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5.1.10

Madagascar: Sea-kajaking Masoala

A traditional Malagay dugout canoe. Also nice.

If you are looking for the perfect way to experience nature, consider going along a coastline by kajak. Silent, swift, and superfun, a kajak expedition gets you to places where no road or path have ever lead and no foot or shoe have tread. In Masoala, you have the special benefit of the tropical rainforest coming down gentle slopes to meet the ocean, clear rivers and streams provide fresh water, and evers few hundred meters or so, the rocky shore forms alcoves of paradisical beaches, just large enough to pitch camp.

I wake at the crack of dawn from the songs of birds and insects. The night was peaceful, but now I urgently feel the need to quickly find a private spot. Within minutes, I know that my intestines will be wringing themselves in cramps, and so I go sprinting out the tent, grabbing 'Doug', the spade, in passing. „But be quick about it, eh!“ a voice from a neighbouring tent warns me. Doug is in high demand. It's the Madagascar stomach bug, and it has hit our group like it will hit most tourists who come out here for the first time.

A little later, everything is very much more relaxed. A little swim in the warm oceans before breakfast, then oatmeal porridge with honey and fruit, add a little whiskey for some, and we are set to commence the day. Breaking camp is quickly accomplished with the help of our support team, and after loading the main boat with all the gear, we head off onto our leg of the trip in the sleek kajaks that seem to be impatiently waiting for action on the shore.

Plastic sea-kajaks and a Klepper model resting on shore.

Swish, swish. The paddles make almost no sound at all as they dip into the water, each stroke pulling the kajak swiftly along a coastline of green lushness and dark ragged rock formations. There are 20 or so kilometers to go today, and we must make the most of the morning, before the sun blazes down too fiercely to do anything but sleep in the shade or snorkel the reef. Soon, as my movements synchronize themselves with that of my paddle partner, I find myself getting in the flow. My thoughts drift and wander, I clear out all those dusty cupboards of my brain, thinking about instances, people or ideas that seemed long forgotten. We drift along, only an occasional bird call or a school of hunting bonito surfacing in my conscience. The wind picks up, wavelets form. We have to paddle harder. Now, there is no more time for thinking or losing yourself in dreams. Everything is focused on pulling the paddle along cleanly while keeping my balance. There is a simple goal, to keep moving, and all my energy goes into fulfilling that one mission.
Stop for a break, enjoy the sand and rocks.

Shortly after lunchtime, we reach our detsination: A little island on the tip of the Masoala peninsula, inhabited only by crabs of all shapes and sized, and featuring a shipwreck on the outside reef where nicely-sized waves break. We go through the routine of setting up camp, my arms still a bit shaky from paddling. A simple, but hearty meal in the shade of our tarpauline strengthens spirits and body alike, and now there is only one thing left to do: Decide whether to go for that snorkel – or rather snooze in the shade.

The island camp. Home of giant crabs and stomach cramps.

I decide for the snooze – the Madagascar stomach bug did take some of that wind out of me - and tomorrow is another day in paradise.

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