Sorry it’s been a little while, I wanted to make sure all the travellers were back safe and sound before updating you all! So seeing this should reassure you that all leapers are back on camp with some crazy mainland stories to tell and very much ready to enjoy our final week together. Since we arrived, MRCI as a whole have made a lot of progress and there are constantly new projects to join in on and goals to complete. For us, the second to last week has been another great success with many new experiences and achievements from all the projects.
Charlie and Josh flew through their Benthic marine tests and very excitingly starting to survey. This gave the two of them marine achievement of the week, although Josh also picked up the title of the fool for the week after leaving his tank standing twice and giving away, much to his dismay, two whole beers! Taylor and Brias are just finishing up their advanced courses and seeing them up at 5.30 ready to dive must definitely mean they’re enjoying it! Those of us who did our marine earlier on were extremely jealous when Josh and Charlie were able to do a wreck dive as part of their advanced course, and they really did love to show us their incredible videos of themselves literally engulfed in schools of fish.
In forestry, we’ve been busy on bird, reptile, Ampang lemur, wild lemur and night walks! Personally my highlight of the week was the night walk and seeing all the magical nocturnal creatures. Our survey consisted of a 250m transect which we walked along very very slowly, noting down the species, size and position of any reptiles or amphibians in sight. Stuck more vividly in my memory though is my low: when a lemur decided that my shoulder seemed a good place for a toilet stop… While Suzannah spent most of the week feeling ill, she is now fully recovered and recording bird calls in the forest as I type.
Maddie, Caroline and Alex, who are now camp celebrities having conquered the Marojejy mountain (more on this to come), are back to classes and with Saturday looming, are desperate to fit in as many as possible and visit all their friends in the local villages before we go. Banana (the village, not the food) classes has been going really well and while Amy and I were slightly terrified to be in with the teenagers yesterday, they definitely left knowing just about every food in English and having laughed their heads off at our mispronunciation in Malagasy! Maddie has stayed as patient and fun as ever and I can’t express enough how much all the kids love her! I spent the days they were away hiking promising kids she was returning soon as they looked very disappointedly at the rest of us. When Amy and I took the Kely class alone on Friday many feared we may not return, but a little music and some terrible English dancing to watch and the kids were golden! Suzannah and Asher are teaching the beginners in Ampang still and the students are definitely benefiting from some consistency and familiar faces.
Alex and I have ventured to Hell-Ville today for 3 new back-to-back classes so we’ll see how that goes with 60-80 kids to a class (we thought 20 in Kely was tricky)! For Amy, Suzannah and I our weekend in Ankarana was definitely unforgettable. We did two days of trekking, and despite all reacting a little to the ‘coco poulet’ the previous day, we’re all really glad we completed the 12km loop on the first day. We saw the breathtaking tsingy rocks calved into spikes and bumps by both volcanic and climatic processes, crossed a huge suspension bridge together (before seeing the ‘one by one’ sign on the other side) and walked in a massive dried river bed with fossils in the sides and a huge canyon into which 3 large river plunge in the wet season. On our second day, while Amy had to sleep off a bit of suspected heat stroke after the scorching tsingy, Suzannah and I entered some very smellybat caves with fruit bats 30cm long and stalagmites/tites all around. We arrived back on Sunday lunch to a very quiet Treehouse hut and awaited the return of the others!
Maddie, Caroline and Alex flew up and down the mountain in just five days and from the pictures I’ve seen and the stories I’ve heard, it really was worth the pain and a huge huge achievement. I fear of telling the story wrong but their two day journey to get there sounds like an experience in itself. From what I gather, their pick up truck drove them for 24 hours across the wilderness, packed with over 20 people, travelling around 2km/h, and so weighted down that they frequently have to jump out and then run to catch back up as it climbed the hills. Alex tells me he was lucky to make it to the mountain at all as the truck tried to drive off without him and he was forced to sprint to clamber back on. From the pictures, the views were out of this world so I can’t imagine how spectacular they were in the flesh. They saw endangered lemur species, showered in a waterfall and stood above the clouds after a tough climb to the summit. Congrats guys!
I am also happy to say that Abbie and Charley arrived home, (camp really does feel like home after this long) safe and exhausted yesterday with some stories that could only be believable in Madagascar. They visited a number of national parks, camped in the forest, took walks to see mouse lemurs, a multi-coloured canyon where the water ran purple and Boababs with diameters of 36 meters. They also had the chance to explore Tana and tell us it’s not as awful as everyone makes out – the rest of us are still reluctant to believe them.
For our last full weekend, the boys pampered themselves in a luxury resort, drinking cocktails by the pool, lying in double beds under air conditioning, showing in water that Asher tells me he had to turn DOWN and playing 5 hours of golf with Taylor as their coach! The girls were feeling a little poorer and opted for a budget room and a fun night out watching the sunset and getting massages (that we can actually afford) for the final time. Amy continues to buy every souvenir in sight and the rest of us are just starting to think we should probably think about a few Christmas presents too.
With just 5 days left, I really can’t believe I’m writing for the penultimate time here. The magic never ends and the adventures never cease to amaze us. I think most of us would happily put up with a few more rice and beans meals if it meant we could stay just a little longer. Reality calls though, so you can guarantee we’re all going to maximise our final few days. For Caroline and Amy that means topping up the tan, for the guys it mostly means a few more 5 course Maki meals and for us all it means spending as much time as possible with the amazing volunteers and locals we’re met along the way.
When all the others board their flight on Saturday, I’ll post for a final time as Suzannah and I cry pathetically over our lunch after saying goodbye, awaiting our flight out on Sunday.
Talk soon xxx