This short trip started with a lonnnng taxi-brousse ride...16 hours to be exact through the night to Morondava, a little town on the west coast. Even though the journey was long, driving in at sunrise with the Mozambique Channel's waves hitting the long stretch of white flour-fine sandy beach for the first time made it worth the ride! After a short little jaunt from the taxi station in a deux chevaux (two horse-power) taxi, we pulled into Chez Maggie and enjoyed a nice long nap.
The beach was so peaceful, scattered with men preparing their outrigger canoes, propagule seeds from the nearby mangroves, sand dollars, &fishermen. Before dinner, we ran into an American guy named David (who worked in Antarctica with a good friend of mine and has a sister working in Korea and another living in Santa Barbara), had a fabulous dinner of fresh jumbo prawns & fish, & planned our trip to Alley of the Baobabs & Kirindy Forest.
The baobabs are such a stunning site! We could not get enough these other-worldly trees, towering like mythical sentinels, a humbling experience to stand beneath them. Sadly, it is only for a couple hundred yards that the density is such that you are flanked on both sides by the awe-inspiring specimens. There are baobabs scattered throughout Madagascar, but the baobab forests no longer exist and even those which are left face an uncertain future due to human-induced threats.
A primary dry-deciduous forest with a plethora of flora and fauna! With our trusted guide, Christian, we went on two tours through the dense forest by day and one by night. We saw a myriad of magnificent creatures, among them being the feigned predator, the fossa, 5 lemur species (red-fronted, sportive brown, grey mouse, fork-marked, and the shifaka), some beautiful endemic birds, a mongoose, skink lizard, and the very rare and surprisingly cute, giant jumping rat (only found in this forest). We arrived back in Antsirabe last night after a 12 hour taxi-be ride from Morondava...the trip only takes around 7 hours in a private vehicle, but the taxi stops around 15-20 times for a combination of police checkpoints and dropping off and picking up new passengers and cargo. Our trip back was particularly entertaining as a few roosters, chickens, and a couple young turkeys were stuffed behind the rear seat, so we had periodic wake-up calls from the agitated roosters and fowl throughout the journey. Oh what a memorable trip with many more stories to share than space permits!
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
We had a four day weekend for Penticost holiday I believe, so all 7 of us went to Ranomafana (GREAT name, eh?) where we were able to see an amazingly still in tact rainforest...you would have LOVED it! It was wild and well taken care of with tons of chameleons, geccos, frogs, insects, mangoose, lemurs and more! it was so cool to see how the forests here SHOULD be. So many hills throughout the country are bare and eroding because they've been burned down for farming or planting of invasive trees like pine or eucalyptus (pardon my spelling). Anyways, it was so neat to see all the creatures and fun stuff in the forest! Here is a list of our favorite sites....
Lemurs big and small:
The first evening we went on a night hike and we saw our FIRST lemur...this was no ordinary lemur either, we saw a gray mouse lemur, which is THE smallest primate that only comes out at night! They were curious fellows and fun to find!
A Fantastic Gecco:
On one of our day hikes with our trusted guides, William and Andry, we saw the most amazing reptile...in fact it is so amazing it's name says just that : Uroplatus Phantasticus. It is a gecco that looks and feels exactly like dead leaves. Fantastico!
We finally saw chameleons! A few lined the trail into the forest, but we saw the most on our night hike. They were glowing white in the trees, sleeping sweetly until we disturbed there slumber. Once we picked them up they would instantly begin to change color! What an amazing creature!
About 10 minutes from our home in Anstirabe is an orphanage where 22 girls and boys are being raised in a healthy and happy environment. They live on a nice piece of property with a great backyard, which was perfect for a kicking around a soccer ball and running around. We were curious about what would happen to the children when they reached 16 or 18 and could leave the orphanage, but after talking to Miri an 18 year old girl, she said that each child chooses a trade as they get older so once they leave the home, they will be able to get a job.
This one experience made me feel so much more at home and at peace with being in Madagascar. I don't know if it was because we were able to hug, swing, and run together, or because I became friends with my first Malagasy friend who happened to be a beautiful 5 year old girl named Cynthia, but I absolutely cherished these couple hours at the orphanage and hope to return very soon!
Thursday, June 9, 2011
So much fun! When we arrived in Antsirabe we were greeted with heart warming squeals and hugs from the Shattenberg girls: Eliana, Isabella and Alissa :) It was so great to see them....they were so excited to see us...but also they were SO excited to see the BIG suitcase full of presents from their beloved Grandma and Grandpy back in Santa Barbara! It was a joy to be a part of the gift giving Christmas in June celebration!!
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
We are actually in MADAGASCAR! We left on Friday and arrived Monday morning at 1 am after 45 hours of very interesting travel! Flights went smoothly; we weren't charged for extra luggage or carry-ons and British Airways staff were impeccably witty even if their leg room left much to be desired ;) We even fit in an amazing 5 hour Safari in Kenya with lions, giraffes and zebras oh my! Jaime, our good friend who moved here in January with his family, was there to pick us up in Antananarivo, (Tana) and thanks to one of the security guards being a friend of his, he was even able to surprise us in the baggage claim area!
From the airport, we went to a World Venture friend's house and slept a few hours until the sun came up. Once we woke, the day was full of running errands like picking up a stove and Jamie's dad....and then we took the three hour journey south to our home for the next month with the Shattenbergs in Antsirabe!