Friday, October 28, 2011

We got up a little before 5:30 for a small breakfast, so that we could leave at 6am sharp. When we got in the vehicle, TV told us that we had a 17km drive ahead of us, and that with good driver, it took about 1 hour. That didn't sound like a very good road to us. When we got there, TV explained the 3 circuits we would be doing, and how they fit together. We told him that we were tired after the day before, and wanted to do only 1 circuit, preferably the one with the rope bridge. We tried to figure out what we would miss by not doing the other 2, but couldn't get a clear answer. We reached a consensus when TV told us that after awhile on the circuit we wanted to do, there would be a fork in the road where we could decide either to come back, or to continue on with the other 2 circuits. That seemed reasonable, so we just put the decision off for a couple of hours.

Right as we were about to head out onto the path, TV took a bunch of harnesses out of the back of the vehicle, which we stared blankly at. He told us that we'd be climbing along and around some tall cliffs with long falls, so we'd have to strap ourselves to wire cables in a number of places. This was news to us, but since TV hadn't killed us (only tried) the day before, we figured we'd be fine. We started out for a short bit on some plains, then some forest. We saw some fresh Fossa dung, but no Fossa. After the forest we went through some incredible crevices and caves, with walls rising up on either side of us probably 50 feet or so. Being down in the caves and crevices was nice because 1) the ground was flat with no rocks and 2) it was nice and cool. When heading down into these crevices, because Crystal was in front of Justin, he kept getting pictures of her walking from on top, and she kept getting pictures of him from above. This was wholly unlike anything we had done the day before, and was unlike anything we'd seen anywhere for that matter.


After walking through some caves, we started a slow but steady climb to the top. There were more trees and less succulents than the day before. Also, the scale was much larger than the day before, which was hard to grasp in photos, hence Justin kept taking pictures of Crystal and TV for scale. Eventually we got up to the roof, and the view was amazing. We could see the bright red dirt on the distant hills, the "forest" growing up through the Tsingy, and jagged peaks for hundreds of meters in three directions. Once on top, we didn't really walk on the top like the day before, we just went to a lookout. That presumably was because there were crevices and cliffs everywhere.


We went down a little bit, then went across a rope bridge to visit another lookout. The rope bridge seemed a lot more stable than the rope bridges we went across in Iquitos a few years back. Being strapped in with Caribbeaners may have helped as well. A little after the rope bridge we went back up to a second viewpoint. Then we started heading down towards the bottom, which was slow and steady, with lots of big step drops, lots of ladders we needed to walk down backwards, and lots of clipping and unclipping of our cables. Near the bottom, there was a number of very short tunnels where we had to crouch or climb on our hands and knees. We got down to what is called "The Cathedral," where there was sun coming through the roof, shining down onto the plants and the rocks below.


It was right as we were leaving the Cathedral where we had to make the choice left (short walk back to car through the forest), or the choice right (more caves and tunnels, another circuit to the top, and then back). We made the left choice - we were very happy with what we had seen, didn't want any more short tunnels, and didn't want to run long like the day before. It had already been a little over 3 hours, and we didn't want to go another 3. On the walk back we saw a kingfisher, some black and white bird (magpie robin perhaps?), a sifaka (barely awake) and another sifaka (couldn't be disturbed to wake up). We wrapped up in around 4 hours, infinitely better than the day before.

On the drive back, we saw some Hyphaenes (the branching palm tree we'd seen all around) and another barely awake sportive lemur, this time resting in a hole in a tree. We also saw some giant fig with enormous fruits, about the size of a watermelon, with hairs or spines on the skin. We got back around noon, which was actually the earliest we'd been at the L'Olympe of the three days. We ate our packed lunch (well, Crystal did, Justin couldn't eat his), then grabbed a drink or two. After that, Justin took a nap and Crystal read for awhile. Later in the afternoon we re-packed, putting in the clothes we had washed and re-arranging into 3 bags instead of 4 (since we weren't allowed a "personal item" on the planes). Fortunately none of our bags were that full, so we were able to make it work. Then we went into the bar area to watch TV and wait for dinner. The daughter of one of the workers was in there watching cartoons and then some sci-fi show - we tried to figure out what was going on, but no avail. We had another nice dinner, then checked out (since we'd be leaving early the next morning), then went to sleep.