This morning, drive back to Antananarivo. En route, visit Lemur’s Park, created in 2000 to increase public awareness of the importance of protecting the lemur species of Madagascar. Nine different species can be observed roaming freely here. Have lunch onsite then continue to Antananarivo for our final farewell dinner and a day room to freshen up before our late evening transfer to the airport for departure flights. Overnight at Relais Des Plateaux.
Let me see, we got up and enjoyed plenty of coffee before hitting the road. I have no clue to what happened to Lemur Park but there was nothing like that on the trip. Instead we saw traffic, more traffic and plenty of zebu. The stop on the way back was at a “pizza” place. Then of course there was the stop at the high end (used by the foreigners) shopping center followed by the tourist market where mot of the rest of the bus exited to shop while I ignored all the tapping on the window.
At the end we wound up back at the same hotel as where we started. There was a lecture from one of the local botany types. Partnership between Kew Gardens (UK) and one of the reserves here.
I was more than ready to sleep by the end of the day.
This morning, have breakfast while listening to the peculiar call of the endangered Indri, the largest living lemurs, reaching up to three feet tall! Andasibe is an ideal place to observe the Indri, as there are some Indri families there who have been habituated to humans. Considered a sacred animal in Madagascar, the Indri is the focus of several origin myths. In addition to the Indri, 13 lemur species can also be seen: woody lemur, grey bamboo lemur, diademed sifaka, brown lemur, red mouse lemur, red-bellied lemur, black-and-white ruffed lemur, and aye-aye. These forests are also home to 15 other mammal species, more than 100 types of birds, 50 species of reptiles, and 80 amphibian species. Overnight at Vakona Forest Lodge.
The forest lodge is cool, way cool..
But first you just have to hear this…
We rise early for breakfast and then enjoy a full day exploration of the Analamazaotra Special Reserve in Andasibe. The primary forests of Andasibe Mantadia contains a dense humid forest covered with lianas, moss, fern trees, and more than 100 isalo national park orchids species. Other common plants growing here are Pandanus utilis, traveler’s tree, tambourissa, bamboos and some precious wood, like palisander and ebano. Conservation of the forest is a critical challenge in this region due to the graphite mines inside the park; we will discuss conservation initiatives as it relates to natural resources. This afternoon is at leisure to explore the trails at the hotel. In the evening, there will be a talk by a local researcher followed by dinner at the lodge. Overnight at Vakona Forest Lodge.
This morning, transfer to the airport for the flight to Antananarivo, then transfer to Andasibe. En route admire the large roadside Raphia farinifera palms. Arrive at the hotel late in the afternoon and take an evening walk in the Mitsinjo Analamazaotra Forest Station. Mitsinjo is an important site, and a great place to see the extremely endangered Ravenea louvelii palm in its natural habitat. Explore the flora of the trail system and then as darkness descends, continue walking in search of nocturnal wildlife. With luck, have a chance to observe the locally endemic Goodman’s Mouse Lemur. Common encounters also include the Greater Dwarf Lemur, leaf-tailed geckos, and an impressive sample of Andasibe’s amphibian diversity such as the tree frogs Boophis viridis and Boophis pyrrhus. Return to the hotel for dinner. Overnight at Vakona Forest Lodge.
we left our hotel this morning and headed to the airport
in plenty of time for our flight. Which happened to be changed to close to 1100. This is Air Madagascar. Prop plane with one engine suspended from each wing and six very wicked looking propellor blades on each. The good thing? Obviously neither the wings nor engines interfered with anyone’s view. The sad thing? The country appeared pretty desolate in our 90+ minute flight.
On arrival, we were met by new van and driver. Loaded up to drive to the hotel. It was only 87 miles but took from 1300 till after dark. We made one stop along the way –
at a place that had most excellent coffee which we all needed plus offered a variety of western tourist adventures (hiking, zip lining and white water rafting). We had the coffee and looked at the sheep.
It was dark when we arrived, this place is set deep into the forest if the 30 minute practically off road drive is any judge.
We rise early today for a special sunrise walk in Reniala Private Reserve, managed by a local environmental association working to develop ecotourism in the area. Hike some of the trails to explore the spiny forest, a unique ecosystem which only occurs in the southwest Madagascar. The reserve contains more than 2000 plant species, as well as impressively old baobabs – including one that is 41 feet in diameter. The reserve also has 65 species of birds; rare endemics such as the Red-capped Coua and the Blue Vanga can easily be seen. Return to the hotel for a late breakfast, and explore the beach or hotel amenities. This afternoon, return to Reniala to continue exploring the flora and the tortoise park. Enjoy a special dinner this evening under the baobab trees in the reserve. Overnight at Le Paradisier.
