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Very cool dikdik, I look forward to reading the trip report!

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Wonderful shots of so many people. The scenery, the reptiles, the lemurs, the markets. It's obvious you'll have a great report.

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Great images and I'm particularly in awe of the action shots of the chameleon's tongue catching insects! Wow!

Lovely landscape and people shots too. Great collection.

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Boy, I have been trying to condense the now 11 page trip report, and each time I try and summarize it, I end up adding more. Subsequently I have decided to run a pictorial trip report and have compiled masses of highly reduced photos. I hope this tells a story better.

 

Day 1 was trains planes and automobiles. (OK no trains) Left Cape Town in the morning and arrived at Feon Ny Ala hotel in Andasibe

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A picture of the Chalets. Modest to say the least. But we learned later that we shouldn't expect too much when it comes to sleeping arrangements.

Crazy thing is that they had frog legs on the menu.. So - I ate 7 legs. Wondered why they didnt sell them in pairs.

 

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The reason why we went there was to see the largest lemur, the Indri indri.

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They make a magnificent howling sound. There are nocturnal and diurnal lemurs, in fact its about half. There are around 60 species of lemur in Madagascar, and almost all indigenous (also endemic) animals are arboreal. The Indri indri for example will only go to the ground once or twice a month. It gets everything it needs from the trees.

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Taking photos of these animals was particularly difficult. The light was poor for starters, they were always above you and you had to compensate by one stop for the background glare. There were always sticks and branches in the way, and they seemed to get a kick out of dedicating on you below. The one urinated on my tripod for about two minutes.

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We did get quite lucky with this Indri indri who posed a bit for us.

 

A surprise in the forest, is that it was quite cold, and there were very few insects and birds. I expected to have insects and birds a plenty. We did see one chameleon, and some other nocturnal lemurs. The walk was the only thing we had planned for the day, and we had the afternoon off, with little to do after the walk was complete. The next day was to be a long drive, so we got a bit of rest.

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I was away when you first posted the photos and didn't get a chance to look at them until now. What a great selection, they really give the feel to the place with the market scenes, people and landscapes. Fantastic. The lizards are amazing, I don't know whether they are all chameleons but hopefully as you put your report together they will have captions. The colours and detail are fantastic. Any of the frogs you photographed the sort you ate? I haven't had frogs legs since I was a child and I don't think I'd bother again … too much effort. Like eating quail!

 

Looking forward to the rest of the report.

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Sounds like you had fun. Madagascar is one big island that I confess I know really little about!

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Madagascar is twice the size of New Zealand, and twice the size of the UK or the same size as Kenya (yet it has half the population of Kenya) and a little less than half the size of SA. So it’s hardly a little island. It has an annual rainfall of between 3.5m and 1.5m depending on the location. Madagascar used to be totally forested, but now it is mostly Savannah.

 

Up Early, we had a long drive. We tried our best to avid the Capital Antananarivo, but we had to pop in the first day and again this day, we also found ourselves in Tana for far too long on the last day - waiting to leave.

Advice - avoid at all costs. Unless miserable poverty, ugly badly kept buildings and child beggars interest you.

 

En route we stopped at an insect park. This was what I had been waiting for. Macro photography.. I had with me two macro lenses and my full frame camera. BUT I did not have a macro flash and still had lots to learn about macro photography. Light was poor. And when we returned, I noticed that 80% of the photos I had taken were missing. We were also in a huge rush, because we were limited to one hour. I cant remember the name of this place, but they had some free roaming tame lemurs. So we had lots of fun with the cameras.

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Aim

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Oops missed the photo.

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another try

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Aargh didnt cater for the depth of field.

Feeding the Chameleons was fun, and we saw many other unique little frogs and lizards that are endemic to Madagascar.

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Not to mention getting up close to the Sifaka, or one of the species of sifaka. It is pronounced sea F@#$%er. so we had our guide repeat a few times to make sure we wouldn't forget.

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Although they are arboreal, they are pretty apt on the ground.

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It was quite amazing being able to touch these unique creatures. The fur was so soft.

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The common brown lemur also a tame one.

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Panther chameleon. the most beautiful of them all. This is a male... what did you think? The female of course was drab.

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Flat tailed lizard on hand

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Flat tailed lizard on face.

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Snake with no name, but got funny nose.

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The smallest chameleon in the world has three subspecies, this is the second smallest one.

