leaping_lemurs: (We Wantz)
[personal profile] leaping_lemurs
Waaah! This is the last day, and in posting it, I feel as if my trip is ending all over again. *sniff*

Things were definitely gearing up for a typically hot day, but we were out early enough to enjoy the sun without baking. We saw a huge colony of fruit bats (aka flying foxes) roosting in the trees,

This is only a tiny portion of the colony, but it gives you a sense of how many there were.

The morning light was really beautiful.

These next shots let you see the face, which makes it obvious where the "flying fox" name comes from.

Every so often one of them would fly from one tree to another. I never managed a decent shot, but here's the best I was able to do.

as well as more lemurs,

Here's a red-fronted lemur in the morning light.

A lazy baby ringtail and his mom.

A leaping lemur - check out the baby clinging to her stomach.

This ringtail mom was nursing her baby up in a tree.

Catching some rays.

Scent marking.

A few more sleepy white-footed sportive lemurs.

a hoopoe,

The "normal" view.

Crest up.

Eating breakfast.

another white-browed owl,

and tortoises and Nile crocs kept in pens. (Trust me, you don’t want to be anywhere near a Nile croc that’s not penned up. Just ask poor Mr. Zebu.) Then a quick breakfast and back on the road. While we were eating, though, Allison Jolly – who comes for 2 months every year for the lemur birth season and who we’d heard was in residence – heard us speaking English and came over to see if we had any English books we were done with. We did, and then we chatted with her for a while and even took a couple of pictures.

As promised, a look at a typical section of road.

A sisal field. The large "stem" sticking up from one of them is an indication that it's reaching the end of its life and needs to be replaced.

On the way back I got some pictures of the grave monuments in the South. Traditionally the body was hidden and a monument, a natural stone stela or, later, a concrete obelisk, was raised. A zebu (or several) was slaughtered and the mourners fed, then the skulls were hung by the monument. Later the monument was decorated by the family, perhaps painted with a likeness of the deceased, as well as pictures or sculptures of zebu, cars, planes, etc. We thought the pictures were of things that mattered to the deceased, but Vy said they were really just whatever the artist was good at creating.

This family graveyard mixed the old traditions and Christianity.

Some painted obelisks.

Our flight to Tana was slightly delayed (which Vy found out yesterday, so that took a little of the time pressure off us), but we made it back and began our final-afternoon whirlwind. We got take-out pizza (it’s on sort of a crackery crust and I thought both our choices – 4-cheese and sauce Bolognese, with ground zebu – were delicious) and headed for the Tsimbazaza Zoo, in the middle of a park in Tana.

The drive into the city was the same one we took on our first morning, but what a difference 2 weeks makes. That first day everything looked alien to me, crowded and strange and a little bit intimidating. On the last day it all felt familiar and welcoming and Madagascar as I’d come to know it. I even recognized things from that first day. Also, when I still didn’t see a single traffic light, I asked Vy if there were any at all in the country. Turns out there are some on Independence Avenue in Tana, but they’re not working at the moment.

Here's another shot I took through the windshield. In case you can't tell, this car has a couch, love seat and armchair tied on top.

We ate our pizza at the zoo, which has a really nice logo,

then started walking. There’s a small lake there, where people can sit and relax, and a dinosaur museum that we didn’t have time for. The zoo’s main focus, though, is on birds and lemurs, though we also saw another fosa. I forgot to get a complete list of the lemur species we saw from Vy, but we did see the aye-aye, despite the very dim lighting in the nocturnal exhibit (somehow our World of Darkness manages to do night lighting in such a way that the animals are still quite visible). There were 2 of them, and they were bigger than I’d expected. And when one put its hand up against the blue light, I could really see those distintive long, skeletal fingers that it uses to dig termites out of trees. (Its hearing is so sensitive that it can hear termites moving under the bark.) We also saw more mouse and dwarf lemurs there.

Outside we saw another species of bamboo lemur,

red-ruffed lemurs, blue-eyed Sclater’s black lemurs,

This is the female. The male is all black, and his blue eyes are really striking.

as well as more browns, red-bellied (the male has the white eye markings)

and red-fronted lemurs,

a lazy black and white ruffed,

and ringtails.

Many of the species have their own small islands to live on, with a nice path alongside their long lake for the visitors. The zoo is somewhat rundown, and the signs are almost impossible to read, but it’s got a lovely setting and a wonderful diversity of native species, and I’d love to see it receive an infusion of money for modernization. There were plenty of visitors, though, which made me happy.

Next stop, the T-shirteria, where money was spent. So many great designs, though – and lots of them with lemurs. I also bought a plush sifaka, since he was made in Madagascar.

Final stop, the artisans’ market, which is along the road to the airport and the Relais des Platueaux, where we once again had day rooms. The market covers a square kilometer, so we couldn’t possibly do all of it, but since there’s a lot of duplication from stall to stall, that was OK. Terry was able to find the musical instruments and pressed-flower stationery she was looking for as gifts, and I picked up a few gifts myself. Bargaining is expected there, so I did my part and felt good about my savings.

While we were there, Vy ran into a(nother) friend of his – I swear, he’s never met a stranger and knows people everywhere – who told him that the previous night’s Air France flight to Paris had been cancelled (or, as they said, delayed until Monday), so lots of people were scrambling to get onto our Mad Air flight that night. As a result, we had to hurry to repack to accomodate our purchases back at the hotel, then get to the airport early to check in. We hung out over cold drinks with Vy for a little bit, and then it was time to say goodbye, so he could go see his family briefly before meeting a group of 12 French people the next night and we could board our flight.

We lucked out and had bulkhead seats, so with the extra legroom and 2 Tylenol PMs I actually managed to sleep a bit overnight. Things were crazy when we got to Paris, though, because it turns out that the Air France cabin crews had been on strike since the 25th. Luckily for us, our flight was a code-share with Delta, so they’d brought in a plane and crew, and we made it out and home.

So that’s it: the story of my trip. I’m sure I forgot to include a lot of things and probably, memory being the fallible thing that it (or mine, anyway) is, got a few details wrong, but I hope you got a flavor of what I saw and how amazing/wonderful/awesome (or any other cliche you can think of) it was. Every expectation I had was met and exceeded, and though I may never be able to get back, I’d sure as hell love to.
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November 2007

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