We had to return to the outskirts of Tana before we could take the road south to Antisaribe. A brief stop in Moramanga allowed one of our group to buy some sunglasses and the drivers to stock up on oil. The town was very busy with rickshaws. Further on, the road crosses the Mangoro River and passes a hydro-electric power station. There were road-side sellers
and whole families (including children) breaking rocks into gravel and small pieces to be used in making concrete. Closer to Tana there are rice paddies in the valleys between the hills the road winds up and down around. Occasionally large lumps of granite peep out of the vegetation on the hillside. The Tana bypass was built by the Japanese and one road is known as the Boulevard de Tokyo. This is one of the bridges:
Switching our minibuses to 4x4s, we headed south on RN7. It was very slow progress uphill in a long line of traffic through the suburbs, behind a couple of HGVs and past a broken down one. The road surface was in good condition and ran alongside a valley. Sugarcane and later rabbits were being sold at stalls. By lunchtime we had reached Ambatolamy which had a busy market.
The town is host to an aluminium smelting and recycling facility. Aluminium from car parts and other items is melted down and made into marmites (cooking pots) and other useful items. They can make up to 50 pots per day. It is the only place in Madagascar that the earth and charcoal are suitable for making handmade moulds. The work was very dusty but none of the men wore masks.
Pétanque was being played in the town centre. RN7 continues through the crowded main street and uphill out of town. Zebu-drawn carts are a frequently seen means of transport. Many brick houses are being built in the highlands to replace the single-storey clay and thatch homes we had seen on the plains. There are very few large cemeteries in Madagascar. Instead, most people are buried in tombs on the edge of tribal land. The larger, well-decorated tombs are those of well-off people who must sacrifice a zebu to be buried there. This is expensive and has led to thefts of zebu. Less well-off people just have a concrete mound paupers grave. It is fady (taboo) to point at a person or tomb.
Every time we stopped at the roadside; children appeared to beg. Potholes reappeared after Ilempona; being a Route National is no guarantee of a good surface. Like many other African countries, Madagascar is a graveyard for old trucks from Europe and we saw many familiar names on the roads here. We continued to Antsirabe where we spent a night. The town grew up around thermal springs discovered by Norwegian missionaries in the late 19th century. The spa is still in use and owned by a Norwegian. It is the third largest town in the country. The station was quite close to our hotel but there is now only one freight train per day.
There is a large boulevard with a memorial to the 18 tribes in the country. The Hôtel des Thermes has a slightly faded glamour inside.
We looked inside the Catholic Cathedral and some of the small workshops around town. One in particular: Chez Mamy Miniatures makes small bikes, cars and taxis from recycled cans, wires and IV tubing. The Atelier Cornes du Zebu produces goods made from zebu horn. We took a pousse-pousse (rickshaw) back to the hotel and then left town heading west on RN34. We passed the Star Brewery whose beer we had been drinking and then through a fertile valley before heading uphill and over a pass. In one river the locals were panning for gold in gravel rejected by the nearby gold mine.
At various times today the surrounding landscapes were reminiscent of other dry places in the southwest USA or the Canary Isles.
Multiple potholes appeared in the road before descending to the plain and Miandrivazo, our destination.
When he heard we were driving to Noosa, our host in the Glass House Mountains advised not to go straight to the southern end of the Sunshine Coast as soon as Steve Irwin Way ended at the Pacific Highway. He advised going north on the highway until Eumundi and exiting there. He said that Eumundi had a market worth seeing, the northern part of the coast was quieter. Also, the coastal road was much closer to the beach there, not obscured by buildings and less busy. As this was a Saturday we took his advice. Eumundi market is billed as Australia’s premier artisan market and held every Wednesday and Saturday with at least 600 stalls. There are artisans stalls, food and drink stalls and live music. Free parking is very well organised.
In the adjacent street are coffee shops and restaurants plus Berkelouw Book Barn which has been in operation since 1812. It is huge and sells both new and secondhand books and a few stationery/gift items. There is an adjacent café. I had to limit myself to one book as I do not wish to emulate having to sort out cases at check-in on the homeward journey. I had once bought so many books in the NW USA and Canada that I had to repack my case and give some to James at Vancouver airport.
Afterwards, the temperature had risen to 26 degrees, warm enough for ice-cream. We had to wait a little as the ice-cream in the van was too cold! Back in the car we drove over to the coast and stopped for a picnic lunch on Castaways Beach. There were only a few dog-walkers and families plus two guys swimming.
As we were about to leave, some guys arrived with a Weimaraner and two small terrier puppies. Our Weimaraner died almost three years ago at the age of 14 and we do miss her. I obliged and took some photos of the guys with all their dogs who were getting a bit fed up of posing. I also dipped my feet into the cold Pacific and could not imagine how anyone could swim in it.
This was definitely the quietest beach as a little further up the coast, Sunshine Beach was much busier and had lifeguards.
We settled into our motel in Noosaville before going over to Noosa Head and the main beach late afternoon.
