Moving to Matsedroy

Wading through rivers to Matsedroy - photo by Jenni Lucy.

Welcome to part 5 of my Madagascar travel series. To begin at part 1, click here.

After two weeks undertaking botany surveys at base camp in Mariarano, it was time to move on. On the morning of the 3rd of July, myself and several others made the three hour trek to Matsedroy satellite camp.

Matsedroy - photo by Lewis Kramer
Matsedroy – photo by Lewis Kramer

The trek to and from Matsedroy was one of my favourite things about switching camps. The same rice paddies that we crossed at night searching for snakes, frogs and chameleons, we now crossed in the daytime, jumping over rivers with our heavy backpacks and politely passing zebu roped around trees.

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Walking to Matsedroy – photo by Jenni Lucy.
Zebu - photo by Jenni Lucy
Zebu – photo by Jenni Lucy

Luckily the majority of our luggage was taken by zebu cart to camp, as our walk involved some very deep rivers. At one point I was wading up to my thighs along a murky brown river, reminiscent of the ones I deliberately avoided when living in Australia due to the probable presence of crocodiles. I managed to get across by enjoying the beauty of the overhanging plants and trees, looking out for lemurs and constantly reminding myself that it was dry season and no crocodiles were currently stalking me. (And even if they were, there were definitely shorter people than me for a crocodile to go for.)

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Our luggage was taken on zebu carts such as this – photo by Jenni Lucy
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River crossing – photo by Hannah Williams.
Wading through rivers to Matsedroy - photo by Jenni Lucy.
Wading through rivers to Matsedroy – photo by Jenni Lucy.
Definitely could've been crocodiles here.
Definitely could’ve been crocodiles here.

The forest we climbed through was a dry thicket of spiny plants and I couldn’t wait to get started identifying them with the rest of the botany team.

photo by Jenni Lucy.
photo by Jenni Lucy.

When we reached the lip of what was known as ‘phone-signal hill’ (I’m sure you can work out why), the lake where the camp was based came into view, though the camp itself was hidden by trees.

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It was a stunning sight, nestled in a valley of forest on the edge of a lake, we gazed from our vantage point as birds flew below us and rested on naked branches, providing the ornithologists with much enjoyment.

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The first week at Matsedroy I suffered from a weird case of homesickness for Mariarano. I missed the lemurs running overhead each daytaking part in the local culture and let’s not forget the pub, or ‘route 10’ as we had to call it around visiting school students.

A night out on 'route 10'. L-R: Lewis, Michael, Lara, Anjy, Claire, Dom, Conor, Ali, Me, Jenni and Jeneen.
A night out on ‘route 10’. L-R: Lewis, Michael, Lara, Anjy, Claire, Dom, Conor, Ali, Me, Jenni and Jeneen.

Frankly, Mariarano had begun to feel like home. Madagascar had begun to feel like home. The people I met in Madagascar were warm and welcoming, easy to befriend and so easy to talk to and learn from. It didn’t take long before I settled into Matsedroy and began to see the benefits of its more isolated location.

Wildlife in the lake - photo by Jenni Lucy
Wildlife in the lake – photo by Jenni Lucy
View from the common area - photo by Lewis Kramer.
View from the common area – photo by Lewis Kramer.

The amenities were similar to those of base camp. There were bucket showers, long-drop toilets and an open common area.

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Showers and clothes-washing facilities – photo by Jenni Lucy.
Common area - photo by Jenni Lucy.
Common area – photo by Jenni Lucy.

There were plenty of hammocks and a small shop run by locals from a nearby village, where you could get Dhazma rum (thank God), something which looked like chocolate but did not melt in the sun, and therefore had a flavour more akin to plastic (not that I noticed at the time, I was desperate) and fizzy drinks.

One of many messy rum-based nights. Me and Lewis at the front, L-R Jen, Katy, Emily, Anjy and an anonymous blur.
One of many messy rum-based nights. Me and Lewis at the front, L-R Jen, Katy, Emily, Anjy and an anonymous blur.

The plus points were numerous. The tents were separated from the common areas and instead arranged within the forest, allowing for a quieter night’s sleep and greater privacy. There was an area to have a bonfire outside, and the view from the camp over the lake was stunning, particularly at sunset. There were usually fewer people around so it was generally less noisy.

Joel relaxing in Matsedroy - photo by Anjy.
Joel relaxing in Matsedroy – photo by Anjy.
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sunset at Matsedroy – photo by Hannah Williams.

The best bit about Matsedroy in my opinion was the lakes. As well as the one in front of camp, where our shower water came from and our drinking water was filtered from, there were more lakes further along the track. My favourite was lake 2, where my friends and I could happily strip off and enjoy one of white people’s favourite past times; sunbathing.

Me at lake 2 - the greatest sunbathing spot.
Me at lake 2 – the greatest sunbathing spot.

As the days progressed I settled in more and began to enjoy the new surroundings and locations for forest plots. The paths were more challenging and winding, making it all the more fun. As I was tying tags onto trees and learning the Malagasy names for each species, I had a sudden beautiful thought; 8 year old Steph would be so happy with 24 year old Steph. I am outdoors, trekking around and exploring new places as much as I physically can. This is exactly what tiny Steph wanted. Adventuring around forests, learning about them, trying to protect them and writing about it all.

Tiny Steph, Big Steph.
Tiny Steph, Big Steph.

Learn more about the challenges and fun times that I encountered in Matsedroy next Tuesday at 6pm.

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