leaping_lemurs: (Glee by the_reverand)
[personal profile] leaping_lemurs
I know I’m sounding like a total – and vocabulary-challenged – bore, but today was yet another fabulous day. Last night before bed I saw a pale little gecko in our bathroom, and perhaps he was a good omen.

I got a great night’s sleep (I don’t think I’d mentioned that the beds here are doubles, not twins), waking once to hear it raining hard. But it was fine when we got up this morning for breakfast, and then we walked back down to the boat landing for the ride to Nosy Mangabe, which means Great (or Large) Blue Island. On the way, we dropped off another group at their boat in town, and one of the crew was wearing a WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society, parent organization of “my” Bronx Zoo) t-shirt. I gave him a thumbs-up and asked Vy to explain that Terry and I worked for WCS, and the guy laughed as if that was the best thing he’d heard all day. (And since it was about 7:45, maybe it was.) We kept going to Nosy Be, as it’s sometimes called, passing a fisherman in a pirogue (a canoe carved from a single log, but they're made of soft wood, so they only last 2 or 3 years) wearing a WCS t-shirt, too. Apparently a bunch got distributed to the locals at some point. When we got to the island, we jumped off on the beach, where there were several shelters (big enough to pitch a small tent off the sand or set up a table) and a welcome center, where our cook (over from the resort) would prepare our lunch. There was also a sign about the island, and I was all excited to see the WCS symbol there, too, because we’re involved in researching and supporting the park.

Claudio, our guide – who, by the way, did the entire slippery trek in flip-flops and never missed a step, while Terry and I were in hiking boots and being very careful of where we put our feet – showed us on the map the route we were going to take: a moderately difficult climb to the tombs of slaves who’d escaped their masters during the colonization of the country and were buried there in accordance with local tradition.

On the way, we hoped to see black and white ruffed lemur and white-fronted brown lemurs, as well as smaller fauna. We came up empty on the first two, but we saw lots of the latter, and our success on that score continued when we reached the beach again a couple of hours later and looped through the rain forest parallel to the shore. We had some additional success, too, but more on all that in a moment. First, the hazovato.

The hazovato are the tombs, and it’s fady (taboo) to touch them, though pictures are allowed. Their name is a combination of hazo (wood) and vato (stone), because they used to be made out of wood but are now made out of stone. Traditional funerals, which are still practiced, have 3 parts. First there’s the funeral, when everyone comes and the family, if they can afford it, slaughters a zebu to feed everyone and the body is interred. 5 years later there’s the turning of the bones, when the skeleton (not necessarily laid out full length) is put into a new and better coffin (the hazovato). The third part takes place any time after that and is often held on the same day, when everyone comes and leaves a gift for the deceased so he’ll be happy in the afterlife and not come back as a spirit to plague them. Members of a family are sometimes put in the same final coffin. The coffins on Nosy Mangabe were made later for the slaves who’d escaped the Dutch slavers, who used the island as a way station, when their bones were found in the rain forest many years later. People from the mainland continued to use the island as a burial ground until it was made part of Masaola, and then they had to start a new burying ground in town.

But I promised you wildlife, and wildlife you shall have. We saw millipedes,

spiders, crabs of several species, sizes and colors,

a very well camouflaged Uroplatus gecko (in terrible lighting),

tiny mantella frogs,

His belly:

Can you find this frog?

How about now?

several regular sized chameleons

Check out the feet and tail:

and stump-tailed chameleons (the smallest chameleon species),

a lizard too fast to be photographed, and two types of birds, the paradise flycatcher (and his nest) and a smaller bird whose name I apologize for forgetting. But the best? On our nice flat near-the-beach walk, when we weren’t expecting it, we saw a male and female pair of white-fronted brown lemurs. My shots aren’t the greatest, but still...lemurs! In the wild.

I brought myself to take a few scenery shots, too, just because I thought I should. *g*

A cool tree:

Some neat driftwood:

These two show the traveler's palm:

And this is a ladle made out of a folded palm leaf. Claudio made it, and he explained how the Malagasy people used to use these as tableware.

No sign of the other diurnal lemur species, though, the black and white ruffed lemur. *sniff* (Yes, I’m greedy for lemurs. So what?)

Then it was back to “camp” for a delicious lunch of cold cooked vegetables, grilled chicken with pasta, and fresh fruit. We were going to walk the other way parallel to the beach but, being as we were in the rain forest, it started to rain. Hard. So we hung out and chatted and listened to the rain, a sound I find soothing. Another couple had arrived and pitched a tent while we were eating, so they sat and read for a while, then had their own lunch.

Here's a spider web in the rain. You can see how hard it was coming down.