Hastings Street is the main drag behind the beach with hotels, apartments, boutiques and restaurants. At the south end of the beach is a path to First Point and a boardwalk to the National Park. There is a coastal trail right around the head to Sunshine Beach. James was keen to eat fairly early, so we missed sunset but here is the beach afterwards.
If we wake up early we might walk into the National Park to see if we can spot some koalas before we move on. Today’s mileage was 97 making the total after one week 1086.
The morning we left home was only the second misty dawn with rain drops hanging on spiders’ webs draped on the bushes we had had in September. The incoming ferry was late arriving and watching all the arriving vehicles drive off, we noticed that there must have been a classic car event somewhere as several old cars appeared, even three 1930’s Rolls Royces similar to the one my father used to have. After a night on the boat we disembarked to endure lengthy security checks just before the sun rose in Caen.
The rest of the journey was easy but we did see long queues of lorries heading north on the N10 south of Angoulême. Foreign HGV drivers have been blocking roads as a protest against the high tolls on the autoroute. Drivers do not pay road tax for their vehicles in France so the tolls are the way money is raised to maintain the network. We arrived in time for a walk by the river near the local château where some sunflowers were still in flower. Many more are drying before harvesting. Persimmons and kiwi fruits are harvested after the first frost.
The village our friends live in is on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, one of the routes in France that converge at St Jean Pied de Port before the path continues on through Spain. There was a crucifix and a scallop shell (worn by pilgrims and a way marker for the trail) on one of the buildings.
Over the next few days we visited markets in Branne and Libourne where these lobsters awaited their fate in the fish market.
Libourne is attempting to control the urban pigeon population by building a dovecot on the riverside and when the pigeons nest there, the eggs are replaced with ceramic ones. The waterfront here is under renovation, due for completion in 2025. Inevitably visit to vineyards and wine buying took place at Château la Sablière and a local wine co-operative and an art and craft exhibition in St Émilion.
We visited Bordeaux in the evening for a dinner cruise along the Garonne. The meal was very enjoyable although it was the first time I have had avocado as a dessert.
Tomato plants were being grown in tubs along the waterfront and I assumed this was free food. A couple of days later while doing some shopping, these were being removed. Other walks were around Lac de la Cadie which is also used for watersports and fishing and around the 100 Years War battlefield and Talbot memorial in Castillon la Bataille. Summer re-enactments are held in July and August involving large numbers of people and horses.
The local grape harvest was underway. Much of it is mechanised but grapes for the better wines are still hand-picked. Château d’Yquem grapes are picked and examined six times before being declared suitable. All too soon it was time to leave on a wet, misty morning with the trees colouring for autumn. Again we were fortunately driving in the opposite direction to the heavy traffic and we did not have too many delays at the port before we were back on the ferry and on our way home. It was still misty when we got to Portsmouth but today we have some warm autumn sun at home to enjoy the colours and catch up on garden jobs.
We began our day in Cork with coffee. The aim was to plan our day and this cafe near our hotel was very appropriate for me as a writer, reader and someone who does voluntary work in a bookshop.
It did not disappoint and Having topped up the caffeine levels, our first destination was Cork Old Gaol on the other side of the river. We took a slightly circuitous route along the Mardyke Riverside Pathway which is a tunnel of green. This is the Mardyke Bridge.
This part of path we were on is entirely within the city near the university. It took us past Cork Museum which is situated in a park with sculptures among the trees and plants. The museum is free to visit.
Our next destination was Cork Old Gaol which was closed in 1923. You can go on a guided tour or by yourself with an audio guide or guidebook. We chose the last option.
Some of the rooms have models and furnishing depicting life in the gaol and there are also displays about notable prisoners. If you wish, you can have your photograph taken in the stocks. Caffeine levels were topped up again at the cafe here before heading back towards the city centre. We were aiming for the Crawford Gallery but in the block on Lavitt’s Quay just west of it is Vibes and Scribes, a bookshop selling new, used and secondhand books. We found a few gems in the secondhand store. It also has a book group which meets weekly and an arts and craft store across the river in Bridge Street. At the Crawford Gallery which is also free to visit (donations are invited) we saw Harry Clarke’s drawings for stained glass windows entitled ‘The Eve of St Agnes’ and based on Keats’ poem.
The display also included two of his stained glass windows. We also watched Aideen Barry’s 2015 stop-motion film ‘Not to be known’ looking at the role of the ideal homemaker and working woman as she is seen by the media and enjoyed Danny McCarthy’s installation ‘Beyond silence: a bell rings in an empty sky’ is composed of ceramic and other bells he collected at car book sales and is on display until the end of August.
There is also a good collection of Irish artists’ work in both oil and water colours dating from the 18th to 21st centuries. We did not look at everything as we were beginning to flag and so wandered back towards the hotel picking up a late lunch at the indoor English Market in the city centre. One of the fish stalls had this large fish on display.
This evening we are off out for some food, drink and music which should not be hard to find in this great city where there is so much to choose from.