Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 77 & 78: Ringed Celebrities

The next day was relatively uneventful... we hit the road at 5:30 am so we could stop in Fianar for lunch at our new favorite restaurant (mmm... canard à la vanille!). We passed first through the Ranomafana rainforest and begrudgingly admired the sunny day they were having, then the road grew less windy and the scenery rocky.

Ambolavao is a reasonably sized town with a bustling market where we bought rice and veggies for our trek, and a sweater, hat, and shoulder bag for Craig (all for under $8!). They have two factories: one paper, one silk, where they teach you how to make the products, which Erin visited with Heather and John.

The morning after we arrived, the four of us (Chloe and Peter continued onwards and we'll see them again on the coast) hired a taxi to take us out to the Anja community reserve. The Lonely Planet guide certainly downplayed this gorgeous park where we took a short hike through the brush in search of the infamous ring-tailed lemurs. We were worried by the sight of a tourist van in the parking lot but there turned out to be many little paths through the trees so we were able to avoid other groups.

We didn't have to walk far to find these engaging creatures. After about ten minutes we stopped to watch a pair play with a bird on the ground, then found a whole troop of them in the nearby trees. Ring-tailed lemurs are one of the only species to like dry, rocky terrain, so they are the only type found in this park.

It was a highlight of the trip to get so close to them and feel like we weren't intruding. They jumped through trees, ran across rocks, fed, groomed, and cooed to each other. We loved watching the babies - particularly one mother with twins on her back, and were pleased to hear that the rest of the group will help her care for the second if need be. Interestingly, ring-tails have a matriarchal society.

All-in-all, though short, Erin rates it as one of top three highlights of the trip, and we left very happy knowing our money is going directly into the hands of the community members to help them build schools, houses for the elderly, and guard their zebu.

On our way back to town we swung by the happenin' Zebu market that occurs every Wednesday and Thursday. It's the largest in the country! Owners walk their zebu from as far away as Tulier on the west coast (a 30-40 DAY walk!). It was quite the sight!

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