A sacred tree and a return to Tana

Community Highlights Africa & The Middle East A sacred tree and a return to Tana

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In Andasibe village

My bruised shin was still very sore this morning, and I suspected it would be so for some days yet [spoiler: I was right!] So when we met up with Michel this morning we asked if he could ensure that this morning’s walk would be a relatively easy one. He consulted with William when we picked him up in the village on our way to the park and the latter proposed a path in the V.O.I.M.M.A. reserve where we’d been for our night walk, which would be largely flat. And so it proved, although there were a couple of steep detours for wildlife sightings that I left to Chris.

Our last walk in this region

The first of these detours was at the start where William led him down a steep and muddy slope to see a rainforest scops owl. After that we all set out together on the much easier path he had picked out for us, saying that Solu would meet us with the car at the other end of our walk.

To my surprise, our first stop here wasn’t to see wildlife. This is a sacred tree which William explained is held to be so because no one has ever been able to identify the species. Its leaves change each year, and it produces no fruit or seeds so doesn’t reproduce. It is thought to be thousands of years old.

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The sacred tree

Malagasy people come here to leave offerings to ask for help or in gratitude when they receive it. They also make sacrifices of zebu and chicken, after which the blood is poured into the tree stump as an offering.

We crossed a river and William pointed out the spider’s web stretching right across it, and the spider hanging from it, a Darwin’s bark spider.

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Crossing the river ~
Can you see the line of the spider's web on the right?

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Darwin's bark spider

Soon after leaving the river we turned off on to a narrower path, still fairly flat but with some steps. The reason for the detour became obvious when we heard the unmistakable sound of the Indri. We reached a point where we could see one high in the trees above us. To get closer meant a trickier path so William took Chris along it while I waited on the main path with Michel. We were rewarded with a reasonable sighting from there.

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Indri

As we continued our walk we passed some impressive bracket fungus, and William pointed out an orchid, Oeonia Rosea. This is endemic to Madagascar. The country has about 1,000 orchid species, of which about 850 are endemic to the island. I wondered how many William could identify on sight? Probably all of those that grow in this area, judging by his excellent knowledge about everything we saw here!

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Oeonia Rosea

Our next sightings were certainly tiny and hard to spot. In a clump of spiny pandanus he pointed out us a pandanus weevil, and tiny (but full-grown) pandanus frog. The latter is endemic, unlike the weevil. And without William we wouldn’t have even noticed them!

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Pandanus weevil

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Pandanus frog

There was one more treat in store here, a family of common brown lemurs, with one on the path right in front of us.

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Brown lemurs

The path ended by a small shop selling local handicrafts. Many of the items are made by local women so I was happy to help them by buying a little chameleon made from palm leaves. The shopkeeper was grateful far more than my tiny purchase deserved. The colourful creature now sits on a shelf in our kitchen. It was good to know our small payment would help to support the community and to maintain this patch of forest. It is generally thought that the island has lost 80 or 90% of its ‘pre-human’ forest cover. And certainly evidence from aerial photographs suggests that by c. 2000, around 40% to 50% of the forest cover present in 1950 had been lost. How essential is that then that what remains is preserved, and how fantastic is that local communities are now stepping up and doing their bit.

Back to Tana

Solu was waiting here as arranged so we said goodbye to William (tipping him for his efforts of course) and climbed into the car for the long drive back to Tana. As was the case on the way here, the road was busy with lots of road works. The first big town we came to was Moramanga, where traffic was at a complete standstill for a while, with the road works compounded by all the Saturday shoppers. But there was lots of activity to watch and try to photograph.

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In Moramanga

Eventually we got out of the town and began to make more progress, with just a few hold-ups. I continued to try to take photos, but it was harder from the moving car.

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On the road to Antananarivo

We had stopped for coffee and snacks at the same Moramanga fuel station as previously but otherwise didn’t stop. We got back to Tana around 14.00 and were dropped off at our hotel, the Radisson Blu. We should have been staying downtown but Rainbow Tours had moved us to this suburban location because of unrest in the city centre at present. Michel explained that this was due to a perception that the incumbent president, who has officially reached the end of the term he’s permitted to serve, is trying to ensure re-election illegally by bribing high-up civil servants and spending money on infrastructure projects.

We checked in and then went across the road to the shopping mall opposite as I had spotted a sign for a pharmacy and wanted to get something for my bruised leg. The very helpful lady there didn’t have anything on the lines of Deep Freeze which I thought might help, but she did have arnica gel so we bought that. Let’s see if it can help speed up the healing [another spoiler: it didn’t!]

We returned to the hotel, reserved a table for dinner and went back to the room to check emails etc and so that I could wash my hair.

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Our room at the Radisson Blu

In the evening we ate in the hotel restaurant, there being no other options in the vicinity. But it was perhaps just as well, as there was a terrific storm with heavy rain as well as thunder and lightning. I enjoyed my fried camembert starter and main of beef tagine, washed down with THB, and we finished with a rather good, and smooth local rum. Prices were so low too, especially considering this is an international chain. We paid just over £40 for two courses each, two large bottles of beer and two rums!

This featured blog entry was written by ToonSarah from the blog Travel with me ....
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By ToonSarah

Posted Sat, Dec 09, 2023 | Madagascar | Comments