Saturday, March 30, 2013

15th day, Ranohira (Isalo National Park) - First lemurs!

And we do see them! Ringtails and Brown lemurs, closer than I would have dared to hope. They come to the campground around midday, savaging on the garbages the tourists have left after their picknick. I can’t stop taking pictures, the lemurs are not only incredibly photogenic with their beautiful faces and elegant bodies, they also are in permanent movement, doing something different every moment. The moments when one of them turns his head to me and, for a second, his amber coloured eyes meet mine, are truly special. 

But it’s not only for the lemurs that Isalo was well worth the visit. The red sand rock formations, steep canyons and dry forest landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for scenic hikes and encounters with less spectacular animals, such as 30-centimeters long stick insects, red-and-black grasshoppers or giant spiders. 

Weird to be back in Toliara that night. I have gotten the taste of exploring Madagascar’s nature, remembering that this is probably half of the reason why I came here in the first place. I’ll be back as soon as possible.

Friday, March 29, 2013

14th day, Ranohira (Isalo NP) - Rocks, canyons, waterfalls

The long Easter weekend brings my first outing into Madagascar’s spectacular nature, and I am more than excited about our trip to Isalo National Park, which is a 4-hour drive from Toliara. Already on the way, my heart makes little jumps at the sight of baobabs on the wayside, chameleons crossing the street and colourful butterflies dancing around us during our midday picknick. 

After being ripped off by both a police officer on a checkpoint and the lady at the park administration (It’s just what you get as a “vazaha”, not much point in being exercised about it.), we start our exploration of Madagascar’s most visited park by a hike along a canyon. The late afternoon sun reflects on the water of the stream as we find our way from rock to rock. Sweaty and hot, we are rewarded at the end of the walk by a refreshing bath in a “piscine naturelle”, a natural pool under a small waterfall. One of these moments that could hardly be any more perfect. 

As I lie in my bed in the monastery later in the evening, I fall asleep with the thought of the lemurs that we will hopefully see tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

12th day, Toliara - first lessons and insights

In the market, you need to know where to find what you want. Every day, I find something else by coincidence. I now have spaghettis, tomato sauce and dish washing soap, but am still lacking salt. Maybe tomorrow, I will have what it takes to prepare a meal at home.

I had a “medical information session”, which was amazingly useless. The best advice the doctor could give me – and the one I wanted to hear – was that there is no point in taking malaria prevention pills over a period of 3 months, and I happily stopped taking them immediately.

When I walk down the streets, people stare at me like at a circus attraction. I am white, a woman and by myself. This, in combination with Toliara being a small town with high unemployment rate, ergo a high rate of boredom, explains this excessive degree of attention I receive. I realize how much of a newbie I am still, when a guy comes up to me and says “hi”. Thinking that it is somebody from the WWF office whose face I don’t remember (which is a highly realistic scenario), I greet him enthusiastically and even give him the “bise”. When he asks my phone number and hotel, I am starting to realize my mistake.