Our first day at the Isalo Rock Lodge gave us a chance to see our environs by daylight for the first time. This area is breathtaking in the way of Yosemite or the Rockies, full of raw natural beauty. Like the luxury accommodations in Yosemite, the Lodge does its best to accentuate the beauty around you, with lots of panoramic views. From the bar and restaurant in the main lodge building, you can't help but be impressed looking out at the stark landscapes and beautiful massifs.
The lodge designers have done a great job of providing that same view from every “bungalow” room. Each set of rooms is in a building that is built at the proper distance from the others to provide the same glorious view. Our room and, it appeared, all the others had a full-length deck with deck chairs on the panoramic side of the building. That whole side of the room was composed of glass doors and walls to offer that view inside or out.
Our room at the lodge was the most beautiful and impressive we have stayed in so far. With a king sized bed (complete with elegant mosquito netting and flowers on the pillows upon arrival), like all the buildings, it was made of stone, reflecting the surroundings. It had a small sitting area and large bathroom with both a shower and large roman tub (with panoramic views). Hard to do it justice with words but the photos should give a sense of the room and the view.
After breakfast, we headed into town (Ranohira) to pick up our local guide and pay park entrance fees, then headed off on our morning hike. Our guide, Parson, took us on a 2 km hike along a trail to a waterfall. Along the way we looked for lemurs and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Much of the park is semi-desert (chaparral) terrain, but in this particular area it was a quite lush riparian corridor. Part way along our trail, we paused at a campsite area while our guide headed out to look for lemurs (without any luck). Then we headed on to the waterfall. The trail had many steps cut into the rocky ground and crossed the creek a couple times as we went along. Nathan tweaked his ankle a bit and decided to wait for us as we went the last little bit to the falls. The falls were about 40 feet high and in a rocky cavern where it was quite dark. The pictures of it don’t do it justice. On the way back from the falls, we stopped again in the campsite area and hung out for a bit. We watched a number of rock geckoes sunning themselves in a rocky crevice nearby and then a troop of red-fronted brown lemurs came through the campsite. They seemed very habituated to humans (apparently they show up at the campsite regularly hoping for handouts). They roamed the campsite for a time and then headed off on their way, as did we. We returned to Isalo Rock Lodge, where we had lunch and then had the afternoon to ourselves to relax in this beautiful place. At five, Christy met Patrick and Tony headed the 10 minutes out to “La Fenetre”, a rock formation that looks (somewhat) like a picture frame and happens to be angled well for the sun to set behind the open “frame.” This is a big tourist attraction in the area and dozens of tourists descended on this spot to watch the sunset. It did make for some interesting pictures, but the mass of people made it considerably less worthwhile then it might be otherwise. It was quite difficult to get a straight shot without several heads in the way. To give you a sense of the tourists visiting here, we did not hear English spoken by anyone else in this mass of tourists.
As it turned out, the best part of this outing was the rising moon that seemed to hover just above the sandstone formations as we made our way back to the lodge. Without big-headed tourists in the way, it made for some nice photos.
We played some Carcassonne before meeting Patrick for dinner at the lodge and made arrangements to go to a Malagasy Lutheran church service in the morning, before heading out into the park.