Dec 11, 2019: We’re the only visitors

Today, we set off at 8, heading in the same general direction as yesterday. The trail started just after we forded a stream on well placed rocks. And the temperature hadn’t hit 35 yet. We climbed crude steps and were heartened to see the familiar distance markers seen in other national parks. The path was smoother than the day before but not up to the standard we saw in other parks. 

We saw our first lemurs fairly quickly. Red ruffed, hanging around in the tree tops. They were shy and would move if they noticed us. Our second set were white throated browns. The males have a patch of white by their throats. The females have black. One, possibly two, females were carrying babies on their backs or sides. 

These browns had 12 to 15 inch bodies and seemed daintier than the red ruffed. 

Now it was hot. I was thinking that my training regime should have been to use a stair climber in a sauna. Time to go back please. Only one stream crossing. Life was good. 

Around five pm, we walked over to the village (three properties over) to see someone’s vanilla plantation. Vanilla originated in Mexico, although Madagascar produces much of the supply that makes its way to Canada. It’s grown on vines that are supported by sticks, trees or shrubs. The plants used to have a natural pollinator but now all pollination is done by hand. 

The buds are about four cm long and are rather inconspicuous. Yellowish in colour and the bloom sticks out like the tongue of a snap dragon or ladyslipper. Blooming season is October to January and the farmer has to inspect all vines daily for the need to pollinate. 

After the flower drops off, the bean grows, long plump and green. Beans are harvested and dried, losing 80 per cent of their weight. During the drying phase, the farmer has to carefully tend the crop daily.  We were offered three beans for 30,000 ariary or about Cdn$7.50. No thanks, we said. We’ve watched too many episodes of Border Patrol to try bringing unprocessed food into the country. 

There was also a clove tree. It looked a lot like a lemon tree with glossy leaves. When broken, even the leaves had that warm clovey smell. 

I can’t remember what the cinnamon tree looked like —only that it’s bark was scored. The tree regenerates peeled back with new bark. 

The village was much larger than I imagined. Maybe 50 houses ranging from 10 by 12 foot bamboo and thatch huts to four and five room houses made of similar materials. They have an in-stream hydro generator, street lights down the main walkway and I even spotted one satellite dish. 

As suspected, we’re the only tourists visiting the national park at this time. There are about five lodges along our stretch of beach. A few have caretakers; some seem abandoned. Only one of the women on the boat ride here turned out to be affiliated with the lodge. She’s our cook, with more English than our guide. Nonetheless, she had trouble grasping our desire not to have meat with every meal. Prior to the trip here, we were asked what we wanted for meals.  We replied that our favourite foods are fruits and vegetables, and will eat meat. People didn’t understand that we’ll eat it reluctantly and definitely not at every meal. Ah well.


The blossoms of the Cardinal’s Hat Tree.  Notice Anita’s sunburn on her upper arms and face. We both got sunburns on our arms on the boatride to the Masoala Park, even though we applied sunscreen before we cast off.


Spot the lemur.


A vanilla vine, with buds almost ready for pollination.