Saturday, November 5, 2011

We got up a little later than usual, but it wasn't of much help since we hadn't slept well. The novelty of the "luxury tent" is nice, but in the end it is still a tent, and canvas sides don't keep the noise out. We could hear all the racket the other guests were making. The breakfast wasn't a whole lot, but it have something interesting - Baobab juice. Apparently it is the new hot thing in Wetern society, following in the steps of Acai berries. It tasted fine, but we didn't get the reason people should be lining up to buy it at the store.

Before going into the National Park, we drove to the park office in Ranohira, where we picked up our guide, Roland. Both of us thought he reminded us of Wesley Snipes, although we're not sure why. He had on flashy clothes and had his fingernails painted with glitter, which was a first for us in terms of guides in a national park. Roland was very expressive and humorous, which was a nice change and got us excited to see things in Isalo. We took a short drive from Ranohira to the park boundary, then started our walk.

Near the beginning of the walk we passed through a camping area where locals and others could stay overnight, cook outdoors, etc. In the camping area, saw Red-fronted brown lemurs and ringtail lemurs. Roland told us that Ringtail lemurs scientific name is Lemur catta because they make sound like cats, sort of like a meow. They also all have 14 white stripes and 14 black stripes on their tails. Roland also told us that the Red-fronted brown lemurs will "steal" stuff from the campers, while the ringtails will not. The Red-fronted brown lemurs don't actually think they're stealing anything, since there's no stealing within their society - they just think they're taking food that is publicly accessible.

As we walked through the forest, we saw a bunch of birds, a skink, a gecko, and a tiny tree frog in some Pandanus, among other things. We also saw a bunch of palm trees, including Dypsis onilahensis and Ravenea glauca, which we have in both San Diego and Pahoa. We kept walking back through some canyons, which at this point in the season were basically (mostly) dry creekbeds. At the end of the canyons, or at least the end of our trail, were two large natural pools, the blue pool and the black pool. The blue pool was not so blue, because of sand getting washed in during low season. The black pool was still black, because even in the dry season, the pool was still about 25 feet deep.There are natural springs around the area, and this water is the only water for miles around.

The National Park is 50 years old, and when it opened, the local Barra people were kicked out, meaning they were no longer right next to the water. Thankfully they still get the water, via pipes from the water source to Ranohira. Walking back from the pools, we saw a paradise flycatcher, much closer and in better light than in Ranomafana. We also saw some big Roller (not sure what kind), and a large black and white magpie robin. The walk was fairly easy, compared to others we did. One thing that helped is that there was water falling along the canyon edge, acting like air conditioning.

After walking back a bit, we took a left turn and walked uphill to the Cascade of the Nymphs, which are small frogs, which ironically we didn't see any of. We did see the waterfall, however, as well as another small natural pool. We backtracked again, and walked back towards the camping area and the parking lot. In the camping area, Roland tried to find for us a really small chameleon (30 mm, so a tad over an inch), but he couldn't find one. He also tried to find a boa for us, but it was in the water and would duck its head into the water whenever he got close, so we missed that as well.

We got back to the hotel right around noon. It was an absolute ghost town - we're not sure what happened to everyone else. We had lunch by ourselves, and had the pool to ourselves, until people we had seen at Ranomafana showed up around 1:30. We spent the afternoon having a couple drinks and lounging by the pool, which was very relaxing, especially with the weather being nice (probably low 80s). Crystal came back to use the outdoor shower, while Justin had another drink and petted the owners' dog, which was interested in his sandals (presumably because they smelled like our dogs). He also checked out the rooms. The rooms at Satrana Lodge are laid out on a hillside, generally facing the west. Because they are on a hill, they all have good views, but 117 and 131 have the best views - both unimpeded to west, with 117 being the best to the north and 131 being the best to the south (and likely overall).

At 4:30, we went to small museum that gave background on Isalo, including how the rock formations came to be. From there, we took a short drive to see a natural window for sunset. In the area there were lots of thin rock formations, almost 2 dimensional planes - tall and wide, but not deep. One of them had a triangular-shaped hole, so people would come to check out the sunset go through the hole. It was a very interesting area, with the window being one of the least interesting, because the sun is coming right through it; Justin almost went blind taking photos. It was fun to walk around on the rocks, but we were in sandals, so it kept our wandering to a minimum. More than where we had been in the morning, there were lots of Bismarckia palms around.

We came back after sunset and got cleaned up for dinner. Unlike the shower in Ranomafana, where the shower wasn't much more than a weak dribble, the Isalo shower might as well be an exfoliator in addition to a shower. We went to the bar and got some drinks, including a really good homemade vanilla rum. We had some vanilla rum in Bekopaka, but that singed our noses and made us have to close our eyes when we sipped, where this was just really good. Dinner was good, but we were falling asleep at the table, so we wrapped up as soon as we could and got to sleep.