Living Vicariously As A Peripatetic Shutterbug

{ More musings from the Cantankerous Old Mule }

About lost lovers, a Frenchman and a fool …

You know that tree? The one that looks as if it’s upside down, with its roots sticking high into the air? It’s called a baobab and it’s the national tree of Madagascar.

It’s also the reason I drove 13 hours to Morondava, on Madagascar’s west coast. There’s this beautiful, breath-taking, striking place north of the coastal town – one of the most photographed on the island – called the allée de baobabs. I’ve wanted to visit ever since I saw photos of it in a glossy coffee table book. Amazingly, I had the opportunity this last week.

The allée (avenue) in question is a group of Adansonia grandidieri baobabs over thirty metres high, which flank a dirt road that leads from Morondava to the town Belo sur Tsiribihina and the Tsingy de Bemaraha nature reserve further north. Being so popular with tourists, it was packed both times I visited.

The first evening I drove up in the little Hyundai i10 I had borrowed for the week but had to beat a hasty retreat way earlier than I had hoped. Only when I arrived did I realise I had forgotten my regular glasses at the hotel and my sunglasses would have been as useful to me once the sun went down as they would to a blind mouse. I did manage to elbow my way through the crowd of day-trippers to get a few nice photos, but knew I would need to return if I was to get any more after sunset.

In the meantime I read online about the amazing Baobab Amoureux – two rare Adansonia za baobabs that have twisted together like two lovers in a lifelong embrace. It is about 7km northwest of the Avenue – well within driving range and ability of the trusty i10.

I attempted the trip a few afternoons after the first – bobbing and weaving smugly straight past the common sightseers at the avenue. The road was a bit rougher than the drive to the avenue, granted, but the Hyundai was taking it all within its stride. After 5km I turned onto a narrower dirt road, marvelling at the beauty of the paysage, and my adventurous prowess.

My little car for the week. Tough as nails. And tiny compared to the majestic trees.

My little car for the week. Tough as nails. And tiny compared to the majestic trees.

A kilometre or so down the corrugated dirt track, though, I was woken from my reverie by a beast of a 4×4 trying to squeeze past. Being the legendary soul that I am, I pulled over a bit and stopped. And that was that. I was stuck. The dear little i10 is great while moving on dirt roads, but cow-plop when stationary.  I revved, rocked the car back and forth, put branches under her wheels, all to no avail. I was well and truly bogged down.

In due time, a granny, her daughter and three naked children from a village nearby idled over to see what the commotion was all about. They tried to help push me out, dig me out and push me out again amidst clouds of dust and tears, but with every attempt I got even more stuck.

Fortunately a group of French tourists arrived just then. I saw much shaking of heads and tut-tutting (or whatever the French equivalent is).

“Whit ‘appened ‘ere,” one asked in his heavy accent, as if it wasn’t obvious.

“Miandrivazo,” I answered with just a hint of sarcasm, pointing to the octogenarian and her daughter who were wandering off in the opposite direction.

“Zat’s not a 4×4,” he noted, pointing at my i10, dwarfed next to the Toyotas with their giant everythings. “Not very clever coming onto roads like zis in zat!” he continued deridingly.

“She thinks she is (a 4×4),” I felt like saying. “After all, she made it this far!”

After defending her honour, as well as I could, I asked for a push, which they were kind enough to give me. Once on firmer ground I rode on a few hundred metres and then stopped, turned around and drove back to the avenue. I had come so close to seeing the fabled tree but, just in time, I came to my senses: sometimes it’s just the wise choice to turn around, to admit defeat as it were. And that’s alright. There would be other trees to be seen, other photos to be had.

I was, for example, able to shoot some exquisite photos at the avenue. You may have seen many similar pics on the internet (because, after all, there are only so many angles from which one can shoot a bunch of baobabs) but I enjoyed it. For one photo, I waded knee-deep into a murky pond to get the right angle, emerging coated in black gunk. For others I waited until way after dark to try some long exposures, and to experiment with a couple of torches (flashlights).

I may not have seen the Baobab Amoureux, but I had a most successful photographic safari. Now, do enjoy these photos from l’allée de baobabs through my eyes.

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6 comments on “About lost lovers, a Frenchman and a fool …

  1. AnnaJ
    October 14, 2015

    Awesome pics! Hopefully I get to see the Baobabs soon.

  2. docugraphy
    October 14, 2015

    Awesome pictures!!! I´m so sorry for you getting stuck. With a 4×4 it´s really only a ten-minute-drive from the road to Belo sur Tsiribihina, at least it has been a few weeks ago in late August. But if you´ve seen all the baobabs at the allée and all around, the Baobabs d´Amour are not worth the struggle. It´s really just two twisted baobabs and that´s it! 🙂

  3. There_Lot
    October 14, 2015

    I am not sure it can be better in real life.

  4. Trinda
    October 14, 2015

    Awww 😦 Sorry about your misadventure, better luck next time. Hope you didn’t cry TOO much while trying to free your vehicle 😀

  5. Shirley
    October 14, 2015

    Just love the pics, pity your plans were stymied.

  6. ellatjie
    October 16, 2015

    Stunning photos, Rob! As always…

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This entry was posted on October 14, 2015 by in Humour, Madagascar, Travel and tagged , , , , , .
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