About half the crew got up for the sunrise walk. The rest of us relaxed and had coffee….. Morning was reserved to basic updates of tasks like – laundry which could hang out in the sun, a bit of reading, some cross stitch and an audio book.
I wandered around the camp and just relaxed. A small group went snorkeling out on the reef. The water was barely 3 meters in most places so they had a great time with fish, coral and plant life. George went to the evening meal. As did only three others. They had a lovely hike through the same portion of the spiny forest before their dinner outside in the breeze. I didn’t ask about the insects, I didn’t want to know. Lunch had been late enough that I have no clue where any of them found room for supper.
Today we venture to Zombitse National Park and witness the results of a widespread environmental problem in Madagascar: deforestation. After a long history of “slashand-burn agriculture” in the region, only a small area of protected forest remains. As a result, it is a particularly abundant with flora biodiversity; baobabs and several orchids are especially common. Time permitting, visit Antsokay Arboretum, created in 1980 by amateur Swiss biologist Hermann Petignat. The 100-acre site is dedicated to conservation of the country’s endemic fauna. Continue to the seaside town of Toliara, situated near the Tropic of Capricorn. Overnight at Le Paradisier.
Actually, another day from Hell on the bus made much better by the stop at Zombitse Park
the massive baobab trees
and then there was the fun of these guys …..
before driving to the end of the world
We arrived at camp late afternoon –
the main area –
Spend the day exploring Isalo National Park, a continental sandstone plateau dating to the Jurassic times. This trek is full of varied landscapes with different forms of sandstones, and dotted with the famous dwarf baobab. After an hour walk with short climbs, stop to rest in a spectacular valley resembling the famous Death Valley. The overlook shows miles of azure sky, rocky desert, and winding greenery. Continue to the natural pool with its white sandy bottom and tropical vibe for a swim before making the trek back to the starting point. Transfer back to the hotel for dinner. Overnight at Le Relais de la Reine.
What this doesn’t say is hiking up a canyon, almost sliding into a creek or more ring tailed Lemurs! The quick summary is that there were a lot of lemurs who spent just about as much time looking at us as we at them. While the canyon walk was lovely, I decided that I really didn’t need to chance slipping, falling or smashing my good camera into anything.
The photos are divided more by subject than by actually sequence of taking. It will make sense (trust me?)
First – some of the area to set the scene –
First – some of the lemurs we met on the way in….
then there were those hiking along
After breakfast, head to the Great South and Madagascar’s most visited park, Isalo National Park. The drive is along some of the best roads in the country and the scenery is breathtaking. Expect to spend most of the day driving. En route stop at Anja Community Reserve, managed by the local community and a vital example of sustainable tourism in Madagascar. The reserve boasts a diverse variety of endemic species, including several families of orchids and saxicolous plants. Explore the reserve then have lunch in a nearby restaurant. After a long day of driving, we check in to our hotel, have dinner, and relax in anticipation of Isalo National Park – over 200,000 acres of beautiful landscapes of sandstones, canyons, fauna and flora, natural swimming pools, and waterfalls. Overnight at Le Relais de la Reine.
It was an extremely long day of driving.
First – sights along the way –
that is just a taste of what driving through a town or city will show you.
But the stars of today were ring-tailed lemurs. Trust me, they are funny, amazing and not at all concerned about humans in their habitat.
and more lemurs both in the trees where they have a tendency to move around like Rocky the Flying Squirrel
There are also Zebu
and more ring tails down at the water and otherwise having an interesting time…
if you click on the picture you will get a slightly larger version. I did limit the size…
This morning, after breakfast, hike in the 102,000-acre Ranomafana National Park. Please note that hikes are moderately difficult uphill hikes on the way in. The rainforest is home to the critically endangered greater bamboo lemur, golden bamboo lemur, and 11 other lemur species, plus species of precious wood, palm trees, orchids, and carnivorous plants. This afternoon, have lunch at Centre ValBio (CVB), a world-famous research station established in 2003 and managed by Stony Brook University. Run by Dr. Patricia Wright, the accomplished American primatologist and conservationist, the CVB focuses on biodiversity, community health, environmental arts, and reforestation. After lunch is an informational presentation on the flora, fauna, and research efforts. This evening dine at a local restaurant and take a walk in search of nocturnal species on the outskirts of the national park. Overnight at Setam Lodge.
