Saturday, September 21, 2013

Day 57: Deeper Into the Jungle

There's nothing quite like waking up to the sounds of nature. It re-energized us and helped us get back on our feet. We had planned on surviving on a banana each and some nuts to start, but knowing what we'd been through the day before, we thought it wiser to have something slightly more nourishing for breakfast. We shared a cup of powdered tomato soup, compliments of the ex-pat grocery store we'd found in Dar, and a cup of rice. After packing up our stuff, we were ready to go! Before exiting the camp, Erin caught a glimpse of a ring-tailed mongoose, likely ready to scavenge for leftovers from our meals.

Northern Ring-Tailed Mongoose

Boa Above!
The hike to the next camp was only 2 km, but the incline and humidity soon set in. We got a nice surprise half-way through when Craig stopped after being hit from above. He searched the trees and soon spotted a white-fronted brown lemur. Our talented guide, Jean-Louis, made some noises and encouraged them to come closer. We were happy with our great view of the male's snowy mane. Watching them leap from tree to tree is exciting, and quite different from a monkey. They seem to spring off their long hind-legs and their tail is left to flap behind.

White-Fronted Brown Lemur (male)

Other sights of the day included a brookesia (above), also called a stump-tailed chameleon, and more bamboo lemurs. We loved hiking through the bamboo forests with their regal roots surfacing like a whale from the soil and the smooth shafts acting as great hand-holds.

The second camp was perched on rocks overlooking the esteemed summit. We were at the top (or what felt like the top) of a cascade. This time we had a dining hall with a stunning view. Erin felt pleased with the hike, and conscious of the big blisters on her heels (and the stormy clouds above), opted to stay behind and take in the views. Meanwhile, Craig accompanied Jean-Louis and headed out to meet up with the special guide we'd hired to help us find the elusive Silky Sifaka.

The hike up the mountain to find the tracker and thus the rare Silky Sifaka was a steep one, roots climbed out of the mud to form stairs, each step above the knee. The guide would howl into forest; a few seconds later we would receive the tracker's reply. Near the top of the first plateau the tracker sounded very near, and much like gorillas and chimpanzees it was time to go off-trail. This experience proved the most difficult as the valley was steep, the ground an undulating mass of life, past and present, and the lemurs moved with great speed. Desperately holding onto saplings and becoming ensnared in the roots time and time again, Craig was finally rewarded. The lemurs were close much of the time, joyfully jumping through the trees.

For the rest of the afternoon, we lazed around in the dining area admiring the view and hiding from the rain. We leisurely prepared lunch/dinner: a dish that must have been the envy of the three guides and one other tourist we saw (although they ate 1.5 hours before us). We cooked dry beans, added rice, and sautéed chives, carrots, ginger and lemon in with them. Then as a topping we made our mango salsa with garlic, and shallots in lemon juice. To top it off, Craig found some curry in the supply cupboard - a delicious creation! It was so much fun to cook together again.

The rest of the small crew at Camp Two disappeared into their bungalows for the afternoon while we played cards, got caught up on our blog, and read. (Side note: our year-long cribbage tournament is now at 6-3 for Erin!)

We watched our mongoose friends rummage around the site for scraps, identified some new bird species, and settled in for another great sleep.

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