The little Ambatondradama trek & climb
Walking & mountain climbing (not talking about speleology).
I used to think you'd need a guide to climb hills around Ambohimanga. In fact, you don't need to. [You may need one for cultural guidance & translation as some of hills there are sacred site, including pilgrimage stations...etc.. That's the case of Ambatondradama & Mangabe.]. I just needed to be in Ambohimanga and walk from there, either to Ambatondradama, Mangabe or other hills around.
To Ambatondradama, stepped down at the end bus station at around 8am. Then, at the market place, near the ancient stone gate to the royal hill, took the second dirt path at my left. Sometimes, saw taxi-brousse that liaise Ambohimanga hill to Ambatondradama. Think it's on Tuesdays & Fridays as those are special days for pilgriming. I walked about 30-45 minutes until I reached Ambatondradama area. There, asked where to cross the little riverbed. From the main road, could already hear the sounds of some remote cascade although couldn't see any. Anyway, once I crossed the riverbed, walked on small ricefields ditches until I reached the hamlet at the foot of the hill. From there, headed and climbed Westards (my left). The sound of the cascade became more precise as my walk unfolded. Soon, I saw a stripe of green leaves amongst dry herbs. Must be water, I said. Right! The cascade runs through a small valley. Climbed, skirting the valley until I saw a crowded place with a tiny house (right on the 2nd pic). People gathered there to bath with the fresh and clean water from the rocks. Said Hi & socialized a bit. Was told about the pilgrimage stations in the hill & to remove my shoes to climb further (One cannot wear shoes to walk on sacred soil, I was told). Continued my climb barefoot... to enjoy the views, see the pilgrimage stations & talk to the keeper of the sacred site (more pics in a travelogue & about cultural aspect of the pilgrimage in a local custom tip)...
Equipment: ... From the bathhouse, the climb will last 30 minutes at average pace & if you don't stop too often (difficult though as the views are great!). I've never managed to make it to the top top... who has ? Sun is always too bright when I use to reach the highest pilgrimage station that I use to skip the last climb. So far, I managed to climb the half of the mountain's height.. or a bit more.
Pay attention to that at 10.30am, the sun is bright already and though it was winter when I climbed, it used to be too hot to climb. So, my best bet was to track back and return to the pineforest (left on 2nd pic & from where I shot 4th & 5th pics) to have my lunch. Later on, I went talking to some pilgrims again and left the area.
In total, without talking to anyone else, you would spend 1.30hour to walk from Ambohimanga and climb as I did & to the point I reached. To climb the whole hill, I guess you need to be at 6.30am in Ambohimanga ?
EQUIPMENT - To the above list in the previous tip, one should add:
1- "hat & plenty of water & carb snacks/ food". Carb because in case, like I, you were caught by the ambience and decided to stay longer than planned, it would be a pity if the hunger and the thirst were the reasons for you to not stay longer. Water: from experience, 2 liter at least.
2- a porter... personally, I have never required this type of service. Still, in Ambohimanga & on my way to Mangabe hill, while asking for the better path to follow, I was offered a porter service too. I declined because I've never needed one to carry a 20-l backpack weighing about 5kg. Also, the one who offered the service was a local guy who happened to cross my path, not an official guide & as a female operating en solo, I'd rather trust my ability to climb by my own than tag along a complete stranger... Strange but I, most of times, use to think that I'm safer roaming those plains, hills, pineforests alone.
- Mountain Climbing
- Hiking and Walking
Should you be a pioneer ?
I chose Hiking as a theme though I guess something like Cycling, Mountain climbing would fit too.
My only experience of walking there was a walk in the Ambohimanga primitive forest and picking plants and capturing hairy spiders, butterflies, crickets, creepy crawlers.. the one just below Ambatomiatendro rock...
Visiting the area, you may be tempted to browse the area of the hill itself. Hiking the hill is nice but there are also plains, villages and a massif in the nearby (though this one seems remote - see pic). I cannot recommend a precise contact name to arrange the tour for you.. my guess is that if you manage to visit the fort very early (it took us 1h30 - 2 hours to visit it), you can book one of the guides on Fidasiana place (you'd spot them chatting near the entry or playing our national game board, Fanorona) and off you go! Never hired a guide to browse around (except in the fort, we had a great guide there ), I guess they would be pleased to show you their area. I'd recommend to settle a price before the tour though, especially if it is going to last.
For cycling and mountain climbing, you may ask a tour operator about who organises such tours and about the tools & equipment. Hiring bicycles in Tana is not difficult. I was told hotels rent bicycles as well, this may be your best bet. I don't know about mountain climbing.
Anyway, walking in a fresh air, sheer natural beauty is possible. In case you do it solo (without a guide) and decide to go far far, pay attention to sunset hours...
Equipment: Hiking: walking shoes - sun lotion - water - windbreaker
For specific activities: mountain climbers know better than me what to bring... but I'll update if I have a contact name who can arrange somethig for you.
For bicycles: i'll have to check contact names too.
- Mountain Climbing
- Hiking and Walking