From Diary 4 we
now see the last bit.
24. Landing in Tana a little to six, Jesper has suddenly decided we don't need the guide book anymore. He regrets, though, and is back to the plane again, but it's gone. Out of the airport and into the city at dusk. It is actually black night, and we just get in the taxi and the sky opens up. Even the big roads and streets are transformed into rivers.
Check in to the hotel Shanghai again, and sit down in the restaurant to try to improvise a program for the next days. Tomorrow morning we will find a tour operator who can bring us out there. Would have really spent the evening on planning, but the threat of yet another proper rainstorm and the lack of addresses and maps just spoil the desire. Of course, Hotel Shanghai has a Chinese restaurant, so I grab a pork with sour / sweet and rice. I fall asleep early while Jesper writes a diary.
25. Spend a little time around town, to find a tour operator. The first one has still closed, but the one over Hertz is open. It does as no surprise, involve the rental of a large 4WD, and then we are up to 1000 a day. Can probably get through by taxi for 200, and even less by bus. In any case, the guide is the park's. Try another, but have to wait half an hour for the guy who arrange jungle walks. Then there is just time for a beard trimming for six kroner and a coffee for three, at a nice café in the embassy quarter where we live.
Get to see a bit of centre in our hunt. The buildings are nicer, but most people might need a bit of mending. Both sides of the central street are similar houses. Two to three floors with small towers, arches and red tiles. Has been really nice, and still seems nice.
A marketplace consists of countless small houses of the same style. There are an incredible number of cell phone card booths. They consist of a stool, a man and a worn umbrella with tele-company names hanging. Here are few, and not particularly hardy beggars, most children of four years. A few dirty wrecks of men lie in uncomfortable positions and sleep in the sun.
Finally, the office is open, but the lady is not present on time. She comes as we reach the sidewalk. The price is just the same, so it can be just as much. Trying to hire a taxi to Andesibe where Parc National Andesibe Mantadia is located. He seems a little disoriented, but he wants to drive us to the taxi booth. Then it must be so. (That may be because it's 135 kilometres, and takes about four hours, but we didn't show that). For fifteen dollars he drives us across the city, handing us to a sweet lady in front of the bus ticket office. A ticket; 35 kroner. Then you sit a little bit, but it's only a few hours? It's not really about saving money, more about not feeling badly hurt. And then you also get a little closer to the population.
We are there a little to ten, but even though the bus is full, they crawl around on the roof until eleven. We are offered various items from yellow apples, reading glasses, vanilla cakes, newspapers, sausages, clothes clamps, plastic toys, key sets, wristwatches, radios, binoculars, flashlights, knives, multimeters, CDs, belts, caps, sockets and things?
Finally we drive - down to the gas station.
Wait a good while, then we drive - a tour around the square, and stop at the
ticket office. There are no more room on board, and it really is a mystery why
we are not driving.
We drives up steeply, through scattered suburbs with rice fields in the lowlands. The harvest is on in many places. We are fine, until we reach a police check. Everyone else rushes through, but our driver gets peeled off the bus, and gets a longer chat with a uniformed guy. We roll again, up from hills with several rice and pasture fields. There are scattered little huts, either boards or clay cliffs.
Up near the top are small eucalyptus trees. It seems they harvest them when they reach the thickness of a leg. On the other side of the ridge, the rainforest starts, and the area seems more mountain-like. There are some large sawmills, otherwise no industry.
Lunch break in close to two, in an idyllic village. Surrounded by steep mountains lies a small collection of clay-clad huts and stalls. I find a bunch of the little delicious bananas and a packet of Tuc. Photographs like a madman; there are just so many motives. It is only on the way to the car that I come to mind about the lens: Quite right, it is dusty.
We start to look at the road signs and mileage
a little nervous. I had an illusion that it was 60 kilometres, now we have
driven 130. Coming to a big city; have we driven all the way to the water?
Driving straight through without stopping.
Then we just have to find a place and sleep, eat and find a guide for tomorrow. Walking a kilometer, and we reach our very own paradise. Great resort: Feon'ny Ala. Some Germans, nice restaurant, absolutely beautiful scenery, and we each get a little cottage for a fifties. There are green geckos crawling around I've never seen before. The birds chirp, the river runs quietly, the butterflies flutter, and Jesper gets a cold beer.
To my great delight, some of the resort's planting consists of the very special triangular palm trees. They are the only species in the entire plant kingdom that is triangular. They originate from the southeast corner, but it's cool to see them here, after all. Going down to the park entrance, just to stretch the legs. Some large ginger with yellow flowers smells amazing. Jesper spots a bunch of lemurs that rush into the forest.
Coming back at dusk, checking photos and ordering food. Sit and calculate a bit. These two days (as our solution turns into three) are not going to 2000, but only 550 kroner. The experiences in the park will be the same. The light attracts insects, huge night swimmers, a kneel, and other invertebrates.
26. Up to the very earliest minutes, when the first rays of sunlight fight with the thick mist that envelops the primeval forest. We swallow the continental breakfast and hurry down through the cold morning mist to the park entrance. 75 kroner in entrance, and a guide that is reasonable in English.
