Friday, April 6, 2007

First and probably final update

Finally we got on the internet!
We are now back in Diego Suarez after three days in Ankarana Reserve(very hot) and one day in Montagne d'Ambre NP(not as hot, but still...).
From the beginning... We arrived at Charles de Gould airport in Paris and had 30 min to get a new boarding pass(apparently it is very difficult for air france to check in both the luggage and the passenger for the entire flight), so when we finally got it we had only 5 min left to take off and the line for the passport control was about as long as the airport itself. So we went to the check-in counter and got the clerk to guide us through the entire line(to everyone else’s frustration). It turned out though that the plane didn't take off for another one and a half hour after we got on the plane.
When we arrived at our hotel in Antananarivo(where we had booked a room) they had no rooms available, except for the "penthouse suite". And at special price for us, of course, for only $18 more. The day after we met with our guide, who had hijacked us on the airport the previous day, and did the grand tour of Tana in a 4WD pick-up truck. Our plan was to fly to Sambava and travel by car from there to Diego, but a cyclone had passed the east coast 14 days earlier and had destroyed the entire area. So we got our guide to arrange for us to be driven to Majunga on the west coast and go by plane to Diego from there. On the way we spent one night in a small village, Maevatanana. The day after we reached Ankarafantsika NP, where we stayed for two nights. There we saw, among other things, Coquerel's sifaka, different brown lemurs, lots of cameleons, and a croclodile. From the park we drove to Majunga by taxi-brousse(three hours of sitting on one butt-cheek). There we spent one night and tried to get a ticket to Diego the day after. Apparently all we had to do was to show up at the airport 1,5 hours before take-off(slightly different from Norway). When we got to Diego we arranged through a tour operator the trip to Ankarana with everything included(driver, guide, bungalow, cook, live chicken...). This was the park where we saw the most animals(many more chameleons, two kinds of brown lemur including the crowned lemur with which we got up-close and almost personal, mouse lemurs, snakes, bats,++).
We drove from Ankarana to a small town called Joffreville(which used to be a recreational resort for the French military) 4km from the park entrance of Amber Mountain. At one of the first hotels we tried to find a room in we were met by a Sean Connery look-alike who had only this to say: "This is the most expensive establishment in the North, sirs". So we went with the Hostel further up the street in stead, where they also arranged a guide for us for the next day. The guide though, it turned out, had no car. So we had to walk the 4km to the park entrance before we could even start on the 6 hour walk we had planned. The first sight we went to was a small lake. We walked for more tan an hour through leeches and heat to get a glimpse of a not so special lake through a narrow strip of visibility through the dense vegetation. The rest of the trip was relatively more rewarding. And we got to see both the world’s smallest frog and the smallest chameleon (about 3cm).

Today we are trying our best to get to the beaches of the North-East to finally get some sun. We will tell you how that went when we get back to Norway.

See you soon

Espen and Stig Olav