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And this is him, the brookasia. He is fully grown. Probably a she - its a little drab.

 

Common sight on the roads is cattle carts or carts drawn by people.

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And brick making.. The people are all busy with something. Planting rice, digging out the rice paddy and making bricks out of the clay, cooking bricks, cutting down trees and making charcoal, whipping oxen to pull carts, riding bicycle with huge bag of charcoal on it.

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Another common sight, rickshaw men taking people to and from the market.

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One of the cleaner butcheries.

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The water in the rice paddy's are used for everything for cooking drinking and washing yourselves and your clothes. The Malagassy people also don't believe in having toilets in their houses, and believe that the "waste" is good for the rice. Also note that only a tiny percent of the people will have access to clean water or electricity. Almost everyone used charcoal to cook in the house.

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Great (and funny) report so far..........

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We stayed in a hotel in Ansirbe for the night. I think it may have been three star, but in Madagascar one should not take this seriously. We tried to take a walk down the road, but were so badly harassed by rickshaw men and beggars, that we went back to the hotel. The poverty in Madagascar is quite unbelievable.

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A typical vendor in the more informal part of town

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Semiprecious stones for sale.

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Typical rice and vegetable growing. The farming is intensive and extensive, and there is hardly a square centimeter of land unutilized.

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Our wheels with our guide and driver.

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The above photo is quite intersesting. We were driving by and there was a rather large gathering. Our guide asked if we would like to see an exhumation. of course I felt a bit awkward and chose to say no, but Jenny was interested. Malagassy - probably like many other people- have a fascination with the afterlife, and their ancestors. Every so often they will need to re wrap their dead ancestors as the bodies will be getting cold. The will ask an elder or spiritual man to determine the date. they then exhume the bodies, and have a big party and drink lots of Malagasy rum. To my surprise they have no inhibitions about this and anyone is welcome. They welcomed jenny and allowed her to take photos of the bodies and told her a bit about them.

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This is what a tomb looks like. Another interesting tradition is that if there is a woman who is unable to have kids, then she will drink some tea with the cloth that was wrapped around her ancestor and this will help her conceive. it must work.

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Happy children at the exhumation.

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typical house. Note most houses are double stories.

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Seems that I had some photos mixed up.. Corrected it.

 

A little about our guide

You will have noticed that I have not used his name here. I am a little worried that some of the things I may say later may sound negative to him. This is not my intention, we were perfectly aware that we had chosen the budget option, and it is not my wish that we make him look bad. I am sure that he could plan a less budget trip should you ask for it.

 

We wanted to do a wildlife photo safari. We wanted to see the remaining wild places and take photos of the unique animals that have evolved on that Island. I think he thought we wanted an adventure trip, and get to know the culture. Well the culture was certainly extraordinary and it was tremendously humbling see it first hand.

 

The trio certainly affected us greatly and we are better people for it. I am glad we did it, but once is enough. In fact if we had known what we were in for we would not have gone.

 

One problem with Madagascar is that all tourist destinations are on the islands. To self drive is not recommended and very dangerous. At the very best you can arrange a hired car, but they will supply you with a driver. This works our to be very expensive, and English speaking drivers are in short supply. The other problem is that you can read any travel book you like, but nothing will prepare you for this. Without being able to speak french you will be lost from the start.

 

Our guide was great in that he spoke English and could organize things from his side which helped hugely. He also knew the country very well. I wish him well and will recommend him to anyone who is interested.

 

The worrying things

Jenny would get frustrated with me as I kept pointing out that this tree or that plant or bird is a exotic. But this very thing about Madagascar is very disturbing. Madagascar used to be forest, and apparently less than 10% of the forest remains. Forest has been replaced with rice fields or alien faster growing trees that get cut down to supply charcoal. Every side of the road you would see sawmills or smoke emanating from trees in the creation of charcoal. Also the burning was very disturbing. There was no plan, the vegetation was constantly smoldering. There was no plan behind the burning, it just seemed that someone would set some bush alight and leave it, without a bother who or how the fire would go out. I just shudder to think the damage that this does to the small chameleons and the lemurs.

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Continued...

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Just kidding, this was not the hotel we stayed in, it was next door. We stayed at the Baobab hotel in Miandrivazo on the banks of the Tsiribhina river. Here we had to do "formalities" - which involved reporting to the police station so that they can type a document with all your details (who is you mother and father) and give you a stamp.