Here are giant spiders, small sweet deciduous frogs in the Panthera, brightly coloured geckos, large ten-centimetre-horned crickets, flowering orchids of at least three species, fern trees, colourful beetles, screaming lemurs, various butterflies, gurgling creeks, rivers of water, ice skating insects, , water lilies, lianas, sleeping sacred lemurs, huge yellow ginger, pines and eucalyptus, a single leech, few birds; sunbirds resembling hummingbirds, fowls, flycatchers, epiphytic cacti - Ripsalis, which donates seeds to the Botanical Garden, epiphytes, ferns, various grasshoppers, coloured cicadas, skinks, and many different plants.
The main attraction is the screaming lemurs; Indri indri, of which we find a small family. Must share them with a group of photographers, one of whom also photographs us .Listen to the Indri sound They are not in captivity, as they always die. Become sexually mature as a seven year old, get cubs every three years, and live around 50 years. The family groups consist of a male and female, as well as two kids with three years difference.
Right at the end, we encounter the first chameleon. The guide says it does not change colour and it is a female. The males have horns. I search around in the area, but find only a small young. Pay the guide the 36 kroner he ask for and 24 extra in gratuity.
Getting out after four and a half hours. Jesper figures out, he has taken a photo every 40 seconds! Yes, there was something to look at! There is a small stall at the park entrance, and we catch a cold and a whirl of cheese and sausage. The day is young, and the lack of guides should not hinder us in another trip.
We even find black lemurs that are smaller than most. Ginger grows along the path a lower part of the park. There are some huge ones with yellow flowers, and some smaller ones with white flowers and seeds. Now that I'm up and running, I'm also taking some nuts from a tree.
We see many of the animals from the first trip, and get better photos of, among other things, skinks, spiders and green hundred legs. Several times we hear howls from Indians, but do not seek them out. We only meet one company, and with the exception of the birds chirping, the bees buzzing and the distant howling, are very quiet here.
Jesper finds a photogenic snake and
I come close to a beautiful little kingfisher with a fish in its
beak. At the entrance, we find chameleons again, but unfortunately
no horned males.
27. I'm ready for breakfast a little before the staff. Do not freeze so much this morning: I use some of the knowledge I have from a documentary: Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: "Never live your home without a towel!" We might have brought our fleece jackets from Tana, but now we hadn't needed them for the first few weeks.
We are told there is a bus to Moramanga and from there you can get one to Tana. If there is room ... They should leave at seven, but we're five minutes away! Three quarters later, we buy a ticket for Tana, and get into the minibus and wait. In this area, there are some locals that have very Native American features in Central America.
It doesn't take long, then we head down the gas
station and then, to our great astonishment and relief, directly out of town.
First a collection of local birds and gold pheasants, a good line of lemurs, some in cages, others on islands with trees. There's even a nice night section, where we see the tiny little ones and the aye-aye. The terrarium is completely similar to Copenhagen's old. Here are various chameleons, hams and snakes in neat terrariums.
Find some lunch in the garden; steak with ferrets and water: twice ten kroner. Look a little at some more plants, and then find to the botanical department. Trees from four climate zones and a lot of big stranger figs scattered in the zoo. Palm collection and then a more exciting part: Plants from the dry parts on a large slope. There have been signs, but most have lost scripture. A gardener insists on following me around, breaking the branches of all the Euphorbias we pass. And yes, they do have white sap....
There are many exciting plants including giant
Adeniums that I have not seen. Here are baobab, Cyphostemma
laza, Commiphora, Delonix gemines, Moringa, Operculicarya,
Kalanchoe beharensis, Pachypodiums, Didideraceae's and some other exciting
Right next to it are some beautiful terrariums under an improvised roof. Here are four different of the local colour frogs; Mantella, some I have never seen photos of! On the way out, we quickly pass the open-air museum. Here are typical old houses and tombs from different areas. We've seen plenty of them!
In to the centre, to find internet. On the way
from the bus station to the hotel, we drove through an area where every third
shop was internet. Pile up and down the wide main street, and into the streets
Give up, and try to find home. Coming through a
neighbourhood that is a little nicer than average. Great Italian restaurants and
even an internet cafe! It gets dark and not easier to find home. Far from having
an idea of where we are, so we spend six kroner on a taxi. I try in vain to
get hold of Olaf. Really wanted to see his caudiciform horticulture tomorrow!
28. Then we reach the last day. Breakfast is served first from seven, so we sleep late. Trying, as the first thing to get hold of Olaf, as I would terribly much want to see his nursry! We succeeded and we agreed to meet at a supermarket outside the airport, half past ten. It only takes half an hour in the taxi, so I look straight into Shoprite. It is as close to a European supermarket as you can get here. A few packets of chocolate biscuits have fallen into my basket as I check out.
Going to take a photo of their beer rack and a little hot guy pops out of nowhere. I explain smilingly why I took the photo, in English. He stirs himself up more and I clearly explain to him, what he can do with his beers, bookshelves and the whole business, in Danish. It has the desired effect and I continue shopping.
