Friday, 9 September 2016

Isalo National Park

September 7

We got up early for breakfast. I had been led to believe that we would be getting lots of stale bread on the trip. Yes, the breakfasts are bread, but for the most part the bread is fresh and often toasted. Today the bread was warm. We were also given little muffins. We were out by 6:45 in order to get away for the hike.

I was concerned about the heat for today’s hike. José keeps telling us how much water we will need, and the heat has bothered me a bit on other days. No matter how early we get going, we will still finish in the heat of the day.

We drove a short ways down the highway to Ranhiro where the park office is located. There we were introduced to our guide, Jules. José took care of the paper work.  (All park fees and guides are covered under our deal with Espace Mada. So José always presents the paperwork at parks as well as all our hotels.)

Once that was done we drove a little ways down the road to the car park. José let the three of us out and said he would pick us up at another car park in the afternoon. Because of our concern for the heat and need for water, I put two 1.5 litre bottles of water in my pack, which made it quite heavy.

Even at the start the view was spectacular. It is very reminiscent of the US southwest with towering mesas and sculpted pillars. The morning was still cool. We started with a steady climb.

Jules pointed out some burial places, basically piles of rocks in little crevasses and caves. These are temporary burial places. After a time the bones are reburied during the ceremonies I had mentioned in an earlier post. Jules showed us a stick bug that is unlike anything we have ever seen. He showed us a leafless bush and asked us to find the bug. Even after finally showing us the bug we still had a hard time seeing it. Another bush was covered with what looked like a white fungus. They were another kind of insect.

Shortly into the hike we reached a viewpoint. The views were amazing. You can climb up on a rock with a very narrow place to stand to get the best view. It was a test to stand there to take some photographs. It briefly brought back memories of Tsingy. But other than that, today’s hike was nothing like Tsingy. I could say that I enjoyed it. It was lots of work, lots of ups and downs, it was very hot, but it was something I could appreciate while doing it.

We worked our way down to a pool. There were lots of other groups. A few of them went into the pool for a swim. Their shrieks were enough to stop me from going in. We left the other tourists, climbed back up the hill and continued our hike. We were now crossing a flat area, and it was getting warm. Jules was very good about stopping at the rare trees for us to get a little rest, cool off and drink some water. The other tourists were almost all much younger than us and faster, so we kept letting them pass. We were just going, “mora mora” (slowly slowly) and were content with that.

Jules spotted a couple of ring tailed lemurs, but they were up in the trees so that I could not get a good photograph. We arrived at a picnic area/campsite. It was busy with people and lemurs. There were kebabs cooking on a fire and tourists with big lens looking up at some lemurs in a tree. It turns out we could have ordered our lunch to be served here at the camp site. There is a resident sifaka who lives on her own according to Jules. I decided to video her in a tree and was lucky enough to have her jump to the ground briefly to change trees. Sifakas can only run sideways, like they are dancing. It was only a few steps but was happy to get that. While the other tourists had their kebabs and cold coke or beer, we settled for our granola bars (brought from Canada) and water.

We left before everyone else to go down the path to two pools, one called blue and the other black. We went down into a valley. The vegetation was quite lush. There were numerous little waterfalls.  We walked for about 30 minutes along the stream. Po slipped and hurt her left pinkie, not serious it seems but enough to make her flex it a bit. After that Jules held her hand over every wet spot. We kept thinking, where the heck are these blue and black pools?  We would have to return along the same path. We both thought, just tell us this is the final pool, and we can turn around. Finally we made it to the pools which are right next to each other. We spent a few minutes resting. Along came a couple; he put on his head cam and jumped again and again into the last pool. After him would come many groups. By not having a big lunch we were able to have a brief few minutes to appreciate the pools on our own.

We returned to the campsite. The Chinese tourists with their big lenses were out in force. They were lined up photographing something. Po sent me over to look. It was a little bird. I took a couple photographs of them. I cannot imagine the number of photos they compile the way they click away. I am having enough problems with the number of photos that I have taken.

At the start of our walk Jules had told us about the names that the guides have for the various nationalities. For example for English-roast beef, French-frogs, Americans-hamburgers, but the one for the Chinese is click click. He did not have one for Canadians.

The brown lemurs were running all around us. Po took out some peanuts. She had to close the bag in a hurry because a lemur was all ready to steal them. Jules found the Ifaka for us. The horde of photographers followed, so we went on our way to the parking lot to meet José.

We were hot and tired, but really enjoyed a hike in an amazing part of the world.

I had an interesting experience after our return to the hotel. This place, like many others we have been, has resident tortoises. I decided to check them out. When I got there, it was apparent that the big one was in an amorous mood. He got his way. I did not have my camera and did not think to use my iPad. Maybe that is just as well.

After another hot shower (got to love those hot showers), we headed in for supper. They really try hard to have interesting food here. There are three choices for starters, main and dessert. I ordered the mutton tajiine, Po the pork curry. She wanted extra veggies. I thought the waiter understood my explanation of her desires in French, but she ended up with only zucchini. I shared my carrots. I decided to have some wine which cost the outrageous sum of 7,000. That is less than $3 Canadian.

We took our weary selves back to our little cottage.

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