A flower in the rain, because I was bored:

While we were talking, there was a loud thump on the corrugated metal roof, and Vy said it was a lemur, drawn by the scent of the food. Suddenly a male and female pair darted into our shelter and along the pole under the roof. I only had time to snap one blurry shot of the male and then they were gone.

He resurfaced on the lattice wall of the kitchen, peering inside to see what might be worth stealing,

then took up a position in a nearby tree.

A little while later, he and his lady friend decided to see what the couple were having for lunch and jumped right onto their table. I got one quick shot,

and then, fools that they clearly were, they shooed the lemurs away, not to be seen again. I suspect they were there to do a night walk in search of the elusive aye-aye, but come on. They were in Madagascar, with lemurs right there on their table, and they were so blase that they just shooed them away like flies? Eejits! (Actually, I think they were French, and based on what I’ve seen of French tourists in Madagascar, that pretty much says it all.) I hope they hike for hours in the pouring rain and are wet and miserable and the aye-aye remains elusive.

Before we left, one of the locals who worked in the little kitchen center there came back and showed us the fish he'd caught for dinner.

As for us, we couldn’t have had a better time. When we got back to the resort, we ran into Julien (JuleYEN), who’s going to be our guide for a night walk this evening and I think also go with us into the park tomorrow. He’s very well known and was the subject of an article a number of years ago, and he promised us mouse lemurs and panther chameleons right up close, as well as a number of “lesser” attractions, and seemed confident we’ll also see fat-tailed dwarf lemurs higher up in the trees. My fingers are crossed that he’s right on every score, especially when it comes to the mouse lemur.

Meanwhile, my new Birkenstock Nubuck hiking shoes, which had only been worn in the house before I got here and which Vy laughed at for being brand new the other day, are now well and truly filthy. They’re also really comfortable and supportive and sure-footed, and I highly recommend them to any of you planning a wilderness trek, just as [livejournal.com profile] jenlev recommended them to me.

And now I think I’ll go read for a while, before redonning my grubby clothes for our 6:00 night walk. And just so you know and can be jealous, I’m typing this journal and will be doing my reading on our porch, with the sea breeze and the sound of the waves for company.

Our view:

Madagascar may indeed be among the 10 poorest countries in the world, but it possesses such beauty and genuine friendliness – especially to Americans. Vy says all the English-speaking guides prefer Americans to any other nationality, because those of us who are intrepid enough to come here do so with open minds and a spirit of adventure, so we’re fun to take around. At the risk of sounding like the Malagasy version of “put another shrimp on the barbie,” I can’t recommend a trip here highly enough. This may still be paradise in the rough, but paradise it really is, and I honestly think it’s only going to get better. And don’t forget: there are lemurs. *g*

Night walk coming in the next post.

Date: 2007-11-05 02:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] angelchicken.livejournal.com
Taking notes as I go:

1) That millipede creaps me out like woah. I have the willies.

2) That looks like a poison dart frog! Such a cool belly!

3) Wee little chameleon!

4) Lemur face! *dies*

5) I love the cool tree! And the drift wood! And the mountain! We don't have a lot of mountains in Illinois . . .

6) Dude, that fish is beautiful.

Thank you, thank you for creating this journal. Your pictures are amazing and I love reading about your different adventures and learning about Madagascar!

Date: 2007-11-05 02:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-reverand.livejournal.com
Wonderful. I'm so glad to see some landscapish pics, too!

What jerks, though. Shooing lemurs!

Date: 2007-11-05 03:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mrkinch.livejournal.com
Is that stick looking creature a gecko or...? Fascinating!

Date: 2007-11-05 03:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leaping-lemurs.livejournal.com
The uroplatus? (The weird thing on the tree trunk.) If so, yes. Or did you mean something else?

Date: 2007-11-05 03:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mrkinch.livejournal.com
It's on the ground. The picture between the stump-tailed chameleons and the white-fronted brown lemurs.

The frogs are wonderful!

Date: 2007-11-05 03:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leaping-lemurs.livejournal.com
Ohhh, gotcha. That's another stump-tailed chameleon. (I think.)

Date: 2007-11-05 09:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenlev.livejournal.com
They shooed lemurs away!?!?! *headdesk*

SO glad that the shoes worked out well, I've had mine for over three years now and they're still great!

Yay for more photos by the way. *bg*


Date: 2007-11-05 11:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenlev.livejournal.com
Ah, I meant to say that I think you're shoes will bounce back well given how long I've had mine. ;)

Date: 2007-11-05 10:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] victorian-tweed.livejournal.com
oh WOW. (For want of a far better paragraph on how much I enjoy these photos and words!)

The supper fish looks like it belongs in a aquarium. Too ornamental to be eaten!


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