this was Lemur day – along with hiking up and down and some more up and down.
which obviously eat bamboo….
and the guy
After breakfast, transfer to the mountainous Ranomafana National Park, situated on the edge of Madagascar’s High Plateau with elevations ranging from 1,640 to 4,921 feet. Ranomafana contains a variety of forest and is part of the World Heritage Site, Rainforests of the Atsinanana. Ranomafana has served as a model for subsequent parks and reserves in Madagascar and abroad. This evening we have a special traditional Tanala dinner prepared and served in a special pot, family-style. Tanala literally means “people of the forest.” Only 4% of the population of Madagascar are Tanala, so tonight’s meal is a rare treat. Overnight at Setam Lodge
Did I mention driving forever?
Yes, thought I did. The National Park is about 30 years old, give or take. It is the home to about 13 species of lemurs, six or so of which are nocturnal. I am not, so doubt that I will see any of them.
And there are a few birds, we did not see many due to the time of the day.
This morning en route to Antsirabe we visit the small town of Ambatolampy and its aluminum pot factory for a glimpse into Malagasy industry. One craftsman can make B as many as 20 of these robust pots per day! Have lunch at the Rendez-vous des Pêcheurs restaurant and then continue to Antsirabe. Check in at the lodge, a short distance from the town center, then enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight at Couleur Café.
OK. What this doesn’t say are two things:
the first you have probably already guessed. The roads were paved but barely two vehicles wide which makes for some interesting and challenging driving. Our small motor bus is well maintained but no where near new. The luggage rides in a rack on the top, under a tarp. I am just thinking Africa and am glad for the tarp. The driver or assistant stays with the vehicle at all times.
Driving out of Tana, we traveled along the river for several hours. The three main activities there are clothes washing, small dugout type canoe fishing and brick making.
Our stop at the above aluminum pot factory was both enlightening and appalling. The aluminum comes completely from recycling various containers, This part is good. The scary part? Completely manual labor fueled by charcoal conducted by men in shorts, t-shirts and bare feet as they shred, melt down and pour molten aluminum. Never mind goggles or hearing protection from the grinding noise. None of us noticed any significant burns which means either the men are good and careful or that an injury loses one the job.
Lunch was at a local restaurant with the ubiquitous rice + (meaning either chicken or zebu = the local species of oxen).
What followed was another several hours in the bus before we arrived at our overnight break. I skipped dinner, just wasn’t hungry. Of side note, the usual stomach upsets are starting to invade the group. So far I haven’t been blessed.
“Explore the capital city – the political, economic, and cultural heart of Madagascar. A local historian enlightens a visit to Ambohimanga, a hill and fortified royal settlement, followed by a family-style lunch with entertainment by traditional dancers and singers. This evening enjoy a welcome dinner and a talk on Madagascar’s unique biodiversity. Overnight at Relais Des Plateaux”
more to follow….
In reality, we stayed completely out of the city and went instead to what was the home of the Madagascar Royalty in the 1800s. Wooden buildings, up on the top of a high hill. Inside very English drawing room appearance complete with the kind of posed photos of Queens in English court dress that you might expect as a result of the invasion of English missionaries in the early 1800s. No photos allowed inside the building.
It too over 90 minutes to drive the 20km from the hotel to the site. After walking the site long enough for the repetition to get to me, we headed off to lunch. Local entertainment. At least we ere told it was traditional even if there was an accordion and western dress involved.
Less than 40 min return in the evening.
JUNE 2 – Antananarivo Meet our guide and transfer to the hotel for needed rest after the long flight. Overnight at Relais Des Plateaux.
What I am doing is putting in place holders which will show up everyday that I am unable to get on line and edit them. Means I am probably alive, well, and, in the case of today – recovering from the flight (13.5 + 11 hours time + 7 hour wait + (?9-13more?).
Ok. You have benn informed. Any day you see just a paragraph listing the proposed activities you will immedIately know my lack of WiFi access.
Boarding began around 0050 for our flight which meant dinner served around 0300 and breakfast about 0900. As it turned out, we had a stop in Mauritainia where a large number of people deplaned and I don’t think anyone boarded. Thru passengers were requested to stay on the plane.
The above are from the window on take off. We arrived in Madagascar at 1420
There was a line for Visas, to clear immigration, to grt through customs (everthing gets xrayd) pick up. Hotel. Crash.
Before I forget – and this is being written from the Turkish Airlines Lounge in Istanbul – I just adore flying Turkish Airlines. At least in business class, no experience otherwise.
