Whilst staying at Madagascar’s Iharana Bush Camp, we visited the Mandresy Cave. Setting off on foot, we walked through a scattering of village huts where corn on the cob and sweet potato slices were laid directly on the dusty floor to dry. The latter will be deep fried and eaten as a snack.
After 40 minutes, we hit the tsingy (unique, sharp, limestone formations) and put on our hotel-provided head torches. We scrambled up sharp tsingy and boulders and found the entrance to the cave surrounded by greenery. Inside we clambered down and up rocks, seeing the stalactites and stalagmites remembering how we knew the difference (the mites go up and the tights (sic) come down).
We crossed a small river and began to hear bats fluttering before entering a cave full of them hanging from the roof with spiders underfoot. Fortunately, neither bother me too much but we didn’t tarry and continued, negotiating two sections of wooden planks using a rope to hold on to due to the drop on the other side. The markings on the walls were spectacular, especially amber coloured ‘veins’ which were full of sparkles.
It was very hot and sweaty and after 30 minutes of hard scrambling, we paused to catch our breath and drink water before continuing. I eventually saw daylight in the distance and hoped it was the exit, but we had to have a final pause before negotiating a particularly steep up and down section. The guide was a treasure, holding my hand to steady me, although he said I was a strong vaza (white foreigner) – I didn’t feel it as my legs felt like jelly. We eventually arrived at the exit but had to climb down steep crumbling steps. After two hours and 980m, we emerged victorious and the walk back seemed easy after so much clambering.