we didn't know how to say something in French, we would substitute English, but with a bad French accent (sort of like King Julian in the movie Madagascar). Thankfully, the locals are very creative in pantomiming what they want from us. We were in stitches over a request for baby formula. If I was coming this way again I would lay in a supply of old fins, masks, spear gun elastics, small fishing hooks, fishing line, spare clothing (after three years of cruising ours is in such poor condition I'm embarrassed to give it away), hats, sun glasses, magazines and medicine.

Several of the five lobsters that arrived the following morning were absolutely huge. One of them had the most beautiful teal and purple shell. They may be pretty, but these guys do put the spiny in spiny lobster. Even without claws, the spikes on their shells are a fierce defence mechanism. After cracking the shells and picking the meat out, we all have battle wounds.

Today we had a wonderful adventure exploring Nosy Ankarea, a small island near Nosy Mitsio. There used to be a resort onshore, but it has long since shut down. The buildings have either burned down or are crumbling away. But the gardens are thriving. Paths weave through the undergrowth, and we took them as an invitation to explore. While Suzy and Sten were hunting for shells on the beach, I found my way into a mud bog, populated by some giant land crabs. They were prehistoric looking creatures. While I was down in the hollow, something large went crashing through the underbrush. I couldn't make out what it was. All I saw was a waist high reddish brown blur. But Sten noticed cloven hoof prints in the sand, so we assume that it was some kind of small deer.

A well designed fire circle was all the inducement we needed to plan a beach cookout for dinner. And banana trees with big glossy leaves provided the inspiration for turning Sten's Spanish Mackerel into Balinese fish parcels. So we snorkeled our way back to Mata'irea for a light lunch. Just after lunch, Sten dropped Suzy back on the beach so that she could continue her hunt for shells and gather some firewood while we prepped dinner.

By 3:15 we were reunited back onshore, and getting the fire going. By the time the coals were ready, the firepit was already shaded by a barren black headwall blocking the setting sun. By the time the packets were cooked and some fish steaks were grilled for tomorrow's lunch, our east facing beach was in deep shadow. We hurried back to the boat, upped anchor, and raced the setting sun back to our anchorage at Mitsio. Our beach bbq wasn't the most relaxing meal ever, but it was certainly delicious and memorable.

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