The plane itself is comfortable, they provide slippers. I don’t have a clue about their entertainment program since I enjoying watching the flight path. The service is excellent, the chefs on board prepare the food to order. The cart comes by with the starters so that you can mix and match. I never go around to desert since I decided that sleep wasn’t a bad idea at all.
But the icing on the cake? Besides the lovely lounge in the airport which is huge, open, airy with multiple snack stations and a full array of munchies, foods, drinks, teas and coffees?
We were parked at an outer location which meant the usual tramp and bus. There was a separate bus for business class. Not just a simple sign in the window, this was decked out with a full elegant wrap clearly distinguishing it from the ordinary white economy class. Business Class clearly emblazoned on the side, gold on chocolate brown.
Since our flight was late getting in. Oh – that was interesting. Apparently going around too many times on approach to SFO make the incoming TK 079 short on fuel. So they landed at OAK. Seriously. Refueled, took off, circled around, then landed on the SFO runway right across the bay. End result was that we were a couple hours late on departure. Fine with me since that meant a shorter time hanging out in Ataturk.
And I underestimated. Apparently the time zone different from SFO to IST is 11 hours… flip my bodies schedule on its head why don’t we.
- Visit Lemur’s Park, a botanical park where nine species of lemur can be observed roaming freely.
- Discover the sacred royal village of Ambohimanga, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Explore the sandstone canyons and waterfalls of Isalo National Park.
- Learn about sustainability and biodiversity in Ranomafana National Park at Centre Valbio, a facility run by Dr. Patricia Wright that is now Madagascar’s leading field research center.
- Experience a taste of Malagasy life while exploring Ambatolampy and visiting a pot factory which are used all throughout the island.
- Investigate Madagascar’s over 12,000 plant species (up to 80% are endemic) , showcasing Madagascar, as one of the most, diverse floras in the world.
- Witness extraordinary biogeography as Madagascar houses 100% of the world’s lemurs, half of the world’s chameleon populations and 6% of the world’s amphibian populations.
I will continue to think about this as we deal with yet another day underway.
SFO-IST arriving today (1 June) then early morning from here to Madagascar.
I did tell you that was where we are going?
We are sitting in the brand new United Lounge at SFO. It is honestly amazing. Lovely comfortable modern furniture in neutral colors. Plug-ins at each and every location. WiFi available without a lot of login fuss. The food has markedly improved (hot, cold, sushi, seaweed salad and pickled ginger!).
Which translates to individual work stations, two locations of single person gender neutral accessible bathrooms (~9 in each) a meeting area with views of the airTrain and a comfortable two person seating area with lots of power points
We are on TK80 from SFO to IST (Istanbul for all those normal people who don’t carry a plethora of airport codes in their heads). It is a 13 hour flight plus we have at least 9 hours of time change. End result is that we leave at 1815 today and arrive at 1715 on the 1st. Right. After hanging out in the Turkish Airlines lounge (think olives, wonderful olives) till 0140 (which is now the 2nd of June) we board TK160 for Antananarivo after another 12-13 hours.
(Flight update, the plane is somewhere. Departure delayed now to 2015)
The kids are around so the house is not empty or an invitation to thieves. I packed last night, then had to redo a few things this morning (craft supplies, camera batteries, cables, new insoles for my shoes and sunblock). Last but not least, I could NOT find the passport photos I printed yesterday after searching just about everyplace I could think of. Gave up, went to the UPS/DHL place and in 10 minutes had new ones. It is not that I need another passport, but Madagascar requires a Visa on entry. Payable in crisp cash, exact amount recommended. Which seems to be more than is what on the website so who knows what it will be at the time.
Meanwhile, I finally have solved the USB-C that Apple thought was brilliant to install on their new laptops (in lieu of a normal USB 2/3). One of the stands in the airport had them. Oh – did I mention that I went to Apple this morning and the dude sold me the wrong thing?
Final comment – Daughter #2 variously referred to over the years as Ms Soprano or Daughter #2 took and passed her drivers permit exam this afternoon. So I might actually wind up with 2/4 able to legally drive a car.
I have set up some prescheduled posts for the next couple of weeks so that you will know “where in the world is …..” My plan, should I be able to get on line will be to update and post photos. I suggest you check the blog since there is no guarantee that I will be able to email photos on a daily basis.
It was one of those mornings. My alarm probably went off, but it really didn’t matter since the sound was turned too low to be heard. This lead to my confusion on the way out the door and forgetting the lemons.
What lemons you say? The ones from our MeyerLemon tree that are becoming ripe by the dozen and that I use to thank the lovely nurses at the SFVA infusion center.
