leaping_lemurs: (No Laffs by the_reverand)
[personal profile] leaping_lemurs
OMG, the number of pictures! I'll spare you many of them, I promise, because a lot of the time they're just (very minor) variations on a theme, but even so, this is going to have to be broken into sections.

Just a note: From here on I’m writing this journal from home, because there was no time to finish it up while I was still there. I’ll try to keep my tone more or less consistent, though, as if I were sitting in bed in my bungalow rather than on my living room couch.

After an early breakfast we got going to Berenty. The road is 80 km long, and it was paved – once. In 1962, iirc. I think they’d do better to tear up what’s left of the paving and grade the dirt underneath, but I suppose that would be nearly as expensive as repaving. Meanwhile, there’s a standoff between the government and the Berenty people (the family name is D’Haune or something like that – Vy told me, but I didn’t write it down, and now I forget) as to who should pay. The family has the money but claims (correctly, I’m forced to admit) that it’s a public road and therefore the government’s responsibility. Plus there are 4 big sisal companies near Berenty (one owned by the Berenty people, one Malagasy, one Polish and one...Canadian? I forget that, too) who by rights ought to contribute, too, if it gets paid for privately. Anyway...worst road yet, and we were doing it in a 4x4 pick-up, which still took 2.5 hours. I can’t imagine what a trial it must be in a minivan or something bigger – or one of those taxi-bus things. We saw one that was from the 50’s, with 2 people standing on the rear bumper, 2 people perched on the tailgate and 4 in front (the driver was sitting on someone’s lap), and enough people inside, both Vy and our driver agreed, to add up to at least 20.

This is that vehicle, and get a load of how low to the road it's riding. This section is pretty well paved, but in tomorrow's pictures you'll see some of the really bad sections. Also, I took this photo from the back seat, focusing through the windshield.


On the way we passed another species of baobab, and I got a few more zebu-cart pictures, too.

This father and son were bringing water to the sisal workers.




They passed right by the baobab.


Here's the tree, sans zebu.


Next stop, Berenty, possibly the best-known reserve in Madagascar, at least to outsiders.



The ringtails came right over to welcome us.





As we drove up, Vy had spotted a group of Verreaux’s sifaka in a nearby tree, so we dumped our stuff and headed over. Though it was a bit early in the day for them, they danced for us, and this time I got some head-on pictures.

Normally they “dance” at around 9:00 AM and 4 or 5:00 PM, on their way down from the treetops where they take the morning sun or back into them for the evening, and because of our schedule, Vy had been worried we wouldn’t get to see the phenomenon there. I think they came down early because of the weather. Berenty, at the southern tip of the island, was supposed to be our hottest stop yet, and we were braced to burn. But it poured in Fort Dauphin overnight and along the first part of the way, and even when we crossed the mountains and into the spiny forest (ie: desert), the weather stayed cool, breezy and slightly overcast. Berenty ended up having the best hiking weather of all, as well as comfortable sandy, hill-free paths. Go figure.

I caught this guy mid-leap:


Some dancing (without the stars):






The manager's adorable little daughter waved when we got back from our sifaka watching walk.



The ringtails hung out, too, and I got lots more pictures. You can see how scruffy their fur is, though. Vy warned us that the ringtails here (and the sifakas, too, I noticed) have somewhat raggedy fur, though they’re happy and breed well. (We saw lots of babies.) Allison Jolly, who wrote a book called “Lords and Lemurs” about the history of Berenty (and the island), has come with student researchers, and they’re pretty sure the ringtails are eating a plant that grows just outside the borders of the park. Apparently they find it yummy, but it’s not good for their fur. So far, efforts to eradicate it have been unsuccessful, because it has deep root systems and grows like, well, a weed. Still, in these shots you can really see the difference in their fur compared to the ringtails we saw earlier.

These mothers and their babies hung out together and groomed each other. So cute. Ringtails have a matriarchal society, and like all lemurs, are such gentle souls.





The ears!






Baaaaaby ringtail!


I also got a great picture of a coucal in flight. Its wings curve in a way I never would have expected, and the light comes through the feathers in a really beautiful way. It's one of my favorite shots of the entire trip, and in large part it was accidental, since catching a bird in flight is a real crapshoot, at least for me.

Here he is in his tree.


Close-up:


In flight:


Cropped for a close-up:


A word about the spiny forest. It really is spiny; you have to be careful when you walk or you’ll get all scratched up. Some of it is truly forest-like and dense, other parts are more open looking but still covered in spininess: non-native cacti (with pretty yellow flowers), tall spiny trees, and euphorbia, which has some green at the top. It’s a tough land to live in. The traditional-style houses here have wooden roofs rather than thatched, because there’s nothing here to thatch with. The zebu eat the euphorbia. Once everything in an area has been cut, burned and eaten, people move on. It’s also good sisal-growing country, because of the extreme dryness.

This is the open spiny forest:


You'll get a sense of the more foresty sort from some of the pictures in the next part, or possibly two parts, because I suspect I'm going to have to break this up more than once.
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