Edit Blog Post
Published: November 6th 2014
From the Indian Ocean coast, we climb back up into the central mountains and head for Ranomafana. This National Park is renowned for its lemurs, some species here were only discovered 20 years ago. Today we, too, are able to walk, well clamber, around the mountainous rainforest playing explorer. We discover giant brown lemurs high in trees; red bellied lemurs climbing down to look at us; and a golden bamboo lemur drinking from a stream. It is hard to remember that these are critically endangered. - we are seeing perhaps 10% of their entire populations.
Then it is on to our second trek, to climb Pic Boby, Madagascar's second highest peak at 2,658 metres (8640 feet). We need a rugged 4x4 to get us to the start but our rugged 4x4 breaks down in the village while shopping for food. The Japanese 4x4 is replaced by a 25 year old, British, Land Rover with 400,000 on the clock. A few hours late, we are off on our three hour dirt track drive into the mountains.
Our first camp is by a stream in the woods. Ominously ahead is a sheer rock face with two sacred waterfalls tumbling down it.
Day two starts with a gentle walk to see the waterfalls, followed by a climb up a step path to a high plateau. It is a tough slog up in the heat but then we are able to gently walk across the plateau to our second camp site - at the base of another rock face!
Day three and a 5 am start means we are able to climb the steep path in the relative cool of the morning. Eventually we reach the top of the cliff face and start to cross another, even higher, plateau, a moonscape of rock and weird plants. Ahead, visible at last, is Pic Boby. It needs just a final push up that huge lump of rock. At 9 am we make it. We have climbed more than 700 metres during the morning and we rest and take in the amazing 360 degree view. It takes a further day and a half to get down!
After our descent, another Japanese 4x4 picks us up in the first village that has a road - the first two villages don't. With all on board, we bump off down the track for about half an hour
when there is a loud bang. The prop shaft has broken and we have only front wheel drive -- not enough to get us out.
A runner is sent to the next village to get help and we walk after him, wondering what next? Luckily, the next village is also the bus terminus so we are able to charter a bus. When I say terminus I mean it has a dusty square and when I say bus I mean an ancient minibus with broken seats, a sliding door that doesn't close and a loud radio. But it goes and it gets us out of there.
Back in our own 4x4, we head south to Isalo National Park. Here we marvel at the strange landscape, something akin to Colorado or Nevada but broken up with green ravines of palms and bamboos and cool swimming holes. Hidden in the rock faces are caves walled up with stones. These are temporary burial sites. In Madagascar the dead are buried twice. After the wake, the body is taken in a shroud to the temporary burial place for the village, a cave in the mountains. After two to five years, the remains are
exhumed by the family and the bones cleaned and oiled. These are then wrapped in a new shroud and a second wake takes place, called "the turning of the bones". After this three day party, the bones are taken to the village's permanent burial site - usually an even more inaccessible cave. We came across a" turning of the bones " parade with three shrouds held high by reveling mourners who seemed to be having a great time.
Isalo is home to the iconic ring tailed lemurs. We visit a reserve and spend a day exporing the landscape. The ring tailed lemurs are very cute and we are able to get quite close to one family. Adults ignore us, more interested in eating, while the youngsters play chase in the trees. They are all beautiful and we try to work out how to smuggle one home - they quite like living in lilac bushes.
Tomorrow our final drive will take us to the West coast. More photos below; the final blog of this trip, alas, soon ...
Tot: 0.178s; Tpl: 0.01s; cc: 32; qc: 140; dbt: 0.1364s; 1; m:domysql w:www (10.17.0.13); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb