I got to Madagascar ok and I have already seen lemurs! We can't go to the field site at Kianjavato until Tuesday but we were able to tag along on a trip to Andosibe National Park, and I saw the common brown lemur, the diademed sifaka, and the indiri, the largest lemur species. The indiris made a loud singing territorial call. It is a beautiful, unearthly sound. The sifakas were very pretty, brown and white and black, and at least one had a collar because they are being monitored by Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership, the same organization I will be working with. We got up early this morning and there was mist on the river, with the rainforest canopy looming on the opposite bank.
The roads in Madagascar are something else. It was over 2 hrs each way to Andosibe, a little over 100 km, and the road was never straight for more than 200 m. The traffic was pretty diverse, a lot of people walking or bicycling, some trucks and minibus taxis, rickshaws in one town, and carts pulled by cattle. There were also a few homemade vehicles that might have been the remains of a motorcycle converted into a one-wheeled thing that can pull an ox cart, and is steered with a sort of tiller. I also saw something like the first prototype of the Jamaican bobsled from Cool Runnings, being used to move some rocks down the mountain. I don't know how they will get it back up, there was no engine. We were in one of the few safe vehicles though, a newish Toyota Hilux. I am very glad I won't have to drive here because the rules are very different: right of way seems to go to the larger vehicle and the horn is appropriate for any occasion.
I am in Tana now, at MBP's home base. It is a nice house with very little furniture and tortoises everywhere. The tortoises were seized from smugglers and MBP is taking care of them until they can be released. There are over a hundred small ones, about the size of a grapefruit, and maybe a dozen big ones that would just fit in a bushel basket. The big ones have the run of the compound and they are wrecking the garden. They look at you curiously but don't pull into their shells if you come close. The little ones are contained in a couple of pens so they don't get stepped on.
I can't wait to get out to Kianjavato and get started with what I came to do. The trip on Tuesday will not be fun: it takes ten hours and the road is even more twisty than the one we took today.