To my surprice; I'm paid back in coins; I haven't seen that since I switched to a bank the first day. Gently ask if they have any with baobabs. No understanding, and I sneak off, before my little fisty friend from before shows up. Have, against all odds, remembered my fleece bag at the hotel, and enjoy it as it is a cool morning, such 19-20 degrees.
Olaf arrives on the dot in a brand new Landcruser. Actually Dutch, a good head taller than me, and looks fifteen years older than the 45 years he is. Very sympathetic and hospitable. We drive out to a very large area with a three meter high wall around. I thought it was a military camp, but it is his nursery and more.
Here are several greenhouses and shade house, all brand new. A large bed is filled with huge specimens of domestic and foreign caudiciforms. He first shows me around a very large, about 1000 square meter, shade house, where most space is occupied by walls and pots with Madagascar orchids. They are all sizes, he makes them from very small.
It turns out that in addition to this complex, he has another large nursery in Madagascar, and half of one in Thailand. It makes it profitable to have your own tissue lab! I see some amazing orchids, and maybe the world's smallest. It is smaller than a Danish moss, the leaves under a millimetre, and a tiny little pearl like tuber. Many of the species he has, are not yet described. Unfortunately, Madagascar orchids have green or small white flowers. It does not make them as in demand, as the Asian orchids, among the general population.
A small part of this house is filled with an
exciting mix of plants. Here are begonias, Amorphophallus, Vitidceae,
Pachypodium and many, I do not know at all. I might have hoped for a little
more, but get some good photos.
Here is everything from small seedlings to huge mother plants. I make a lot of photos and then it's lunch. Home to his house, where there are also plants and animals. The pool is filled with a bunch of large crocodiles from Thailand, large stone walls enclosure contain tortoises from 25 to 60 centimetres size. He has over 600 tortoises, several of which are over 250 kilos. This is just one of the preschools. There are some large parrots and some white cockatoos in the garage, and I can hear more. He says I just have to go and look.
The first thing I meet, is a large cage with two graceful cats. If I'm not mistaken, it's them who jump up and catch birds in the air, they are called Seval or Caracal. About 100 large cages, many walled, contain a huge collection of parrots. There are even some I've never seen! There is an explanation for this: The one kind, rather large, black body, orange wings and chest, slightly vulture-like, is found only in three or four zoos. He has five or six pairs and they breed.
The others I don't know, are the only known of
the species. He bought them from a cracked zoo in South Africa. The others were
sold to another zoos that could not sustain them. He breeds them but cannot get
new blood. Tragic!
He has lived for eight months in Cuba, where he was invited by the state, to help launch a tropical fishing breeding station. It's one of his really big interests. Above that, the second house has a dog kennel, and he talks about other places and other collections. He has turned the staff down to 35. He can no longer keep up. On the first floor of one of the buildings are hundreds of sterile terrariums. There is a single large snake. It is almost albino, but has the yellow markings, and very bright red eyes. There is the only known copy of this albino form, also a female.
We have a delicious lunch with his daughter. Fascinating living room, stuff from distant areas, not crowded, just a lot. Then the daughter has to have Japanese lessons, and I sneak out in the garden and make photos. It is almost a botanical garden. Huge trees, exciting growths and many and some really large caudiciforms.
Back to the nursery where I keep finding new plants. A few flowers, others have fruits. He makes a lot of seeds from the rare ones, which is a good hand for a nature that suffers from unnatural burning. Turns out, the colleague / employee I almost meet, spent most of his time out in the field, is the Jurgen I heard about in Diego.
We talk a lot about Madagascar. He has been here for eight years and says things are going the wrong way very quickly. If I want to see something more wild Madagascar, it must be the next few years. The animals that I thought were a positive indicator; the chameleons, are just the opposite. They are among the very few and rare animals that do in the open land, produced by humans. Most of the forest chameleons that dominate in the old days are, or are close to, extinct. While he has been here, four of twelve species have disappeared.
At five o'clock I have filled a memory card,
about 500 photos, and will no longer draw upon his hospitality. Could spend days
Taxi to the airport, which seems very crowded. However, there are staff at the most expensive restaurant and I treat myself with a three course menu, a litre of Fanta Lemon, followed by espresso with milk. With tips, it goes up to 50 kroner. Then I just have to burn the last 650 of ... Can't find Jesper, but he has five hours to panic. This is not particularly exciting, but what else should I do? Back in Tana, where everything is closed? Four hours for boarding, and counting ... Finally we fly, after several security checks. And Jesper did turn up.
29. Get to sleep seven hours, and get ready to be home - we just have to head down to Charles de Gaulle for a few hours. Unlike Boeing, Airbus actually has the personal TV screens that adults can angle to a visible angle. Unfortunately, it is a Frenchman who has chosen the five films. When we finally arrive at CDG, we drive first on the plane, all the way around all terminals. Then by bus back. The last four minutes, we spent last, were not enough to remind us why we are avoiding CDG. This time we get two hours, and then we have no doubt!
It is obvious why there are so many French cartoons: They get
constant inspiration in their everyday lives! Of course, it will only start with
a small half hour delay. Out of a regular gate, but out in a bus! It would not
have surprised us, if he had first poisoned with exhaust for twenty minutes,
should drive by the gas stationt!