"" Writer's Wanderings: World Cruise - Taolanaro, Madagascar

Friday, April 03, 2015

World Cruise - Taolanaro, Madagascar

You got to move it, move it! Kind of plays through your head when you know where you are going.
The ship spent a day cruising around the southern tip of Madagascar to our next destination, Taolanaro. It was here we were to take an excursion to a nature preserve, the Nahampoana Private Reserve, and see the famous lemurs. Needless to say we were excited. We’d missed seeing them at Ambodifotatra. Apparently there was a botanical garden where we could have gone to see some.

Our day started early again as we heard and felt the ship turn and vibrate as the thrusters pushed us into place. Once we were up we could see that it took a bit of maneuvering since there was really not much protection around the pier from the strong breeze that was blowing.

We were in the middle of nowhere. In any direction you could not see civilization. We were at a container dock but not a terribly large one. Passengers were not allowed to walk on the pier to the port entrance and excursion buses were not allowed down by the ship so we had to ride a school bus about 1500 feet to the entrance and then walk through a straw market to our excursion vehicles. Some were mini buses and others were old school buses.

Once situated on another school bus (we lucked out and got a front seat) we were on our way down a highway with two guides, one from the area and one borrowed from the city. They explained that they belonged to two different tribes but they worked well together and their English was wonderfully understandable. They told us to enjoy the first ten minutes because after that we were going to get the ride of our life. They were right.

We turned onto a dirt road that was rutted so badly there were places I thought the holes would swallow the bus. I think we scrapped bottom several times. Kenny, our guide, told us that each year the politicians running for office come and promise they will fix the road if elected. It never happens. Looks like politics are politics the world over.

Thankful for the breeze blowing through the open windows, we didn’t entirely miss the air conditioning. The scenery was amazing. Women carrying large baskets and one, a cooler, on top of their heads walked along the road as they went about their daily chores. One man we passed by was said to walk 2 ½ miles to work and back again with a large bundle hanging from a pole balanced on his shoulder.

There were a couple of herds of what looked to me like Brahman cattle. They had a different name for them that I didn’t quite understand but they were an important possession if you wanted to get married as they were usually a part of a dowry.

Arriving at the preserve, Kenny and Sylvester warned us that there would be many approaching us to sell things and if we produced any money we would be swarmed. Warnings were heeded by all. It felt good to be off the bus and we began our walk behind our guides down a long dirt path shaded by arching bamboo plants. It felt quite comfortable.

It didn’t take long before we met our first chameleon. A young man held one on the end of a stick and then placed him on a tree for photographs. The chameleon has a translucent outer skin that shows the colors he turns when he is emotionally upset.

Soon we were off the trail and under trees watching lemurs lolling in the trees just above our heads. Or were they watching us? They seemed unconcerned about so many people invading their territory but I guess as long as we weren’t furry with long tails and climbing trees it was okay with them.
Our group wandered through the preserve seeing tortoises, chameleons, ghost lemurs, brown lemurs, and ringtail lemurs. At one point Sylvester thought he saw a small bamboo lemur at one spot but he was gone by the time the group caught up to him.

A group of energetic entertainers were putting on quite a show at the spot where we could get a cold drink and most could find a spot to rest a bit. They wore colorful traditional clothing (I assume) and could dance up a storm—a dust storm. One little gal kicked up quite a dust cloud with her nibble quick feet as other played the rhythm on a drum. At one point a man (perhaps the father) put a little boy on his shoulders and danced around blowing a whistle. At first I wasn’t sure the boy was enjoying it and then he broke out into a big smile.

Rested and hydrated, we gathered together for the walk back to the bus. Along the way we saw a group of people off to one side photographing something and we broke from the group to check it out. It was a bamboo lemur, smaller than the other lemurs we’d seen, sitting in the bamboo and feasting on its leaves. There was really too much bamboo between him and us to get a good picture but we can say we saw all the kinds of lemurs that are in that preserve.

Our ride back to the ship along the dirt road was just as bumpy and lined with children some of whom were coming home from school for lunch. All children are supposed to have an education but not all parents can afford it. Many of the kids were waving but many were also holding hands out. It breaks my heart to see that.

Back at the ship, I immediately hit the shower. I was drenched in sweat. I hadn’t realized just how bad it was until then. I had been too interested in what we were seeing to complain of the heat. Exhausted after lunch, I took a nap and then looked at my pictures. Wow! What a morning!

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