leaping_lemurs: (Lemurs Looking by the_reverand)
[personal profile] leaping_lemurs
Before we left, I took a few pictures of the Nature Lodge, because it looked so pretty in the sun, with all its flowers and sculpture.







Ankarana (pro: AhnKAHrahnah) is at the very northern tip of the island, and it’s hot. The road up here (80 km, if I’m remembering right – and I very well might not be) was good most of the way, then became as bad as the road to the Nature Lodge (which we had to go back on to reach the turn-off to the park).

On the way from the Lodge to the main road, we passed a large stand of eucalyptus, and Frank explained that the government made a deal with the locals to help protect the endemic forest from being further cut down for charcoal. In exchange for the people preserving the native forest, the government planted 28 large stands of eucalyptus (which isn’t native but is very much present now, because the Europeans planted it to drain the swamps). It grows fast and makes good charcoal, and the people are allowed to fell one stand per year (which I think is then replanted).

We also passed a couple of chameleons. I love the way this first guy is situated and silhouetted.




I'm not sure how well you can see it in this resizing, but the texture of his skin (which shows up perfectly in the huge original version) is fascinating.



While we were crossing a bridge on the main road, quite far from the last signs of civilization, the car (a Nissan Patrol SUV) stalled and was hard to start up again, and hard to shift into 1st. Godi, our driver, got it going and off the bridge, then pulled over, and the guys all got out, popped the hood and started doing car things. They added what Frank said was brake fluid, but from the way Godi kept pumping the clutch and the trouble he was having shifting, my guess is that the clutch needs relining and/or fluid, assuming clutches use fluid, which I don’t know.

This little boy must have lived nearby, because he watched the entire procedure with fascination. He was all smiles, but then, when I asked to take his picture, he got all serious.


We also stopped along the way to take pictures of this caldera.


Anyway, they got things fixed to their satisfaction and we made it to a good-sized village – one with a gas station and several shops – by lunch.





Godi stayed with the car at the gas station, and while we ate the picnic we’d brought with us at a little roadside drink shop with tables (called a gargote, as near as I can tell).

While we were eating, this little boy came by selling peanut brittle. I didn't dare buy any, as delicious as it looked, but he let me take his picture anyway.


We fed our scraps to the most emaciated dog I’ve seen yet, a very old skin-and-bones female with cataracts. I’m sure the poor thing isn’t long for this world, but I felt better giving her something anyway. Then it was back on the road to the park.

We’d been expecting to stay at the Ankarana Camp, described in our itinerary as “newly opened and quite comfortable,” two things I’m sure it will be when it finally opens. (OK, “newly opened” will be a no-brainer at that point, but anyway...) But since it’s in fact not open yet, we’re staying at the Ankarana Village, which is not newly-opened and, I confess, not terribly comfortable. I think if we’d been expecting something this basic we would have been fine, but it did come as a bit of a shock to both of us. We have individual bungalows that are the traditional raised wooden floor, vertical pole sides and thatched roof. At night each bungalow gets a kerosene lantern for light, and there’s a bed with a piece of foam for a mattress, sheets, a towel and a small high table. The really tough part, though – and I know I sound like an elistist whiny bitch here, and I’m sorry (and not at all proud of my first-world pampered self) – is that the toilets are semi-functional and the shower far more basic than the one at Ampijoroa. (Addendum: The shower is also not working.) They’re also across the camp from us, which is a problem only because there’s no real path to get to them, so you just kind of pick your way around things. Fine in the day, but a little trickier at night. They’re BYOTP, too. Luckily I have 2 rolls in my luggage. Still, I took 2 Benadryl last night (I’m writing this on the 23rd), which made me nicely drowsy and I slept fine.

