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46 | AUDLEY TRAVELLER | www.audley.co.uk/share travellers' talesdramatically increased and intensified under the current administration. It has been said that any of the island's rainforests that are not in protected areas or on the steepest mountain slopes will have disappeared by 2025.But we grew to understand the needs of the people; they really do have to live off what surrounds them. They make fishing rods and nets from branches and leaves; they need wood for their houses and for fires to keep warm or cook by; and they need food. They use plants and trees for their medicinal properties: Strychnos mirtoides heals malaria, the bark of the Masonjoany tree is used as a suntan mask and the Mandravasarotra is believed to heal more than 30 diseases. Le Grande Dame We had decided to stay in comfortable but simple accommodation with the exception of a couple of places. We spent six nights (in total) in accommodation without hot water and with a limited evening supply of electricity. This wasn't a hardship when compared to how the locals live. Staying at the Relais de Masoala, we were lucky to meet the owner Monique Rodriguez, known in the guidebooks as "la grande dame de Madagascar". Monique is a fascinating lady of French origin who has been involved with Madagascar for many years.She and some friends who were visiting her were going to her brand-new sister property Le Petit Relais on the remote Masoala peninsula on the same day as we were due to go to a lodge an hour's walk from Le Petit Relais. Due to a twist in travel circumstances, we had the fortune of accompanying them on their boat and having a private and much-appreciated tour of this new lodge.Approaching by boat, all that can be seen is six wooden bungalows nestled at the foot of a most amazing primary forest but on their own private beach. The bungalows are made of mahogany that had already been cut and then saved to use to build the bungalows. It was sheer luxury - the only place we came across that offered hairdryers and a kettle in the rooms. The views from the cabins were just stunning and although we didn't eat there, the chef is French and if the cuisine at the main Relais was anything to go by, its little sister will be outstanding, despite its remote location. A real bonus is that it is the only lodge located right at the foot of the primary forest. From other nearby lodges it is quite a walk to reach the access point to this forest and, given the heat we experienced, this is a serious consideration. This place really is Malagasy Magic.Left wanting moreAlso worthy of a mention is Manafiafy where we spent the last few nights. This was incredible accommodation; spacious, private and set right on a beautiful beach with only a local village nearby. Given that it was a strenuous three hour journey on a very rough road, we never ceased to be amazed at how they managed to provide such wonderful food. If you should think of staying there, bear in mind the three hour transfer - we've travelled some rough roads in the past but this one is not for the faint hearted.We have always said that we'd never return to a place as there are so many other fascinating places in the world to visit, but we will go back - soon. There is still so much else to see and experience. You can read more about the challenges facing Madagascar's wildlife on the WWF website: www.wwf.org.uk"There's so much to see and experience in Madagascar. We will go back again - soon"A red-ruffed lemur surveys his surroundings

www.audleytravel.co.uk | www.audley.co.uk | AUDLEY TRAVELLER | 47"Cuzco left us breathless - and not just because of the altitude"Gabrielle and Peter Mollett travelled to Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos with AudleyApproaching Cuzco the plane nego ated its path around an outcrop of rocky mountainside and entered the high plateau of the valley in which the Inca Empire's former capital is situated. Our  rst views of Cuzco - nestling against the pastoral se ng of the surrounding hills and mountains - were characteris c of our Peru experience. It literally took our breath away and not only on account of the thin air at high al tude: the landscape, the many stunning Inca sites, the fascina ng history and not least the  iendliness of the Peruvian people ensured an unforge able stay.But it was our guide Jose who unravelled for us the jigsaw puzzle of stonewalls, buildings, terraces and temples we visited in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley. He always went that step further in his commentary and, as Inca history merged into Peru's post-Columbian narra ve, we were spell-bound by the drama c story that had engendered the mul -layered culture that we experienced. Walking through Cuzco is like walking through the past  ve centuries: many buildings and churches, including the splendid Iglesia Santo Domingo, are built on Inca founda ons with perfectly   ed limestone blocks  om Inca temples and palaces clearly visible above s eet level today. Cuzco is a  easure  ove not only of Inca sites but also of very good museums, especially the MAPI and Inca museum, and restaurants: Cicciolina stood out for its excellent, imagina ve fusion menu.Travelling through the Sacred Valley we were amazed at the innova ve agricultural terraces the Incas built on the valley's steep foothills. We enjoyed the bustle of the colourful Pisac market and climbed the steep steps up and up the terraces at Ollantaytambo to the un nished but nonetheless magni cent Temple of the Sun, a masterwork of Inca stonemasonry with its gigan c stones slo ed together in long s aight lines and placed to glow in the rising sun. Staying at the Hotel Pakaritampu we relaxed in the pre gardens while watching hummingbirds  y. Next morning we boarded the  ain for Aguas Calientes, the small town below Machu Picchu - the last lap of our journey. Almost impercep bly, the view outside our panoramic windows  ansformed; the lush mountain range changed into cloudforest-covered peaks.  ese loomed ever closer together over the narrowing valley through which the Rio Urubamba makes its way, undeterred by rocks or our railway  acks that some mes seemed to skim its surface. And so hurried  ain and river, side-by-side, to our des na on. To read more about Gabrielle and Pe r's journey (which included Machu Picchu, Ecuador and the Galapagos) please visit:www.audley.co.uk/ aveller/spring2013PERU, ECUADOR & GALAPAGOSCuzco - a spectacular city, day or night