Donnerstag, 14. Juni 2012

Karsten's Logbook Week XIII


Sometimes I write fast. As mentioned before, we hardly have time to reflect and write and correct. The country is big as is our task. But sometimes, I've got some time to rewrite. A little. So for those of you who'd like to see more perfection, I hopefully was able to please you by correcting my previous logbook entries once in a while…

My favourite one

Chapter One

Creatures. Critters. Monsters. While Klara already published some pictures via Facebook, its my turn to describe. Damn, just look at the pictures!

Telling you a story...

Draco's breed...
The rare Giraffe Giraffe, a female specimen with a shorter neck
Disguise is everything

The first day in Ranomafana National Park, my beloved Klara was all to exhausted to make a hike into creature wonderland. So, I got me some breakfast, armed myself with photo equipment and knife and went up to the park's entrance to get me a guide. All of the sudden, Klara stood right next to me. Neither she nor me can resist the vortex of nature's temptation.

Our guide Adrien, although missing at least twenty teeth, was able to give us an insight into the world of the rainforest in proper english. One could feel his admiration for the forest. And once he recognized that we are not the kind of usual lemur seeking tourists, his attempt to dig deeper helped us to find even more basic creatures, such as the neighborhood of termites and ants living in the same rotten tree stump. Once a termite steps over the invisible red line, a couple of ants grab her and bring her out of their house. I wonder how the swarm coordinates its decisions, how do they create their architecture, their bigger rooms for females, how they manage to enslave of other kinds of insect species, how they invented their methods of farming. At a certain moment of time and evolution, an idea must have come to them and everyone is welcome to give us a simple explaination...

While digging, we had this rare encounter with a ring-tailed red mongoose who curiously approached us in a range of one meter. Adrien whistled like a bird, constantly catching the mongoose's attention. Probably suspecting a Drongo here the mongoose understood quickly that Adrien was the source of the bird song. Clever enough to get the clue, the mongoose lost interest and left...

Ranomafana rainforest looking good from the roof of new Centre ValBio research center

Not a tree stump, but a very well composed ant hive

Of course, we saw some lemurs. Like many tourists do. As visitor of Ranomafana National Park you meet many tourists, even now when it was off season, once a lemur has been discovered by a guide, loads of tourists flood into the area, thirsty for watching wild life lemurs before these creatures might reach extinction in just a couple of years from now. 

The next day, we made the eight hour hike, accompanied by Johannes who was chosen to be our water bearer. The only  encounter that is worth to be told happened after we had passed some wild rivers. The same mongoose from that day before must have followed us for whatever reason. It tippytoed close to Johannes who enjoyed his lunch break and didn't even gain any emotion when noticing the little fellow. And while I felt that only the guide shared my admiration for this forest, I decided to make a hike on my own the next day. There might be more beautiful forests on Madagascar, but a forest - once breathing the silence of the trees - is a church for me and animal encounters are always a poetic psalm of thanksgiving. Call me pathetic, but I just love it.

The red ringtailed mongoose is not very amused

This is not a lemure at all, not even a spider, although it hangs up in a web

The forest is my church, the trees are my altar

Chapter Two

One day later, we met Patricia Wright. She's the founder of Ranomafana National Park and Centre ValBio. She also discovered the critically endangered Golden Bamboo Lemure. Being a scientist was not enough for her to make efforts to protect lemurs from extinction. Starting as a pioneer of protection in Madagascar, she now is an icon of activism. She managed to finance the biggest conservation center in Madagascar, has recently built a battle-ship-like fortress of research in the heart of the rainforest from where she now organizes conservation, studies, education and research, such as genetics of lemurs and infectional diseases. Her mantra is to integrate the villagers around Ranomafana into the field work and conservation in order to make them understand the value of the remaining forest. Once being involved, youngsters want to become guides or researchers or part of the tourist industry instead of follow Madagassy traditions and slash-and-burn nature. Thus, its not agriculture or rice fields or the problematic cutting down of canopy trees that make their salary, but knowledge, solidarity and tourist money. When I asked her about the reason of financing and building such a western world fortress, Patricia said to me: "We can't continue like we did until now. However, the national park's borders still don't discourage people from continuing deforestation and exploitation. People need to know, that we are willing to fight back. We need to protect the forest before its gone completely." How right she seems to be. The genetic code of lemures contains loads of medical chances, so do hundreds of endemic species of plants. I admire Patricia's mentality. The stategy is simple: rich people do take Centre ValBio much more seriously now just because it now looks much more like money. Donations come more frequent and are much higher than ever. Therewith, more local people can be integrated and get jobs in field work such as lemur tracking, research, park protection, etc. Maybe a change of thinking finally evolves slowly in any part of human culture…

Klara interviewing Patricia Wright

Talk with Florent Ravoavy, coordinator of conservation education & outreach departement of Centre ValBio

