Thursday, November 24, 2011

Days 1 and 2: October 6 and 7, 2011

[I want to begin each entry with a video, but I didn't take any video the first couple of days. So here's some footage of a giraffe-necked weevil at Perinet National Park, taken October 8th. The insect flew away a couple of times but the guide gently and gracefully caught it and put it back on the leaf. This is a male; females have smaller necks.]

[If you click on the YouTube logo, it will take you to YouTube and allow you to watch it full screen.]

And here the edited journal begins:

October 6: Six and a half hours into an over-14-hour plane ride to South Africa. After a 90-minute layover, we will take a 3.5-hour flight to Madagascar. 

It is incomprehensible to me that we are actually in the air in this 80-row tin can, "somewhere over the Atlantic." (I believe in plane flight the same way I believe in molecules, Jupiter, bits and bytes, and the existence of places I'm not at. I believe, but I don't believe.)

October 7:
Got through the first trip by rewatching Enchanted and five episodes of The Good Wife, and watching-for-the-first-time two episodes of Doctor Who; doing crossword puzzles; reading; and eating junk food. No one was sitting next to me, which was great luck. (Andrea and I didn't sit together because we both like aisle seats. She was across the aisle and a row or two back.)

The airport at Jo'burg was familiar-looking, with lots of stores and glass and lights. For me, it was notable mostly for a very yummy croissant.

The airport at Tana (short for Antananarivo), Madagascar, had few stores and no AC. It was  uninteresting and badly organized. Ads for VISA cards conflicted with signs for actual visas. People were fairly friendly. A young girl tried to get up the nerve to ask for money--her eyes were sad, yearning. The porter was friendly and distinctly not shy about letting us know we were to give him a tip. He was charming and even though we paid all of our tips in advance, we tipped him some more. I'm feeling rich, since I have 660,000 ariary. It only equals $300 dollars but it's a big wad of $10G bills.

We drove directly from the airport to a lake to begin birding. We rode past poverty, poverty, and more poverty on a road barely wide enough for vehicles to pass in two directions by pulling over as far as possible. We saw many one- and two-story buildings made of corrogated tin, wood, brick, and concrete in seemingly random combinations, with planned, well-kept buildings quite rare.

Vendors on the side of the road were selling tiny amounts of one or two items. One woman was selling maybe a dozen tomatoes, which looked nice and fresh. People also sold carrots and other produce. Meat hung unrefrigerated and uncovered in unpainted wooden stalls; no ice, no glass, just red meat and sausages practically right on the road. The occasional lottery vendors had nicer buildings,  brightly painted and in better shape than most surrounding buildings.

The road was crowded with people dressed in all sorts of western and African clothing. Women passed by with large bundle on their heads. People didn't smile a lot, possibly because of the rich white tourists staring at them.

The lake was lovely. A rich family owns it and the nearby land and put it all aside as a reserve. We saw ducks for days, black herons, gorgeous kingfishers, kites, etc.

The ride from the lake to the hotel went through a wealthier neighborhood with taller buildings, some glass and steel, a billboard with an iPhone advertisement, a mosque set back from the street. 

The vehicles we saw range all over the place in type and year, but all seem to be stick shifts. There are ancient adorable Citroens, newer Asian cars, Mercedes trucks. The buses are small and jammed; they make American rush hour look roomy. (We learned that the buses, which are known as taxi brousses, don't leave until they are full--very, very full. You can drive around for hours in one before actually going anywhere as the driver tries to find more passengers.)
The sky seemed endless. Today you could see layers of clouds going up into the stratosphere. The lower ones were Renoir-y, the next layer was more naturalistic, and the highest clouds were as sharp as digital photos.

I am sincerely, deeply tired.

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to each installment and more and more pictures