Friday, January 18, 2008

I'm back online!

Hi everyone, sorry for the major lag in my posts. I've been in Tana for the last three days, but I've been really busy getting things ready for my departure from Madagascar.
Ok, back to the beginning of the trip. I went to Diego Suarez on December 28th, and stayed at a nice hotel for 5 days. I spent my days hiking around on Montagne Des Francais looking for Coffee trees. I didn't have any luck, but enjoyed staying at a nice hotel, and I did a lot of computer work (programming stuff) in those 5 days that I had been putting off for months. On January 2nd, my partner/paid guide and professional Malagasy botanist Franck Rakotanasolo arrived in Diego, and the craziness began. On January 3rd and 4th, Franck and I camped in a forest about 50 km SE of Diego called the Foret De Sahafary. With franck's expert help, we were able to find several populations of at least 3 species of Coffee. We returned to Diego on the 5th of January and worked at Montagne Des Francais again, and I am embarassed to say there are many coffee trees there, but I just could not find them alone. It's pretty amazing how good franck is at finding Coffee trees, certainly my work would not have been possible without his help. OK, on January 7th, Franck and I traveled to Amber Mountain National park, and started work in the high elevation cloud forest on the 8th of January. Lots of coffee trees, of at least 4 species were collected. On January 9th (my birthday) we went even higher, to find one species we did not find lower on the mountain. For about 5 hours that day, we hiked in the rain and mud, and hundreds of terrestrial leaches (they go through your socks, so there is no stopping them). I was very stressed out by the leaches, and did not enjoy it very much. Thanks to all of the birthday emails folks sent. On the 10th of January we left amber mountain and headed back to diego for the night. The following day, we traveled to Ankarana National Park, about 3 hours by taxi, and stopped in some small forest patches on the way to collect. We spent one big day at Ankarana, and collected many populations of about 4 species of Coffee. And we got to see the amazing tsingy limestone formations (check out the wikipedia page linked above for more info). I will post pictures when I get back, and the connection is faster. THe next day, Franck and I took a taxi-brousse (a rural bus service that is really a 15 seater van, but usually packed with more than 22 people) for 3 hours to a small fishing village called Ankify. From this village, we caught a ferry (just a 15 foot long canoe with a big motor) to the island of Nosy Be. I had the best mango I've ever tasted at Ankify while we waited for the ferry to fill up. We managed to find a decent hotel for pretty cheap in Hellville (Nosy Be's only real city). The following day, we went to the Lokobe Forest reserve, about 20 km west of Hellville on an extinct volcano. This is a wild forest, with black lemurs everywhere, and few trails to speak of. We didn't find any coffee trees, but only spent half the day in the forest. Then, the next day we just hung out in Hellville, and I did some touristy shopping. THen back to tana to get specimens ready for exportation, and complete paperwork.
That brings me to the here an now. I'm leaving for mauritius a few days early, because I am finished here in Madagascar. Heading out today at 4pm. So, I will update you on Mauritius when I get there. Should have an easier time with internet there, and I can probably find a phone card to make some calls. OK, hope every is well. Please comment or email me and let me know whats been up.

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