We had a chance to roam around the town and take some snaps.

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This picture is of fish, a little bigger than grains of rice. They must be fishing with mosquito nets. I cant believe that tilapia are harvested so young, they grow fast.

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They grow all their own vegetables. One fascinating thing is that there will be hundreds of vendors selling the same things. One can only wonder how a customer will decide who they end up buying from.

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Sunset in the village

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Child labor.. It is something worth noticing is how much work the kids do.

 

At the hotel we had tea and coffee.

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Coffee in Mad is really strong and the tea; well its really weak. I promise that is tea. Thank goodness we brought along our own tea bags. Milk is something that they don't have. Nope no milk anywhere. No cheese either. So you will need condensed milk, and good luck finding the french work for milk, as sign language just doesn't work with this one.

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A warts and all trip report which is enlightening and fascinating. Sad what is happening to such a unique country. It is quite off the radar.

 

Looking forward to more.

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The start of the three day canoe trip. So we lump all our luggage and supplies into this 11m long hollow tree so that we can float down the river for the next 180km. At the same time three other dugouts left with other clients, but they had bought some sponge to make the seats more comfortable.

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So here we are six of us and all the kit. The guide, a trainee guide and two boatmen and of course us.

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The boatmen had amazing eyes and spotted a chameleon on a branch - of course I had to pick it up.

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And here I am talking chameleon.

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This is how the boatmen perch on the boat. Our guys had amazing energy and sang and joked all the way. And how uncomfortable must it be to sit like all day?

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Charcoal going upstream. The three day trip down will leave the boatmen with a 6 day trip back - not rowing but with a pole.

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When we stopped for lunch, we would usually meet all the kids from the nearby village. Asking for photo to be taken. What was so delightful here, was that the expected nothing from us, and loved looking at the photos we took of them.

They all jumped into the water and had a swim, and when I wanted to join them I was told by the guide not to do so as a crocodile will eat me. Apparently crocs like white people because the meat is softer.

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the other boat.

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The campsite. It was the first night we stayed on the river that I got annoyed with things. We stopped on this sandbank in a howling wind. Sandblasted, they threw down a sheet to sit on and started to prepare diner. It wasnt long and the sun went down and we found that our guide had only one cheep torch. I lent him two of my headlights, and had to share one with Jenny. When we erected the tents the one support broke, and we had to use another spare tent he had bought. I kid you not when I say it was a Chinese kids tent. Furthermore we discover that we have no mattress, and had to share a single bed sheet all night. To make things worse, I finally fell asleep with my feet protruding outside the tent only to be eaten by mosquitoes when the wind died down. It was a very very uncomfortable night.

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The journey continues.

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This little piggy is going to market..

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We did have another passenger perched on our boat. As you can imagine there is no way to keep you meat fresh, so the chicken had to come alive. I named him fresh and made sure that he was well fed.

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It was the last we saw of fresh alive.

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the end of the Fresh story.

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We did stop on the way to wash in this beautiful waterfall.

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And this little piggy....

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I repaired the tent but it was still a very uncomfortable night. Sand can be quite hard.

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Other boating traffic, not wanting to waste time cooking on shore.

 

 

Then the story of Crocodile Dundee.

We met this old man paddling his boat down the river on the first day of the trip down the river. Our boatmen were teasing and joking with this old man. After translation, it turns out that this old man specializes in catching crocodiles. He will sell the meat and the skins in town. He was going downstream to try and capture a big croc. The next day we saw him as well. And on the final day he was still cruising downstream. He was going three days downstream and then six days upstream on his croc venture. The whole trip wold be two weeks long.

Anyway lets continue.

We get flagged down by some people on the bank saying that they had killed a big crocodile that ate a young girl. They had cut it open and found the foot of the girl inside.

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Croc Dundee was in like a flash and tried to get some leftover croc for himself.

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We measured the croc at three and a half meters.

 

The three day river trip was over, and I will start with the rest of the report later.

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I am on a roll. So the canoe trip is over. But it is now hot, it was HOT. We crawl up the bank and load our goods on to the ox cart. Some kids grab the steering and off we go. But we walk!! 3kms through mud etc to the next village.

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ever wondered how they steer these things??? well its like this, if you need to turn right, you grab the tail of the ox on the left and bend it. if you want to go faster you bend both tails. Its not fun being a cow in Madagascar, you have to work for a living and then you are food at the end of the day anyway. Cattle are called Zebu, and are a measure of wealth. It is also a measure of wealth as to how many children you have.

