Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Paradise Found by by Nicola Jane Barratt

So, we found it! It was an 8 hour drive - though we stopped and hand
fed some lemurs while they jumped on our heads and let us squeeze
their chubby tummies and thighs. They have the nicest fur I've ever
felt - long and thick and soft and it comes in so many different
colors! Their little hands are so soft - they never scratch you even
when they jump onto your head, which the brown ones seem to be quite fond of doing.

But, I digress - paradise is called Mahambo - a little village located
about 100 miles north of Tametave, on the northeast coast of
Madagascar. The place to stay in Paradise is the Hotel Recif - Six
rattan and thatch shacks on the beach 50 feet from the high tide line,
overhanging mangroves and coconut palms. Parts of the beach are coral tide pools, part volcanic tide pools, perfect for exploring from the
beach or by snorkeling - full of rockfish, urchins, brittle stars, .
Part great for swimming - water temp 80. Air temp 70 at night, 85 in
the daytime, always a breeze. There's no one here - occasionally
someone would walk down the beach or stop for a drink - but mostly it
was just us. Miles of white sand with only the occasional lemur
passing thru for company. There were a few empty houses – there are probably more people around at Christmas. But there was no one to be bothered by the boys playing wiffle or soccer or tag or be angry for
them climbing the trees. There was noone to interrupt my cocktails
and contemplation by insisting I buy something.

There only seems to be two semi commercial occupations aside form the hotel - one is the fishermen, walking or sailing across the reef looking for lobsters - the other is infusing rum with spices or herbs
- vanilla, ginger, cannelle (a fennel like herb), lemon, pineapple or
mixed fruits. Both occupations of which I highly approve of the
outcome!!! The ginger rum with pineapple juice is my new favorite
beverage and the new house drink here at chez Heitmann!

And how's the food at the Recif? Amazing!!!! Giant bowls of hot
chocolate or coffee for breakfast with crepes or fresh baguettes.
Lunch and dinner is grilled chicken or shrimp or lobster covered in
one of a number of sauces - I loved the coconut curry sauce. Sides of
home made pasta or sauteed potatoes or grilled vegetables. Salads of
tomatoes, shrimp, vinaigrette. Desserts of flambéed bananas,
chocolate mousse, coconut custard.

Is there a down side - yes - there is only cold water in the showers -
but the staff will happily make you a bucket or two of hot water for a
stand up bath. And the avocados weren't in season. And because it's
on the east coast, there is no sunset view. But it makes the beach
nice and shady in the late afternoon - good for napping.

But in the end the visa bill arrives and you usually grimace - right?
Well the Hotel Recif doesn't take Visa or Mastercard or Amex - cash
only. Yikes, right? Wrong - the best news of all is the bill! – the
bungalows with one queen size and a set of bunk beds are $15 per
night. The lobster entree which is 2 1/2 lbs is $7. The rum drinks are
75 cents. Snorkeling is free, pirogue (canoe) rides are $5. As much
as we ate or drank or played, we couldn't seem to spend more than $100 per day – for a family of six!!! Truly paradise!!!!

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