Back to the rest. My lack of organization led to my catching a later BART than usual (and having Dani 15 minutes later than usual at work). Pulling into the Powell Street Station at 0538 I figured that I was going to have a wait for the SFVA bus but decided to hoof it. Coming around the corner onto 5th, the bus was at the stop.
I can jog, right? or run at a mad dash down two + blocks. And the bus driver waited for me! Seriously, the previous transport drivers would wait till you were less than 50 meters from boarding, close the door and pull out. This lovely guy waited. There were less than a dozen of us on the bus and it is not like there is a lot of traffic in downtown SF before 0600.
So there I sat wishing I had coffee till the infusion center opened. Port accessed, an amazing amount of labs sent off and a nice chat later, I checked into Nuclear Med to find that they were more than happy to take me 30 minutes early which means I finished 30 minutes early. (Note, this did not help me get out any earlier since there was a screw up on my anti-malarials which took up more than an hour for thirty (30) measly capsules. It is at this point that I want to set out on my next errand.
The #38 Muni bus picks up in the drive between the hospital and clinics building. Out the door, dash down the sidewalk. The driver looks at me, closes the door and pulls out. ARGHHHH!
Now, If I jog the path leading off the campus, across Clement, two blocks down hill, cross both sections of Geary which are effectively two streets, turn left and run another block to the bus stop, I can catch the same bus. Which I do. This is the second run today. I am not in the shape I would like to be. Bus to UC Hastings. Hiked to AT&T park. Tram to BART and home.
According to my watch, I more than got my number of steps in….
doesn’t stand for a favorite and favored four legged (or two winged) creature. It is one of those lovely (not) nuclear medicine imagining studies favored by Oncologists who are looking for tumor activity.
The last time I did one of these was last June. If you really want details – all of them can be found in a fairly decent article on Wiki. It is not any harder on me than anything else – get up early, go to BART, catch bus, arrive at SFVA, get port accessed, get study, get access removed, reverse directions to home.
I will think less than fondly about this at 0500 in the morning when I get dropped off at BART.
But it sounds like a really good excuse for leaving tonight’s baseball game early……
(and the As lost again, stranded too many base runners, couldn’t keep momentum going but almost managed in the bottom of the 9th)
I mean really. It was the second day in the Mariners vs the As schedule. It was cold. It was damp. The Mariners should have felt well at home. After all, we know the reputation of Seattle weather – right? I guess the As could blame the weather for their less than sterling performance. It seemed like the pitchers were ruling and the batters just couldn’t get on base.
Funny when a lousy evening at the Ballpark completes a day spent at the SFVA enjoying (not) being a patient again for a day of killing off lymphocytes.
It is never more obvious than from 35000 feet that the center of the US is agricultural land. Miles after mile of grid laid out in one mile squares. Some fields encompass the entire square, others are subdivided into multiple crops. Lines of trees snaking along mark small water courses while ponds and lakes intrude with their irregular shore lines. Homes are scattered, each anchoring its own land so different than Europe with clustered homes in a village surrounded by fields.
As we worked our way west, flat gave way to contour, the grid vanished and pasture land seemed to be the order of the day. The haze, although still present has shaded markedly toward white as we traveled away from the overhanging pollution of the DC Metro area.
From there, with the exception of the occasional mountain range capable of piercing the clouds, I saw nothing below us till the last few minutes of the flight. Since I know well the approach to SFO, I don’t find it very comforting to be descending through soap suds clouds, breaking through right over a couple of small boats and less than 100 meters from the end of the runway.
BART to North Berkeley, and home.
or at least a medium blue to a rehab facility. At least not when that is the color of the scrubs worn by all the personnel working there. Never mind that they are all – without exception wearing pants. Never mind that each and everyone has both the facility name and their role embroidered in large white letter on their top. My showing up today in a dark blue Columbia skirt, t-shirt and long sleeve over shirt tied at the waist caused confusion.
Correcting fellow visitors is fine as long as I point them to, or get them to the person who can give directions. But causing confusion in one of the patients at dinner had me feeling completely horrible. The reassurance by the staff member on duty that that special patient wasn’t particularly oriented to time or place with almost absent short term memory didn’t help.
It was something, the clothing color, that I noticed yesterday but didn’t take into consideration when I got dressed this morning. I was just thinking the weather was going to be nicer and I could leave my last pair of leggings for tomorrow’s flight home. Now I know better, but hopefully once my friend is out of there, I won’t ever have to worry about this particular “uniform” again.