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Isolated Isalo

Following a journey to Parc National de l’Isalo, famous for its canyons filled with lush greenery and lagoons, Anthony Ham describes the region’s unique scenery and wildlife
Old-fashioned, hand-operated petrol pumps near the entrance to Isalo.
NIGEL PAVITT / AWL IMAGES

The road south from Antananarivo bucks and weaves along Madagascar’s rocky spine, passing on its island traverse the well-watered hills and scattered settlements of the country’s interior. Antsirabe, Fianarantsoa, Ambalavao — we skirt cities that serve as gateways to wild and forested corners of the country, en route to a different, wilder Madagascar that bears little resemblance to this densely populated corridor, this tamed, emerald-green patchwork of crops. It is a restless land, a place where movement and noise and people hold sway. The forests have gone. There is no sign of wildlife. Green turns to yellow. By the roadside, grasses — drained of colour at midday, golden at sunset — stretch to a horizon of indistinct hills to which, in time, the road draws near. These hills at first stand in silhouette, but later they turn red, their glorious sandstone buttes surrounding broad valleys beneath scudding clouds. Isalo.

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