Friday, October 4, 2013

Day 66: Mountain Rainforest and Desert Canyons

Craig's $1 hat says:
"BREAKERS lead the fashion sense of style original"
To allow us to spend a longer period of time in one place we decided to convert a visit to Amber Mountain National Park into a day trip from Ramena rather than spending a night or two there. Amber mountain is a rainforest that receives over 2000 mm of rain a year surrounded by dry desert, with the Mozambique Canal on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other. We were able to tie in a visit to the Tsingy Rouge, red spiky rock pinnacles in a canyon by the sea. In order to get to both destinations and back we had to charter a 4x4. During negogiations, in which we were being quite stubborn on price, the tout we were talking with lowered his voice, "If you want that price you can't take a 4x4... but there is a man with a jeep that would take you for that price." (*roughly remembered and translated). With a Jeep being exactly what we picture when we think 4x4 we were a little confused but we took the offer for an actual 4x4 rather than a pretty SUV. the jeep ended up being ex-french army named "Pekat", a smaller relative of our safari vehicle, Amkat.

Our driver, Said, arrived to pick us up with his 13 year old son in tow as he was on holidays.The drive out was speedy and the conversation good. (If you'd like to read Erin's talk with the son, visit her blog for the full interview).The road turned rough as we headed up Amber mountain. At the gate we learned that it was 'International Tourism Day' so we didn't have to pay entrance fees and we added a guide, Giselyn, to our merry band before continuing up higher into the forest.

The sexiest fruit
We got out to begin our hike while the jeep continued on up the mountain so that we would not have to back track. This was wonderful since earlier that morning (far to early for Erin who was rudely awoken by the incident) Craig had, in the process of getting up, firmly planted his foot down on the small pointy metal holder for mosquito coils which had been buring on the concrete floor so as to be as far away from our very flamable walls. After a moment's shock the dagger was removed and in the dark Craig noticed he was bleeding by thick wetness spreading along the floor. Hobbling and howling to the shower Erin quickly rose and took charge applying pressure and getting the foot elevated. Although it had been a relatively deep wound Craig does not seem to have sustained any serious injuries. It did however make hiking the same day a little less than comfortable.

It did not take long for the beauty of the place to remove any memory of pain from Craig's face, within minutes we had seen a Crowned Chameleon (above) and (one of) the world's smallest reptiles. The hike (Erin calls it a walk) continued along the 'Path of a Thousand Trees' with many interesting plants, birds, and a few more chameleons until around the halfway point we reached a view of a beautiful waterfall where an elderly man was laying down at the top of the falls to get a picture looking down. Our hearts stopped as he tried to stand, stumbled, took a few staggering steps along the precipous trying to steady himself before falling to the ground on the rocks at his feet rather than those 20 metres below just a step away over the cliff's edge.

The rest of the hike took in trees planted by the French long ago from around the world (France, Chile, and Japan. The only criterion seemed to be that they be strange looking trees), and another waterfall, this one sacred. It was a wonderful time, even though it was our first nature hike without any lemurs, this was made up for when during lunch we got to see some Crowned Lemurs in a tree just behind where we were sitting.

After lunch it was back on the road to Tsingy Rouge; we were running behind schedule, racing against the setting sun. The road was dusty and bumpy but Pekat was up to the steep slopes and tight corners. The canyon was stunning, but we didn't have time to relax and enjoy the view as we had to make it to the Tsingy Rouge before they dipped into the shade. The Tsingy were quite pretty in the red light of the fading sun, but were slightly underwhelming after seeing the Tsingy in Ankarana that were so much greater in scope. Arriving back in Ramena we quickly washed the thick layer of dust from our faces and had a few glasses of wine while Craig whined about his foot.

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