Later yesterday afternoon we took our toughest walk for this park. Terry hikes and says it would be considered moderate, but I freely confess that for me it was difficult.
We saw crowned lemurs right off the parking area at the trailhead, a group of 3 or 4, but very high and leaping for shelter, because it was starting to rain, so I didn’t get pictures. Then we hiked in to where you climb to see the Tsingy Meve (meve means good or nice). The path, which was very well marked by white dots on the rocks, was steep and narrow as you scrambled up rocks, and when Vy told me, when I asked how long it was, that it was 3 times the section we could see, I was honestly going to back out and just wait for them there at the bottom. But they were all my supportive lemurs (as Terry called the sportive lemurs a few days ago, and I’ve adopted the phrase) and promised to help me if I needed it, plus Frank carried my backpack with the camera. And I made it! I did use Frank’s hand to get me up (and later down) some tricky bits, but I got to the top, and I’m glad I did, because the view was fabulous and the Tsingy themselves are incredibly impressive and hard to describe. They’re a World Heritage site, limestone formations that were once under water but are now huge reminders of where the sea once was. They’re extremely sharp, too. You have to be careful where you put your hands as you’re climbing. We walked along the top for about 15 minutes, taking pictures as we went, to the “official” viewpoint, where the view is truly magnificent. Photos truly don’t do them justice.













But I confess that the highpoint for me was right before we reached the viewpoint, when Frank spotted a northern sportive lemur, a nocturnal species, that had climbed out of its hole for some reason and posed obligingly for me to take many, many pictures. It was a female with a baby, and in one of my shots you can even see a little bit of the baby’s face as it clings to its mother’s belly, where baby lemurs cling first, before switching over to mama’s back. Earlier that day he’d joked that he’d sent e-mail to the chameleons so they’d wait for us along the road from the Lodge, so I’d told him to e-mail the lemurs, too, and apparently he listened.





This gives you a good look at how the baby clings to the mother's stomach.


And in this one you can see the baby's face poking up to the right of its mom's head.


As we were leaving the viewpoint a gorgeous crested coua showed up and posed just as obligingly as the lemur. The distinctive markings around its eyes give it a very attentive and clever look.





After descending the Tsingy the same way we’d come up (because the loop trail requires actual rock climbing and is definitely considered difficult), we hiked a bit more before descending 163 steps to the bat cave.

I love caves. Their darkness and the drop in temperature you feel as you enter have always appealed to me. Inside, we saw a large colony of the island’s largest bat species, mostly resting, though every so often one would fly briefly before resettling. The thing I loved most, though, was seeing them as a seething dark shape full of glowing eyes. Unfortunately, it was impossible to get any pictures of them, but I did get some of the cave.

As you first approach, you see this formation overhead, looking a lot like a gargoyle or a lion.


The cave itself has a huge opening. The teeny tiny people on the left give you an idea of its size.


Then it was back to camp and cold drinks (Coke for me, beer for the others) and a rest before dinner. Turns out Godi is also our cook – he and Frank packed in enough food for our stay – and he’s quite good, too. Before dinner, though, I “showered.” I bought an extra liter of water, stood in one corner of my hut, poured it over myself, used my bandana as a washcloth and got as clean as I’m likely to get while I’m here. The extra water simply ran out between the boards. It was kind of a waste, because in this heat I can sweat just sitting still, but that’s OK. Then dinner, the aforementioned Benadryl and bed.

Date: 2007-11-10 06:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lage-nom-ai.livejournal.com
Gollum eyes!!

And these pictures were fantastic. I love getting to see the new ones each day.

Date: 2007-11-10 06:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mrkinch.livejournal.com
Yikes! I was shocked when I noticed the people in the last picture. I'd had no concept of the size of the rock "creature" in the center.

Wonderful pictures. I love the ancient sea floor, and the sportive lemur, so clearly nocturnal! And that gorgeous bird.

Date: 2007-11-10 12:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenlev.livejournal.com
WOw, these are incredible. And that utterly cute lemur, so so crisp!

Also, I love the windows in the lodge.

And the chameleon came out beautifully. I'm so happy for you! *hugs*

Date: 2007-11-11 12:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] victorian-tweed.livejournal.com
Wow those caves are amazing!

The dear little lemur and her baby! I'm glad she got th email :-)

Date: 2007-11-11 11:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] victorian-tweed.livejournal.com
I forgot to mention the coolness of the sculptures in the garden! *loves*

Date: 2007-11-13 06:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deaver.livejournal.com
Awww, just look at that lemur - just sitting patiently waiting for you to take pictures!! So great.

And, WOW, that was a HUGE cave. Very impressive. Also, I like that in the final picture the rock formation that is nearly dead center looks like a lion with his head looking down.

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