Monday, October 31, 2011

We did get to sleep in, and it was good. At breakfast, we realized there were some very nice palms at the lodge, including giant Raphia palms and a nice clumping palm with a black trunk and white crownshaft - very striking. Unlike the Palissandre, which had celebrated Halloween two days early, here there was no evidence of Halloween at all, which wasn't that surprising since, of course, Halloween is not a Malagasy holiday.

We came to Andasibe for a singular purpose, willing to go out of our way to drive several hours the opposite direction of where we were headed the next week just to spend a single morning in the park. The reason was the Indri Indri, one of the largest lemurs, but more importantly the loudest. It has an eerie, creepy, haunting call that is used to communicate among group members. It can be heard from 3km (2 miles) away, and we figured it was well worth coming to see and hear them.

We headed out with Patrice on a fairly easy hike through the hills, in perfect weather. The temperature was good, and there were blue skies. We saw some very nice palms in the forest, including Dypsis fibrosa (has a fibrous trunk), Dypsis louvelii (tiny palm that looks like it would break if a branch fell on it), Dypsis pinnatafrons (very short fronds), what Patrice called Dypsis lefroza (we haven't been able to find that in any literature, at least yet, so maybe it has another name), and Ravenea madagascarensis (an absolutely giant palm, with long fronds coming straight out of the ground when juvenile). We also saw several chameleons, including a very large one walking around in the trees, thankfully in a bright sunny spot.

We also saw several lemur species, including the diademed sifaka, common brown lemur, and gray bamboo lemur. We also stumbled upon some Indri Indri, who were striking to look at but were temporarily mute. We watched them for a bit, then headed out to see more stuff. We had been walking for maybe half an hour when we heard a call very far away, which sounded almost like a siren. Then after 30 seconds or so, we started to hear the call much closer - we couldn't see the Indri but we could definitely hear them. It was creepy sounding, and we wondered how this wouldn't attract predators like the fossa. Justin indicated the sound would make a good ringtone to identify when Crystal was calling. We walked towards the noise and eventually found the Indri, but by this time they had quited down. We waited again for the noise to start up, but no dice. We headed out again and the calling started 3 minutes later - oh well. Our morning walk lasted about 4 hours, and was one of our better hikes because of the temperature, the terrain, and the variety of flora and fauna we saw.

We headed back to the hotel and got cleaned up, and had lunch at the hotel before heading out. We knew we only had to drive back to Tana, which from the day before we knew wasn't that far. The drive was thankfully uneventful. We meandered through Tana yet again, unsure what direction we were headed or where in the city our hotel was. The hotel came out of the blue, on a little side street near a large square. Our room was a little disappointing, with the room being both very musty and very smoky - not a good combination. The hotel itself seemed to be nice, with multiple restaurants and bars and an indoor pool. We knew we'd be coming back for a day-room the day we leave Madagascar for good, so it was nice to know we'd have a lot of options that last day.

Since we were in the Malagasy capital and in what seemed to be the central business district, we went out to find an ATM and get some cash. We had no luck, however, as everywhere we tried either was not open or would not accept our ATM card. It was mind-boggling why it so difficult to actually get money. One would think that if a country wanted tourists to spend money, it would make it easy (or at least possible) to actually get some money to spend.

At dinner, the whole experience was odd. The restaurant was woefully understaffed, and our waitress seemed to have our table and then about 10 others completely on the other side of the restaurant, meaning we were constantly forgotten. There was a little white girl that was running around the restaurant and the lobby incessantly, with no adult (that we could see) in sight. From our table we could see the door to the street, and the little girl had to be as close as 20 feet from the door on multiple occasions. Even the waiters and waitresses were watching her, wondering what was going on. The food itself was okay, but not as good as we had elsewhere. After dinner, the room still reeked but at least it had internet and a television, neither of which we'd had in a while. We caught up a bit on current events (at least the ones we cared about), then hit the sack.