Finding King Julian!
It was with some trepidation that I booked to go on the inaugural Madagascar cycle tour, but with only a couple of hiccups, I can quite honestly say this has been the best Exodus cycle tour I have been on. (My 4th). Madagascar is a country of such stunning natural beauty it will surely take your breath away. The trip had plenty of variety with 8 days of cycling & 2 superb days of trekking in 2 totally different National parks - the first Ranomafana - a lush jungle rainforest where everything smells damp & earthy & then Isalo Nat park which was in complete contrast with it's stunning rock formations & canyons & beautiful rich red hues of colour. Both were home to wild lemurs & having them join us for lunch at Isalo was the icing on the cake. They are cheeky & naughty & won't miss an opportunity to steal food. No two days of cycling were ever the same - the landscape constantly changes from beautiful valleys with terraced rice paddies & fields of assorted crops, colourful, noisy villages where the children fall about laughing hysterically at these white people riding bikes! Some real "off road" riding on dirt roads/tracks. Long stretches of road disappearing for miles in front of you, magestic rock formations & the hills! Madagascar is not flat & some days I'm sure we spent as much time going up as we did coming down! The gradients are not too bad though and on our lovely new bikes were easily manageable.
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Our moment of reflection at Isalo National Park. Getting up close with lemurs in their natural surroundings. Breathtaking scenery & landscapes. The opportunity to see something of village life & how hard working the people are.
What did you think of your group leader?
Mel was an inspiration himself! He certainly had his work cut out for him from the start with 5 people off the group flight arriving minus their luggage & Exodus's brand new bikes sitting at the airport tied up in red tape. Luckily everyone was reunited with their gear by about day 2/3 & we finally got our lovely new bikes on day 4 after riding loan bikes hired virtually the day before we arrived. Mel went out of his way to ensure everyone was enjoying themselves. He always had a smile, a sense of humour & an aura of calmness even when everything could easily have gone pear shaped. He kept us well informed of any changes - like our flight from Tulear which changed from a late afternoon flight to a very early morning flight virtually within an hour! If there was something we wanted to do that wasn't necessarily in the itinerary (like an impromptu village visit) like a genie, Mel delivered! Over the course of our journey, he also became an expert at finding "lady bushes" - an essential skill when there are no "real" toilets virtually anywhere en route! Mel is so very passionate about his country & it is easy to see why. He also takes the most stunning photos!
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
In June, be prepared for some cold, possibly wet days. There are few opportunities to dry wet clothes in these conditions ( no matter how quick drying your fabrics might be) so extra changes & plenty of warm layers are essential. Our snacks were plentiful & varied. Lunches were generally "picnics" so we would either stop at a supermarket or the hotel would make baguettes. Overall the food in Madagascar was good & reasonably cheap. Breakfasts were generally always eggs - fried, scrambled or omelette so if you have an aversion to them you can buy cereal at the supermarket.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Put this trip at the top of your bucket list - you will not be disappointed. The variety, the wildlife, the scenery, the people (& Mel!) - this trip has it all.