Monday, November 7, 2011
The sun actually did not wake us up today. There were some clouds, plus our only windows faced west, so we could have slept in but for the fact that 1) we had a 5:30 alarm so that we could get to the airport and 2) we couldn't sleep that well anyway. For breakfast, thankfully they had not over-prepared anything, as there were just the two of us at the hotel. We had some pastries, some orange juice (which was really good), and Crystal had some tea.
Since we had packed the night before, we were ready to go right after breakfast. We took the 10 minute drive over to the airport, seeing how busy Tulear was at around 6am. It was surprisingly busy, with lots of folks out, at least on the main road (Route 7). At the airport, there were not that many people when we got there, and we got checked in and had our bags checked through to Fort Dauphin. Unbeknownst to us, our flight to Tana actually went through Morondava, so what should have been about a one hour flight was scheduled to be almost three because of the extra flight and the extra stop. Tana itself was already out of the way, so this made it even further out of the way. It was like going from San Diego to Las Vegas via San Jose and Reno. To make something good out of our extra flights, we hoped we might get to see the west coast flying up from Tulear to Morondava.
While Tulear's weather was cool and rainy, Morondava was hot and sunny. For some reason, we had to get off of the plane, only to get right back on. The flight to Tana was fine as well, and the weather was thankfully fine there as well. Again, we had to get off of the plane, but then - again - seemingly got back on the same plane, with same flight attendants. The weather to Fort Dauphin was not so good, and there was a fair amount of turbulence. When we landed, it looked like it had recently rained, but it was not still raining, just very dark.
We got a major surprise when the guy who picked us up told us we were staying in Berenty just one night - somebody obviously screwed up. We tried to explain we were staying for two nights, but couldn't reach an agreement. The guy told us that he would call the hotel and work things out while we were on our drive from the airport. The drive west from airport was worst drive yet. It would have been better with no pavement. As it was, the pavement was at one level, and the dirt was 6-18" lower, so it was incredibly uneven, and we had to slow down every time we changed from dirt to pavement or pavement to dirt. If it were all dirt, at least it would be mostly level. It took about 3 hours to get to Berenty. We crossed a long bridge shortly before we got to Berenty, and the rickety bridge was by far the best terrain we drove on the whole way.
When we got there, we were dropped off in the middle of nowhere, with no guide and no instruction. We got out of the car and were walked to our room, let in, and told to meet at the front desk area around 6:30. No one seemed to know anything about the two nights versus one night issue. Given how far, and how bad, the drive was, we wondered why anyone would come out to Berenty for just a single night. We tried to call our travel agent's Madagascar office, but with no luck. We tried again, and were told to email instead. Crystal wrote the email, and was much more polite than Justin would have been.
While waiting for a response, we walked around the grounds for a bit. There were lemurs everywhere, and they were all over the grounds - on rooftops, on the roads, in the restaurant area, etc. We wondered whether there was something fishy going on. One thought we had was that most all of the surrounding area was sisal fields, and maybe the lemurs slowly but surely got their territory shrunk to just what is around Berenty. As the sun started to go down, we finally got some sun, as it went below the clouds that had been hanging over us all day long. This brightened up all the colors in the gardens, like the Royal Poinciana. While staring at one of the trees, we saw that there were actually lemurs eating the flowers, and in fact had pollen all over their face.
When the sun started to set, all the clouds that had been causing gray skies all day started to light up as the sun reflected off the bottom of them. It looked like something you would see in a movie, with weird ripples of different colors. After the long day flying, driving, and dealing with the travel mix-up, Justin noted "well, at least we got a good sunset."
A little after sunset, we went on another - presumably our last - night walk. The animals were in the spiny forest, all the Euphorbias and whatnot. The walk was much easier, and much shorter, than the other night walks we had been on. We saw numerous white footed sportive lemurs and gray mouse lemurs. This looked the same, but for the color, as the brown mouse lemurs we saw in the rainforest. We got dinner and drinks, hoping to hear something from agency, but got nothing. [Note, when we got back to the US, we got a voicemail that was left that night, but for whatever reason didn't show up on that evening.]