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I’m typing this section directly after the last (ie: the last bit of my post for the 22nd), though I have to go to lunch in about 15 minutes. As I type, I’m keeping an eye on the large green gecko who decided to come visit and is just now climbing the wall by the table. Better him than the large snake we saw when we got back from our morning walk. He slithered under a bush, then emerged and kept going to find the shade under a bungalow.

Vy said we don’t need to worry about him paying us a visit later, because that was down at the end of camp with the rubbish dump, which is why the snake is there at all. I hope he’s right.

At any rate, I’m now going to break for lunch, but then I think we’re still going to rest a bit through the heat of the day before our afternoon walk to see another species of baobab. Most of that will be through open country, so I’m going to bring my teeny (4 oz.) umbrella with me as a sunshade.

Back from lunch, and since we’re not going out again ‘til 4:00 (we’re going to wait out the heat of the day, then combine our baobab walk and our night walk), I have time to catch up.

Just before I left for lunch, I spotted a second, smaller, gecko on top of my wall, near the thatch.

He was gone when I got back, but the first guy was still here and had just caught his own lunch, since he was still head-down. He turned head-up to eat, and now he’s gone. I kind of hope he comes back. (Addendum: He did. This time he was on one of the roof supports.)

Lunch (his, not mine):

Up on the (inside of) the roof:

Speaking of the roof, I thought the thatching made a very pretty pattern.

We got an early start this morning, intending to beat the heat. Or rather, the worst of the heat, because it was still plenty hot. We saw Sanford’s lemurs as we walked, a troup of about 5 cavorting from tree to tree. I managed some not-great pictures – including one of half a leaping lemur. (I've gotten a number of shots of the butt-end of a lemur as it leapt.) The males can be distinguished from the females by their thick white sidewhiskers.

We walked along a dry riverbed, but Frank showed us how to tell the water level it reaches when full by looking for the bits of twigs that got caught in the tree branches as the water rushed past.

We looked down into another cave, a vertical one. People can only get 1 km in and then it narrows too much for them to go forward. In the rains, though, water flows down and through and out to the Strait of Mozambique, 80 km away. Next to the cave is a small natural amphitheater, and you can tell the whole thing was once underwater because there are fossils of shells. (The Tsingy contain fossils, as well.)

Note: I could have sworn I took pictures here, but I can't for the life of me find them. Maybe they're still on the second camera. Grrr. I'm posting this from Rhode Island, so I'll have to check when I get home.

This time, the walk to reach the Tsungy Rary (rary = varied) was an easy one, leading to a wonderful viewing platform with great panoramic views (pictures can never do that sort of thing justice) and a refreshing cool breeze. We hung out for about half an hour, the only ones there, and finally left when 2 French girls and their guide showed up. An older couple and their guide were only a few minutes behind when we passed them on the trail, so that was another good reason to get up and get going: to beat the crowds (such as they were) as well as the heat.

The Tsingy Rary:

While walking back, a guy passed us on a bicycle loaded down (as many are) by a big sack of rice. He was coming from a village 10 km back and still had quite a way to go to reach the road.

On today’s walk, in addition to the Sanford’s lemurs, we saw 3 sleepy northern sportives peeking out of their hidey holes,

3 millipedes – one quite large (that's Terry's shoe, to give you an idea of its size) –

a coucal (the first shot is good to show coloration; the second gives you a better sense of the actual bird),

a crested drongo (which I recognized – go team me),

a snake camouflaging itself as a branch,

and a number of other birds. Also a paradise flycatcher’s nest.

It really amazes me how the guides spot everything. I’m always watching where I place my feet, because even the smoothest trails have roots and rocks and the occasional tree trunk to trip the unwary. But the guides don’t seem to pay any attention to the track, as if they know every bump by heart, and their eyes are always in motion to spot things I never would have noticed in a million years. And they know all about the animals they point out, too, plus I have no doubt that they’d know just as much about the flora, if they were guiding people with an interest in botany, or the rocks, if they were guiding geologists. Frank, for example, explained all about the way the Tsingy erode and why the basalt blocks nearby erode in completely different ways. It’s not as if they get extensive training, either. Nono said he got about a week of training to learn the trails, and the flora and fauna are apparently studied mostly solo. It’s really amazing how much knowledge they have when you realize how much of it is self-taught, and puts me even more in awe of the efforts they’ve made to give every tourist a good experience.

