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It's Gone!

MADAGASCAR | Sunday, 20 October 2013 | Views [536]

Rodin on the trail, Ranomafana NP

Rodin on the trail, Ranomafana NP

I followed a safe distance behind Connie so I could give her a boost up the steep trails.  She followed Vongy.  Our guide, Rodin (“rode in” not “row dan”) led the squad, alternately whistling birdcalls and stopping to listen for a reply.  “Come!” he ordered and stepped into the bushes.  We obediently followed which is how we ended up hanging onto a tree halfway down the near vertical hillside in the gathering evening gloom, straining eyes and ears for a phantom rufous-headed ground roller.  And did I mention the swarm of angry bees we disturbed on the way down?

Fifteen minutes stretched in twenty as the bird tauntingly returned Rodin’s calls but never showed a feather.  When it was too dark to see him even if he landed on Connie’s shoulder we began the climb up to the trail past the still agitated bees.  I was the only one stung, luckily only once.

It was 6:15 and nearly night when we reached the van, the end of a long day that began with a 4:30 breakfast.  Ranomafana is probably Madagascar’s best-known park, home to several lemur species including the endangered bamboo lemur.  And a plethora of birds.  Rodin is a nice guy and a knowledgeable guide even if a bit obsessive/compulsive with a touch of ADD.  Once on the trail of a bird he is relentless.  His motto is “Trail?  We don’t need no stinking trail.”  We followed him though the bushes only to be told, “Oh, it’s gone.”  Even when he pointed “There!” I had trouble focusing before he apologized, “It’s gone.”  The canopy is so thick that little light reaches the ground and once off the trail the undergrowth is too snarly for good sightings, let alone photos.  The human brain edits what the eye “sees,” eliminating those pesky leaves and twigs.  But the camera can’t.

Guides keep in touch via mobile phones and we had to divert our quest when a bamboo lemur sighting was reported.  “Follow me!” he ordered and moved quickly back the way we had come.  Connie, leaning heavily on her staff, made good time on the hilly trails and through the dense undergrowth but I could tell she would pay for it later.  We backtracked about a kilometer and joined a group of six balanced on the steep hillside, staring at a patch of brown fur high in a tree.  Another group of ten forced themselves in.  Then came the French group.  Other guides shoehorned their charges in for a look.  This is not the way I want to see nature and the lemurs didn’t seem to care much for it, either. 


   Golden bamboo lemur - the best I could do

We slipped away and explored on trail and off, creeping and crawling and looking for birds.  And we didn’t see – or hear – another group of humans all morning.  There are plenty of lemurs and birds in Ranomafana but they aren’t always easy to find.  Our count for the day was three species of lemurs and twenty new birds.  But not one rufous-headed ground thrush.  He’s gone!

Hotel Le Genat, on the plus side, is just across the river from the town with plenty of produce stalls.  And Le Genat has wi-fi, our first since “Tana” so we could check in and update the journal.  We considered another early morning visit to the park but the persistent rain seems to have washed away that plan.



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