Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Ranomafana, Toliara, Madagascar
*** UPDATE – PICTURES ARE LOST 🙁 I will update from Pat when I get home in two weeks ***
Welcome to the Rain forest .. What do you get in the rain forest… Rain of course! Whoda thunk it!
So today we arrived at Parc de Nationale Raminofana. It was a spectacular drive in down twisty turning roads, lush vegetation and lovely sunny skies. Oh how thing turn quickly. As we awaken in the evening to the sound of rain hammering away at an aluminum gutter just outside our window we hold out hope that the mist and clouds will lift and we will get to hike a dry day.
Well, no such luck and the rain actually increased, but we are prepared with rain gear and off we go. Meeting our mandatory National Park guide, JeanCris, we are challenged to a game of name that plant. First up before we start was a very tiny tree chameleon that I would never have spotted in 100 years. Then its onto the citrus smelling plant … Orange.. I fail .. The spicy smelling plant .. Pepper .. I fail … The medicine-y smelling plane .. Eucalyptus.. I fail .. Oh well it was fun trying but my sniffer clearly stinks. I think it must have been all the exhaust in Cairo that killed it!
Finally we see a group of people staring at the tree canopy and something is moving up there. It turns out to be our first Lemur sighting, a golden bamboo lemur. REALLY cool to see even if it was basically a silhouette against a slate grey sky. Pat’s binoculars certainly helped though. Really allowed us to see that incredibly cute face with the big bulging eyes and the large fluffy tail beading the water.
After this sighting, on we went climbing stairs stairs stairs and more stairs up down . Then the occasional slippery slope down or up as we bush whack to see another lemur here or there. Our guides son was running the forest ahead of us spotting. Really a great system until he blew it and took us down this MASSIVELY steep slope only to have there be nothing there. I can tell you this, there was no translation necessary to tell the butt chewing the boy got from his father for dragging the vassa’s (white people) down here for nothing. It was actually quite amusing to watch.
Along the way I got to play Dr., patching up a badly twisted ankle of one of the other guides spotters so now I am without my ACE bandage for my ankle and a few vitamin I’s (that’s Ibuprofin!) Short.
By the end of our lemur spotting, we had seen red necked lemurs, red bellied lemurs and the broad nosed lemurs. None of them particularly close and all of the viewings we found ourselves challenged buy the elbows of the other tour groups to get the best viewing angle. All in all a great experience but a little too many people there made it feel a bit like a zoo excursion.
We ended the hike with a long uphill hike through the old growth forest to have lunch high in the mountains followed by the long hike down.
So back to the hotel for a warm up shower and a little tea before it is night time and off to the “night walk” we go. What a joke actually. The night walk consists of driving up the road a couple of kilometers and parking the car. Then you get out and stand in the ditch looking for animals. Now the tiny mouse lemurs were very cool as were the tree frogs and chamelions, but to call it a walk was silly. We probably walked a total of 300 meters. Oh well what can you do! It was still a lot of fun and very cool animal spotting…in the now cold rain 🙂
Now is a good time to explain about the park system here. They all have entrance fees, however, you are not allowed to enter on your own. You have to take a mandatory guide who may or may not speak English well. So basically you are paying for someone to walk with. Now, that wouldn’t be so bad to help out the locals if I didn’t feel like I was getting gouged. For reference, we are paying for our driver, car, petrol, his food and lodging for about 140,000 Ar ($70 USD) per day. The guide fees for today for 6 hours of walking was 100,000 Ar ($50 USD) and we really just walked in a circle in the rainy forest.
Our rooms were basic with mosquito nets but clean and serviceable with nice hot water. Tomorrow we get on the move to Andringitra.