1 July 2012
I saw a tenrec today. Bark Bark the KAFS dog brought it in but we were able to rescue it and it seemed unharmed. It was a three striped tenrec, with soft spines like a hedgehog and a long narrow snout with whiskers. The whole animal looked kind of improbable somehow, like it was made from a bunch of random parts. We set it free in the bushes with a good head start from the dog.
It gets dark early in the tropical winter, maybe 5:30 or 6. There is no electricity so you have a choice of candles, head torches, or darkness. There is often a card game by candlelight after dinner but people rarely stay up much past eight. It is just as well, since we have to get up early to leave by 6:30.
We spent most of the afternoon playing Uno. It is a very complicated game and you need great reflexes to play your card before someone else beats you to it. We agreed that it was such a stressful and competitive game that you need a rest afterwards. I hope I can get people to play spades again. That was the last fad and it might be the most fun card game I know.
It is Saturday night and Wednesday and Saturday are supposed to be pasta night. We were all waiting eagerly for the best meal of the week, spagetti topped with oil, carrots, and green beans. I bought a jar of real tomato sauce last time I was in Fianarantsoa and it was going to be a real feast. Everyone looked so disappointed when the cook brought out plates of rice and salty carrots. I was warned the food was mostly rice and beans andd veg, but the beans are all too rare and the rice is invariably burned. We have quite reasonable ingredients and I could make a good meal with what we have, but we seldom get anything palatable. We were too disappointed to even feel like playing cards after dinner.
There are two little shops within a five minute walk and I'm sure the KAFS volunteers are a big source of revenue for them. You can get little packets of crunchy corn-based rings called Cracky. Sometimes they have Saltos, which may be the world's best soda crackers, or maybe I have just never been so hungry. We went into Kianjavato last night for Sheila's birthday and we got rum and coke and the hotel's entire supply of Saltos. We always thought that it was 4km to Kianjavato, but somebody recently told us it is only 3km, so the walk home from the bar is now one third shorter.
Prolemur simus is very cute but not very active. One day last week we followed the same animal all day. We found him just before 8 and sat down under his tree. Five hours later we got up and walked back to the road to get picked up. For all I know he might still be in the same tree. Yes, we are sure he is not dead: he was grooming himself briefly.
One of our animals unfortunately is dead though. It was probably killed by a fosa. We found the body easily because the radio collar was still working. There was not much left but part of the skull and some bedraggled fur and the big fluffy tail. That is nature for you but if I met that fosa I would like to punch it in the face. I was pretty mad that the stupid fosa picked the only animal in that group whose radio collar still worked. Now we can't find that group anymore without searching their entire terrritory, and unless we get very lucky that will take days of grueling effort. The upside is that the boss finally took notice of the deteriorating radio collar situation that we have been asking about for months. The dart team should be coming out to tranquilize some of the animals and replace the collars in July.
2 July 2012
Today was the first serious rain we have had since I got here. Drizzle and showers have been pretty common but today was the first real downpour. The animals tend not to move very much when it rains so we stood there and got soaked while they slept. I was told it would be hot here so I packed for hot rainy weather, but not much for cold rainy weather. Nothing dries properly here and it is really going to suck putting on my wet clothes tomorrow morning when it is about ten degrees outside. At least dinner was good.
It's weird: here I am in the Madagascar rainforest, this exotic place that I have always wanted to see, spending my days with one of the world's most endangered primates, but most of my thoughts revolve around food. It is a topic we can discuss every single day and we keep finding more to say. Rice pudding featured prominently today, not on the menu of course but in conversation. You can make a fair substitute by putting sweetened condensed milk and nutmeg on the breakfast rice. My Grandad talks about his field work, and having only spam and strawberry jam to eat. Those are luxury items here, totally worth the five hour taxi brousse ride to Fianarantsoa.
7 July 2012
We left early this morning for Fianar and got the fastest taxi brousse ever, about three and a half hours. The guy drove safely too, he just didn't keep stopping all the time. We got here in time for lunch and I have eaten a double cheeseburger, fresh pineapple smoothie, chocolate cake, lemon ice cream, processed cheese, mint candies, and half a custard bun. Dinner is in an hour or two so I have to stop and make room. I got sweet chili sauce and jam to put on the rice back at camp, probably not together. It is a good day.