Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Kirindy Forest Reserve

August 28

We left early as we had to take two ferries and needed to get to Kirindy, our next stop, in time for a night walk. We were quickly over the first short ferry  and on our way back down the awful road. We got to Belo Tsiribihina at lunch time. I had mentioned to José that the food at the Olympe du Bemaraha was not as good as the food we had on the boat. He wanted me to give my opinion of the food for today’s lunch at The Mad Zebu in downtown Belo Tsiribihina.

Before we were seated we examined the sign board. It seems that outside of Antananarivo, menus are only done on sign boards. This one was quite complicated, a real French restaurant menu. I chose the duck. The menu had its complete menu with les entrees, les plats and les desserts. My duck was fantastic. Ultimately the bill for the complete meal with starters and dessert came to the outrageous price of 28,000 (less than $10 US).

We were seated next a large group of English speaking members of a tour group. I heard them say that the wifi was down, which was a disappointment since I wanted to update Facebook and the blog. During our meal José came by and dropped of the password for the wifi. I understood that perhaps this was not the regular patron wifi. In any case, we logged in and found a great internet connection. I quickly updated Facebook and my blog, but had to stop as we needed to hit the dusty trail.

We carried on to the Tsiribihina. There were several barges linked together. We drove onto the barges and were directed to one of the middle barges. Several 4 x 4’s pulled up. They were transporting the large tour group. They filled up one of the barges, and it took off. Shortly thereafter another couple of vehicles for the same group came up. They were loaded and off they went. They turned our barge around and one vehicle got on.

We had been told by Johnny that the different barges are owned by different independent businesses. We had to wait for ours to get filled and take off. José thought that we had to wait for another vehicle before they would cross, but finally we took off with just the two. I stayed outside the vehicle and enjoyed another brief ride on the Tsiribihina.

We reached the other shore and the second vehicle drove straight off. Remember that we had turned around on loading, so the vehicles were not facing the same direction. Rather than turning the barge around, José had to reverse and turn around on the little ferry. He managed this quite easily. However, while reversing we knew that something had happened by the look on the ferryman’s face and the sound of catching on something.

Later we found out what happened. We went a little ways down the road before José stopped. We had another flat tire. Apparently this is very common when vehicles have to reverse on the ferries. José started changing the tire. Just like the last time, the next vehicle to come along was another tourist vehicle. That driver jumped out and helped with the change.

We carried on down the narrow the narrow road with brush on both sides. Whenever vehicles came the other way, one had to pull over to let the other pass. We saw transport trucks, taxi brousse, 4 x 4’s, bicycles and zebu carts. It was quite busy.

We passed through a fire. We have seen this a lot. Fires are set to clear brush. Sometimes fires are set to clear trees as well. This practice has been on going in Madagascar for its history as the people need land to grow crops and get their zebu. It is understandable but a real environmental problem. It is especially devastating to the wildlife such as the lemurs as they lose their habitat.

We arrived at the Kirindy Forest Reserve which was formerly a Swiss forestry training centre and now is there to protect the forest and its natural inhabitants. It is home to many animals including eight species of lemurs, including six nocturnal and the only predator to the lemur, the fossa.

The Kirindy Forest Lodge is very basic. Guests are given their own little cabins. Ours had a toilet and shower, but no hot water. We were introduced to our guide and tracker and told we would do a night walk at six. But right after getting into our room we were called to see the resident fossa that hangs out around the lodge. It was kind of like seeing the bear at the garbage dump in Northern Canada.

José drove the four us down the road to get to the place of the night walks. We were surprised when we were asked to loan one of our head lamps to the tracker. We were walking slowly through the forest as the tracker and guide attempted to see small lemurs high in the trees. It took awhile for us to figure out that the two, still able to find the animals, had not brought the same type of high powered spotlights that the other two groups had. This made it harder for Po and I to see or for me to photograph. I was able to get a few good photographs when we were next to the other groups, but could not get them when on our own.

At this point I was really starting to feel the effects of a bout of tummy problems, the seemingly inevitable encounter for travellers in a new country. If I picked up something from food, it would not have been at the Mad Zebu since my system was not quite right from the start of the day. After we returned to the lodge I was unable to eat much of my supper. I was sad to pass on dessert since they were serving crepes.

After going to bed I got the chills and did several trips to the toilet. The evening had been oppressively hot when we did the walk, but the temperatures really dropped during the evening. It was not a good evening for me.

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