Another long drive (6 hours) to cover a relatively short distance (238 kms). The roads aren’t too bad but they are winding, very winding, through hilly and semi- mountainous terrain. The going isn’t bad until you come up behind a truck or one of the many overcrowded, smoke spewing passenger vans (taxi-brousses) that ply the entire country. Then you have to wait and wait until there is a short straight section in the road and then you go for it. Really go for it because (a) there probably will be another vehicle approaching the curve ahead of you and (b) there is hopefully a patch of road that doesn’t have a tire destroying pot hole right in the passing lane. The scenery is as mentioned hilly and mountainous with small villages scattered throughout. The mode of transportaion in many of the village is by pousse-pousse, essentialy a rickshaw with young men running barefoot up and down the pot holed streets barely breaking a sweat.
It is estimated that between 1 and 2 % of the remaining forests are destroyed each year and a staggering 80-90% of the land burns each year. They have all been removed, the land is bare and terraced made to support the growing of rice and other foodstuffs. We have read that upwards to 90% of the original forests that covered Madagascar not that long ago have been destroyed and the only forest remaining are in the national parks. To add to this dilemma, one Asian country in particular are here raping, through illegal logging by the locals, the remaining Rosewood trees, They’ve removed them all from SE Asia and now they are here doing the same. I won’t go into this but suffice it say, as in all of the other African, South Asian and Asian countries we have visited, let’s just say they are a country that is not well liked, at all.
We stayed at Setam Lodge which is about 1 km inside of the park boundary. It is nestled on a hillside and there is a very steep stair climb from where we parked our truck. This was a good prep for our next day when we headed out on a so called “easy” trek into the rainforest in search of the Common and Golden Lemurs, both highly threatened and only found in this rainforest.
The view from our bungalow
Ranomafana National Park is 41,600 hectares of tropical rainforest and was established in 1991 after the discovery of the very rare Bamboo Lemur. It is a World Heritage Site and is part of the Rainforests of Ansinanana and is an excellent example of the cloud forests with very high diversity that once flourished in the area.
After a breakfast of bread, yogurt and bread with jam, oh and a small glass of juice and some lukewarm coffee (a very typical Malagasy breakfast), we met our guide and walked uphill along the road for 1 km to reach the entrance to the start of several hiking routes through the forest. Exhausted after the inclined walk, just kidding but I did feel a little winded because hey, we’ve been driving and essentially sitting on our butts for the past two months, we proceeded into the entrance of the rainforest, straight up! The sky was cloudy, heavy cloudy and after only a short heart attack inducing climb of about 10,000 feet it started to rain. It felt like 10,000 feet but was probably only about 300 feet. Our knees were feeling good, the mud and clay and tree roots were getting wet and slippery and we were on our way deep into the heart of one of the last remaining rainforests in Madagascar. We took the “easy” 4 hour trek. As I write this from my hospital recovery bed I can tell you here and now that it wasn’t that easy. Maybe for a 20 year old but…
It wasn’t really that bad and I do tend to exaggerate but it was a challenge and it was well worth the sore knees, the drenched cloths and muddy hiking boots. We did “see” the highly endangered Golden Bamboo Lemur but unfortunately high in the forest canopy. We also caught site of the Greater Bamboo Lemur, the Paradise flycatcher and then were treated to about six or seven Common Brown Lemurs just outside our lodge after the hike. A nice finish to a good day.
After a hot shower dinner time. Zebu and beans with watercress. Yummy!