And now I think I’ll lie back and watch my gecko (who’s back on the ceiling) some more before I have to ask my poor tired body for more effort. (In many ways this is more trip than I should be taking, but I’m so grateful I didn’t know that and took it anyway.)

Writing the next morning...

At 4:00 we left for our second walk of the day, and let me just say that by the end of it Terry (who’s an experienced hiker and in much better shape than I am) and I were both at that “put one foot in front of the other and hope eventually you find home” stage. We did a lot more rock walking, this time to see the Tourelles de Tsingy, or Tsingy turrets, four formations that really do look like the turrets of a castle. They also gave us a chance to see Tsingy from below, rather than from above, and it’s amazing how blocks that look so precariously balanced can reach such a height. That led into our night walk, which meant that for the first time we were walking at dusk, which was really great. We saw another northern sportive lemur (one of the cutest – though truly, I love them all) just waking up and getting ready for breakfast, and several troops of crowned lemurs getting in their last wild leaps, then choosing a tree and curling up in a big ball o’ lemurness to keep warm – though how anyone or anything can get cold in that heat is beyond me.

Somehow, in our punchiness, that led to Frank saying they were cold because they had no blankets and me saying I’d send some when I got home, then deciding to found a charity to collect blankets for disadvantaged lemurs. So if you ever see me walking by your house calling, “Alms for the poor, blankets for the lemurs,” please give generously.

When at last we reached the parking area, Godi wasn’t there – I think because we ended up taking a different route out of the forest, so he was at the other area, where he’d dropped us. Frank and Vy sent a message via another driver (or I think that’s what happened, anyway), and then we started walking down the road. And walking. And walking. Then Godi showed up to cheers from all and we piled in, except for Frank, who decided to cut back through the woods. (He knows the area incredibly well and must have phenomenal night vision, besides, because he did the night walk without turning on his light except to point things out to us in the trees.) Godi had to keep going back toward the parking area to get turned around, and on the way back, there was Frank, waiting to show us a sleeping chameleon, who was perched on a branch, his prehensile tail curled around it to keep him from falling.

Dinner (delicious zebu kabobs), another shower-from-a-bottle and two more Benadryl (which gave me very vivid and really weird dreams both nights), and then it was off to bed, with my gecko looking on. (Earlier in the afternoon, during a brief rain, I also had 3 chickens taking refuge under my hut.)

Date: 2007-11-11 07:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenlev.livejournal.com
I love the gecko eating lunch. And that is a BIG snake! Incredible bird too.

Those lemur shots are great, especially the one in the tree, what a face. Also, the cliff sides are amazing.

Date: 2007-11-11 08:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mrkinch.livejournal.com
The coucal is gorgeous, and the shape looked familiar so I looked it up. It is, oddly enough, in the cuckoo family.*g* Love the geckos, so much more beautiful than anything I'd seen. Everything from bugs to rock formations is just fascinating!

Date: 2007-11-11 11:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] victorian-tweed.livejournal.com
I love that you took the time to photograph that lovely roof thatching, because it really is gorgeous!

Are millipedes venomous like centipedes? (I must google that...)

HA! A 'drongo'!

*is amazed by the rock formations* I've never seen anything like those! What an incredible country!

Date: 2007-11-12 09:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-reverand.livejournal.com
The gecko on the thatched roof couldn't get any more perfectly perfect. Or green! ^__^ The rocks look beautifully wicked, not the sort of thing one wants to fall onto. And I love the tail feathers of the drongo!


Date: 2007-11-20 07:49 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Your photos are amazing. It's settled, though, gorgeous as it is, there's no way I'd survive in a place with centipedes that size! - Lucienne


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