Chapter Three

By the end of the week, we arrived in Ifanadiana, where we met Rebekah Caton, a peace corpse volunteer. While Johannes became constantly unsatisfied with the situation of traveling after our hotel of choice - although cheap and although meant to be the best in "town" - turned out to be an unfinished concrete chamber without running water, Klara and I started to admire Rebekah for her courage and her charisma. As a peace corps volunteer, Rebekah has been thrown into cold water. She had to live in a hut, couldn't even speak Malagassy, yet had to teach English in overfilled classes of children all ages. After a cyclone destroyed her house and the peace corps didn't help her on time, she got adopted by a lovely Madagassy family. They call her "daughter" and she identifies herself of being a sibling and child. Now, this young woman, at the age of twenty-four, 
speaks Malagassy fluently, knows nearly everyone in town by name, installed a library at the school and lives on 30 Cents a day without any complaining. She knows that she's got to go back to US soon. Rebekah now says that she has troubles to get the clue of strange western culture needs, what lead her to the assumption of falling into a deep depression after she returns home to North Dakota. 

Rebekah has managed to become a beloved and successful teacher

Learning to read and write English, later on learning to use a computer, is the key to educate and make a change for the environment

Klara stayed in Rebekah's house for one night. Rebekah has troubles to sleep since a creepy bird starts to cry every night in front of her house. It might be a sorceress bird, she told us. Her "landlord" is an old woman, suspected to be a witch, who never speaks a word to anyone. At night the bird's cry gave both Rebeka and Klara the heebie-jeebies. Klara was so enormously scared, that she was unable to turn on the camera. Days later we talked to a park guide who assumes the bird to be a mating cat or one of these weird frogs from the rainforest. Today, Rebekah seems to be still fine, yet the creature continues to drill its screams into her nightmares…

Rebekah makes an eye-opening interview with us in her small - former rice storage - room

Ifanadiana market at six o'clock in the morning

Chapter Four

Johannes left. He couldn't stand traveling anymore. He was also afraid of an unpunctual train. Our plan was to get to Manakara, take the train up to Fianarantsoa and split afterwards. Johannes should have gone north. Our journey should have continued south. But Jo was sick of everything: bad hotels, all too simple food, cycling his lungs out when we had to get over a hill, lax or drunken Madagassy who disturb eating and relaxation, peaceful racism of stupid children and - the worst - no TV for watching the EM 2012. Suddenly, Klara and I were just the two of us. Again. Which isn't to bad at all...Makes things easier... By the way: you can even read parts of our journey on Johannes' travel blog!

No rainforest as far as one can see, yet a small rest of net connection, a necessety to organize a meeting with Klaus. (me here with Alpkit waterproof drybag that yet has neither a scratch nor a hole, although having been through any environment one can think of. The shorts are from Triple Two also.)

Second day of biking, after a very nice and easy ride to ugly village Iondro and sleeping in a shabby hotel whose keeper was an old woman with a chameleon face and chameleon eyes. No additional problems except for Klara's tireness because of that certain "bird" the night before. One morning later, we faced a very bizarre landscape the first half of that days 100km ride. Again, where was meant to be rainforest, only gras covered hills looking like golf courses hide red soil underneath.

Usual lunch (except for the tamron lens cap): Plat Malagassy - rice, water and pork rind with some bristles. At least the sauce is good, but if you are really hungry after four hours of biking, you start to like it...

We cycled directly into the little rain season. Wet as if having a bath in the sea we reached Hotel Vanille, where we met our guardian angel Klaus Konnerth again. This daredevil of a guide made a deal with hotel manager Patricia for us: If we make beautiful pictures of the hotel, we are allowed to stay and eat for free. This hotel in Manakara was as fancy as it can be, and so were it's bungalows at the beach. The food was awesome as well, the service was precise - imagine how it feels after days of sleeping beside rats and eating pork rind with bristles on it. In this mode of fascination, its not too hard to make good photos. We got everything for free and thank Patricia and her staff for wonderful hospitality.

Bungalows of excellent Hotel Vanille in Manakara

Indian ocean sunset view from Hotel Vanille bungalow

Fishermen fight the morning tide in order to make their living


Now, we are in Ambalavoa, back in the highlands. We've got less than two weeks left before our journey ends. Our plan is to make an exhausting five day hike through one of the most beautiful national parks on earth (of course my position is bound to be subjective). And honestly, since I feel like I've got all the obligatory stuff to do on my own and Klara just enjoys the fun parts, I was close to make that certain hike myself. But before we start in two days from now, I'll take the chance and finish the more than fifty postcards and letters - our "Thank-You-s" to all our supporters. Without you guys, all of what you can see here would not have been possible. With this in mind, I'm sending some love from Madagascar...

Ambalavoa highlands at an altitude of 1500m

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