Betafo - an authentic hike on the highlands
I confess, few guests before arriving in the highlands of Madagascar have no idea of the importance of rice cultivation and the influence of rice culture on the landscape design.
For generations, the terraces are equipped with a narrow spade (Angady) been worked and they have shaped the landscape up to high on the volcanic cones. The plateaus are full of lush rice fields, often arranged in terraces, the colors of the fields seem almost artificial at harvest time.
Around Betafo (where there are many roofs), a city of history near Antsirabe, the landscape between rice fields and waterfalls offers an extraordinary panorama. Walking through the fields is the guarantee of a gentle discovery of life in the countryside, brought about by the silence of the place and the magic of the smile.
If it is always a great pleasure to discover something by yourself, it is an invaluable gift to follow the advice of friends who live there and know your tastes. This hike is not described in any guidebook and there are no instructions of the signposts about it.
Only someone who knows these off-the-beaten-path places well can guide guests to this man-made corner of nature.
A landscape stung with a spade
After a 22 km drive west and a few kilometers of dirt road to drive along, you end up right in the heart of the rice fields, in a gently rolling landscape.
On the road to Morondava and the Great West, this typical Merina village is worth a visit.
The architecture of Betafo, representative of the Highlands region, consists of arcades and wrought iron ornaments with brick buildings from the colonial period.
Like Antsirabe Betafo is also an old spa town, which was formed by the volcanic Lake Tatamarina is towered over.
The terraced arrangement announces a rustic and complex irrigation system, the result of centuries of know-how.
And every season is ideal to enjoy the rice fields, which are at the peak of their beauty. Different in every season, in winter laterite red mixes with all sorts of shades of green. Barley for the beer, peas and other vegetables and in the eternal summer the rice fields are green.
The destination for this hike are the Antafofo Waterfalls. To get there, we crisscross the rice fields.
The path is on the small earthen embankments that border the rice fields. Surrounded by calm and fertile water and the ripple of water in the channels that border this landscape, the hike goes weiter.
The terraces dug into the volcanic rock are sometimes filled with harvest ripe rice, sometimes naked, in the submerged rice fields small fish are bred which are then caught and eaten during the rice harvest. Even a few harmless snakes are often seen.
It must be said that the composition is perfect: a slightly cloudy sky, rice fields with bright hues ranging from brown to almost fluorescent green, quietly grazing zebus, the smiles of field workers, a few herons flying in the distance .
The Antafofo Waterfall
After an hour of peaceful walking, but still careful not to leave the narrow strip of land, we reach a valley that is a bit steeper.
The terraces become narrower, the vegetation becomes denser and in the distance the water begins to rumble in search of its way.
As soon as you approach the stream, you discover with amazement a beautiful waterfall about twenty meters high, a very pleasant freshness after this walk under the sun of the plateaus.
At the foot of the waterfall calls to me a natural pool in which you can dive with pleasure. On the steep walls overgrown with ferns, you can observe huge roots tumbling down from the cliff into the water.
An ideal end to the hike: the thermal baths of Betafo
Just as unknown are the somewhat rustic thermal baths located about 2 kilometers west of the small town of Betafo.
The Betafo thermal baths, are available under the name Ranomafana (which means warm water and has nothing to do with the eponymous Ranomafana National Park to do). These thermal springs are known throughout the region but are impossible to find for a visitor without local knowledge.
For a few ariarys, amateurs are offered small spartan cabins where they can get comfortable and relax in a water with therapeutic properties.
The spring water is too hot in itself, you have to have buckets of cold water purchased to get to an acceptable water temperature.
This day spent in Betafo and its surroundings shows that Madagascar is not only a country with fabulous natural parks, but that in the backdrop of the usual itineraries there are also seh
hr has much to discover and experience. The country also offers magnificent landscapes that man has shaped over centuries and that invite you to learn more about its people, their culture and their way of life.