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We walked through more rice fields.

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This is what happens to a cow when it stops working. I was getting pretty wary of the food we eat now.

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Anyone for some steak? Funny thing here is atht they eat the skin. They don't peel cows like we do.

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Anyone for fresh fish?

 

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I forget the name of this village, but we walked around taking photos. Kids always ready to pose.

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And happy all the time.

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My shack for the night. At least the bed was bit softer than the hard ground we had slept on the last two nights..

We wont say anything about the toilets. At this stage I was eating less, so that I could last longer between - you know the toilet.

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see - very comfortable

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Lets continue with the journey. Next venue is Tsingy. You know those prickly rocks that you have seen on TV. Never seen them? We now get collected by a driver and a nice 4X4 for the next bumpy ride.

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Did I tell you that we had to use a ferry to cross a river.

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Thats our new mode of transport.

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there was this kid who wanted to show me the bird that he has shot with his catapult and pulled the fethers out so it cant fly. I suppose it will die soon.

We saw some kids the other day hodling two full grown owls by the wings asking for us to take photos, but we refrained from that.

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i couldn't resist picking up a snake though. I did put it back safely.

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Once we had crossed the river, we stopped at a restaurant ( if you can call it that?) and heard this commotion outside when we went to see, it was the coffin of a baby being ran through the street. Quite unsettling.

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the prawns were delicious. But we paid the price for that later.

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And some other children wanted to show us their pet parrot.

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And then there was this guy who had just caught a few wild ducks ... still alive hanging from their feet. Life is hard for wildlife in Madagascar.

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To get back to the prawns- they get quite big and have these long claws. Never seen prawns like them before.

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Wow, what a trip... Very adventurous... Here's a report of wildlife and natural resources poaching in Madagascar that appeared in today's Washington Post, here. Did you hear much about these problems while there?

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Well dikdik, it's a fantastically descriptive report, so much so that I no longer feel that I need visit there myself! :rolleyes: Unless there is some way of seeing what is left of the wildlife before it is peeled, plucked or exhumed, without having to deal with some of the other stuff now that my stomach doesn't handle some confrontational issues as well as it used to. I know, mixing the descriptions somewhat but my goodness, what an experience for you both.

 

OH&S would have a field day with the ferry!

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Wow, what a trip... Very adventurous... Here's a report of wildlife and natural resources poaching in Madagascar that appeared in today's Washington Post, here. Did you hear much about these problems while there?

 

I am afraid the situation there is already lost. My mind was full of solutions and suggestions, but the situation is far too out of control and underfunded to do anything about. You are left thinking - what right do we have to go and interfere with their way of life. Their culture and tradition is so strong, we have no right to try and change it.

 

There is no economy, no commerce. Tourist money only reaches the tourist destinations. Most people lead a subsistence living, but have no idea what is sustainable and what is not. I picked up a few things that most people would have missed, skinny hunting dogs, and people walking in the bush with shot guns. Bushpig has been food for centuries, but anything else will do. Then you have this destructive cattle problem, and this fire burning mantality.

 

I have read some bits and pieces about the governance crisis. The people generally are in support of the new leader, and there is no violence. THey feel that the French dont want to recognize him as he has not shown that he will work with them. Other sources say, that the new leader is just shopping around for the best deal. In the mean time he has lost focus on the wildlife protection. Very, very sad.

 

I met some unbelievable people while I was there. And their culture is amazing. I read somewhere that there were about 37 different tribe, separated but region and different dialect and traditions.

 

To believe that the early settlers were there 2000 years ago and floated their way from Polynesia. The story continued that they floated all the way to Africa, and got into a fight with Africans and returned. Its too much for my mind to comprehend. The Malagasy have a mix of Asian and Arab features.

 

The wildlife - I read that of all the species of indigenous mammals and birds only 5 species are found somewhere else. But when you drifting down the river and see a bee eater, or an indian myna or Guinea fowl you have the question of what was introduced. I still cant figure out if the Nile crocodile and their bushpig or even the tilapia fish were introduced or not. Its hard to believe that those species did not change in the 100 million years since Madagascar separated from Africa and India due the continental shift.

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Amazing trip report and images, thanks Dik Dik.

