Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Call of the Indri

September 13

As usual I was awake before 5 and up typing blog notes before 5:30. Today we are going to look for the indri, the largest lemur. I added these two days in Andasibe to the suggested Le Grand Boucle tour. I could not come to Madagascar and not see and hear the indri. If you are reading this blog before I get a chance to link to a video with sound, please google indri and listen to a video. The sound is haunting, much like a recording of the sounds of whales. Only you can hear the indri without a special recording.

Our windows were closed due to the cold. When I opened the door, there it was, the sound of indris calling. I can go home now! Well, no, I have to go see them as well. But it was neat to hear them.

We were told that breakfast started at 7, so were down promptly in order to get away quickly for our walk. We were surprised to see that several guests had already had their breakfasts. Breakfast was obviously served before 7. Ours was served quickly. I was thrilled to have lots of cheese, another thing that we have been missing from our diets. There was also yoghurt. It was one of our best breakfasts. I told the staff it was our best we have had in Madgascar (only a slight exaggeration). That made them happy. They really seem to be trying hard.

We were out by 7:15. We took off with José and within a few minutes were ready for our walk with Roger. It was a wonderful to be walking in cool weather. I started out with a jacket over a sweatshirt. Until last night my jacket had been packed away. It was also sunny. We were lucky. Roger told us that it rains about 25 days out 30 during the dry season. It just rains more in the rainy season. It was really wonderful to be walking in the rain forest. This was different than all our other hikes.

Roger spotted a couple of brown lemurs. We could barely see them. Since we have already seen lots of brown lemurs we carried on looking for the indri. A short while later Roger pointed high up in the some trees. It was a family of indri. He had already explained that indri live in small family groups-father, mother and children. When the children reach maturity, they move off to find mates.

At first we could not get a good look at them. Roger said to be patient. Soon enough a couple moved enough to allow a good look. And I was lucky in that the sun was still shining and during the movement they moved into sunny spots. These guys were so really high up that it was painful to watch them.

As we had been walking we could hear the indri call. Roger said that the call is related to claiming territory, letting other indri know to stay away. Our group was not calling. But Roger snuck over across a bridge to the other side of the river and suddenly someone played a recording of indri calls. That got our group going. The sound was deafening. The indri call can be heard for several kilometres. When it happens above your head it is a marvellous thing. Now you might want to question the legitimacy of our recording since it was kind of forced. Well, we enjoyed it anyway.

Eventually the sun disappeared so that photographs were impossible. And it really hurt to be looking so high up in the trees. So we left them and continued our walk.

We did not see much for the next several minutes. Roger did show us areas where invasive plants had been cleared to allow for the planting of things that the indri will eat. I asked about some boxes. They were beehives. Roger said that a government spraying program, to counter moths, has devastated their bee populations.

As we circled back, Roger asked if we wanted to go see the indri as they were still in the same area, so we did. The sun reappeared briefly. Although my neck was killing me, I kept an eye on one indri. Roger said that the group was getting ready to move. My indri made a jump and I managed to click off a couple of shots. I got him in the air. My day was made!

We left the park shortly thereafter. For the most part it was just an exercise in finding indri. But that was okay. I really enjoyed the walk in the rain forest and was really there to see the indri.

In the afternoon we decided to walk down to the little town of Andasibe which we had passed through on our way to and from our hotel. It was about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. The buildings in Andasibe are generally made of wood, which other than on our walk the other day to Ifasina, is quite unusual as most houses we have seen in eastern Madagascar are made of bricks.

There are so many little stores in this little village. You really wonder about the customers. It seems that everyone is running a store.

Towards the end of our walk I looked into a yard and saw some young men shooting baskets. I peaked in and was invited to join them. Basketball was my favourite sport growing up, but that was many years ago. I had not shot a basketball in about 20 or 25 years. And this basketball was hard to shoot since it had a large hole in it. I shot with them for about 10 minutes and then had my photo taken with my new friend.

After returning to the hotel we went down to use the Internet and get a coffee.  We were not asked about our supper. One must remember when travelling like we are at these rural lodges in Madagascar, that eating is not spontaneous. You must order your supper in the afternoon.

When we went into supper just after 7 pm, we found the dining room much busier than last night. There was a large group of about 12 people, plus several other tables occupied. The staff were having a hard time handling the crowd. They also were a bit confused about us since we had not ordered in advance.

José came by and said that we would leave early tomorrow. I had told him that we are going to skip the reptile farm. Po really does not like reptiles. Our guides on this trip have learned to tell her to look away whenever we came upon chameleons, geckos or snakes. We have seen crocodiles in the river. So it seemed pointless to stop at a farm. Instead I asked to go to the King’s Palace or Ambohimanga, which is on the north side of Antananarivo, which is also where our hotel is located, near the airport. José has also promised to take us to a Chinese restaurant for lunch.

After several minutes of watching diners get served and nothing being said about our food, I asked what we were supposed to have to eat. Po could see that they were talking about us. They finally gave us the menu! Voila, a way around the half board limitations.

I decided to have Malagasy food. I asked which one I should try. The chef’s special which contained everything, was recommended. I ordered that, but within a few minutes received the bad news that it was finished. So I took the waiter’s advice and ordered the cassava leaves with pork. But I had told the waiter that I wanted the hot sauce which I have watched both Johnny on the boat and José use with their meals. I had tried it when I was on the boat. A big bite could take your head off. I was given some sauce, but it was not the real thing.

I had actually tried a Malagasy dish back in Antananarivo, on our first night. I was not impressed with that one. We had had some Malagasy food on the boat and in our village visit in Belo sur Mer. The  important part of Malagasy food is that it must come with a giant pile of rice. José said that he must always have rice with his meal. Anyway, the cassava with pork was delicious.

Although the staff at this brand new hotel struggled a bit with a bigger crowd, I do give them credit for how they resolved our issue by giving us the choices from the menu.

When we left the dining room there was a light rain falling, our first rain since we have been here. It was appropriate that we would see some rain during our trip to the rain forest. But I was so happy that it did not rain during our walk. We could have been walking around in a hard rain and not been able to see the indri.

Tomorrow we head back to Antananarivo and the end of our trip. We will be sad but are really ready to be home and not living out of suitcases. Unfortunately we have the marathon plane rides ahead of us.

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