Travel Journal

Parc National de Ranomafana

(Wednesday 2 March 2011) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 192-3 2/13-14/11
We got a rundown bus for this leg but it made the trip alright. The drivers here are terrible. They always speed even going through the small towns where there are people milling about. They’ll pass trucks on the curves and they will often stop in the road at blind spots after curves. The only saving grace is there are so few vehicles on the road that accidents are rare. We pulled into the taxi station at Fianarantsoa with about five dollars in Madagascar money. We ignored the clamor of drivers trying to get us into buses with “just two seats left, you come, we leave” as we had to find an ATM. An assistant to one of the buses lead us uphill about fifteen minutes to a bank where we got some cash and then back to his bus which still had the two seats empty. We haggled a bit on the price and we were off. We met Katarina, a German girl, who was also heading to the park and even to the same hostel as us and the girls chatted as I was banished to the back seat of many persons.
Kat reconfirmed that we wanted to be dropped off at the park and not the town which was seven kilometers further down the road which was fortunate as we had just passed the entrance. There was a light rain falling as we walked back down the road and saw our hostel the Rianala Gite. There were no private rooms, just dorms for $5 a head. There was only one other person there, a Czech named Martin, so he was in the one dorm and we three took the other dorm room. There was a little shop close by which sold a few items but other than the restaurant at the hotel, the nearest place for food was in town. The hotel offered to cook us something but they had no meat so we settled for spaghetti and also ordered breakfast for the next morning as the owner had to go into town to buy the food. The food was good though Julie had some problems the next morning.
Martin was an interesting character. He was a molecular biologist but was talking a year or years off to travel. He had bought a Chinese Max motorcycle brand new for $700 (Jim, you should take the designs back to Detroit) and was touring the country – during the rainy season. He was moving around Africa as visa ran out he would go on to the next country. He was doing a private tour with a guide so we only had a chance to chat at night and in the morning. Kat agreed to split the cost of a guide for the next day as they are required in the park so we signed up with the poor guides who staked out our hostel and agreed to go the next morning. We had thought about going on a night hike to see lemurs but it was raining quite heavily now so we decided to skip it and hoped the weather would improve by morning.
We ate breakfast as we watched the downpour. It seems there is a cyclone parked off the coast and it’s bringing more rain than usual. Imagine that, rain in a rain forest! Anyways our guides showed up, a woman with tolerable English and the spotter who would go ahead of us and try to find lemurs. The park, as are all the national park in this country, is rather new but it’s a sizable chunk of land. We stayed on the main paths at the beginning to get further into the park but then left them to try to spot the lemurs when we reached the bamboo forest. It was raining and muddy walking on steep slopes and the girls were not having much fun. Martin had warned us about the leeches in the forest which had gotten the girls a little bit paranoid. We did spot a couple lemurs high up in the trees but they were too far away to make out much detail. We called the hike off after three hours and declared it a bust. We paid 25K each and collectively 36K for the guides. We had pulled several leeches off while in the park but the real fun was back at the hostel when we peeled our clothes off and had to pull the ones that had attached unnoticed off our bodies. Bloody hell, indeed.
Kat had bought a return ticket from the pushy touts and had tried to contact them via text to pick her up the next day and we thought we would make reservations on the same bus but so far we had gotten no response. Most buses are full when they leave the town so the chances of finding seats on passing buses are slim. We decided to get up early and try our luck if the pickup was not arranged. Not a very romantic St. Valentine’s Day in retrospect.


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