 

I was listening to Joni Mitchell in the car and thought of your trip report:

They took all the trees

Put em in a tree museum

And they charged the people

A dollar and a half just to see em

From Big Yellow Taxi.

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You don't know what you've got till it's gone.....................

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Amazing trip report and images, thanks Dik Dik.

 

I was listening to Joni Mitchell in the car and thought of your trip report:

They took all the trees

Put em in a tree museum

And they charged the people

A dollar and a half just to see em

From Big Yellow Taxi.

Closest thing I have for you is a little pink taxi

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If you went to Madagascar to see the Indri indri, I'd say you succeeded to get photos of mother and baby and to be urinated upon by the subject.

 

That's as far as I got in your report. Looking forward to the rest.

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Tsingy Continued

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We shacked up in this bungalow. We were supposed to camp for two days, but we were begging for an alternative, and our guide threw in the bungalow at no extra charge. At least the toilets and showers were neat and clean, even though their water system had broken, we were happy to wash from a bucket.

 

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The restaurant we ate in was pretty rustic.. sand as floor. Sheet was used as floor in the kitchen. Ducks walked in and ate the leftovers. I didnt tell you that we had FreshII behind the back seat of our 4X4, he was sacrificed despite our insisting that he could live to be eaten another day.

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They dont look as tasty os our soft chickens.

 

 

 

Our park fees and guide fees were included in the trip, and we were provided with a park ranger and a guide who was pretty good with English. His name was Narsus ( I have no idea how to spell it so I wrote as it sounds). We instantly clicked, his passion and knowledge was excellent.

 

The day started with a trip down the river, where we saw some caves, and inside were some stalactites. But the main reason was for us to see one of the oldest grave sites from the original ancestors 2000 years ago.

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The river we paddled down

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Burial ground in the rocks on the cliff face. You can see the skulls and some cloth in the center of the picture.

 

After the river trip we have the option of doing Small Tsingy and big Tsingy, Not knowing what any of them were about we chose to do both. Jenny was not feeling well, but she soldiered on. The drive to Big Tsingy is a few hours, and the walk is also a few hours and quite hard going.

Tsingy has to be one of the wonders of the world. Acording to the experts Madagascar seperated and joined Africa a few times, and these rocks, which have sea shells in them were folded up in this wand and eroded to become sharp jaggedly features. It stretches for about 280kms.

 

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The photos dont show the full grandure of this, but as you enter the walk, you walk in these crevices, they are Imagine that this formation is completely natural, and you are sandwiched between these rocks that are probably 40m high.

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The walk continues through more and more breathtaking features.

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I have tried to put a few pictures in here so that you can see, a bit more than I can explain.

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In Tsingy, it is considered bad manners to point. So you are required to point with a bent finger. When you point at someone you are usually angry, and as you dont know where your ancestors and this is their point of origin you may just be pointing at one of their graves.

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A tree that has rooted here, and goes up 40m

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One of the few caves we went through.

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Narsus was so excited that we saw lemurs here that he could not contain himself. His passion just overflowed and he certainly made our adventure even better.

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Its another type of Sifaka.

After that walk was done, and with the long journey back, we were unable to do Small Tsingy, but at least we had met Narsus and our lives were more enriched for it. We spoke for hours, and he joined us for diner later.

 

We left Tsingy early the next morning, but we were awoken early by a commotion in the village. Someone had his cattle stolen in the night and a search party was being arranged. To put that into context it would be like you losing you house, your car and your bank over draught.

 

Jenny was starting to feel more ill, and we just wanted to get a move on to Marondavo.

 

To be continued.

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We went back on the ferry and had a long drive ahead of us, but Jen had become really ill - It was Madagastro!

 

One of the problems with Madagascar the way we saw it is you become increasingly conscious of your bodily functions, and try and time them so that you are in a suitable place at the time of need. I am not going to go into much detail here, but the rest of this day was a long hard drive and quite harrowing for us. We were down to our last square of toilet paper and we couldn't find a village who stocked toilet paper. At this time I was particularly critical of our guide.

 

The drive took us past the avenue of Baobabs but we were in such a rush to get to our destination, that we couldn't afford to stop for long. Below are some photos of the Baobabs. Just for intrest - ( I hope I am correct here) there are some 11 species of Baobabs in the world. Only one exists in Africa, two in Australia (perhaps someone can confirm that for me) but some 7 species exist in Madagascar.

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To be continued

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