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Journey to Madagascar 2009 

October 19, 2009

Back to Tana and then to Ft. Dauphin

Market in Ft. Dauphin

 

On Monday we flew back to Tana to regroup, recharge the luggage from the mother ship, have a good dinner, enjoy lots of hot water, and then head out for Ft. Dauphin for our final exploration trip, this time to the Berenty Reserve north of Ft. Dauphin.

By now, we have spent so much time in the countryside that the capital city of Tana looks like the big time – a real city. Of course, it hasn’t changed from the night we arrived from Paris and drove through its chaos of people, animals, shops, traffic and so forth all spilling onto the streets. We have changed, not Tana.

We had a good dinner at the Colbert and then enjoyed a good night’s sleep before setting off on Tuesday to fly to Ft. Dauphin.

Flying domestically in Madagascar is actually quite convenient. Yes, the check in process is rather chaotic, security is not exactly meticulous, and there is always a bit of uncertainty about the timing of the flight and its exact route that day. No assigned seats means that the boarding process tends to be a scramble that activates the competitive gene in many of the passengers. Priority boarding is for those with good elbows. Nevertheless, no flight is really too long. After all, Madagascar is not all that big. It’s likely that your flight will stop at some other city before getting to your destination. Some of the stops are surprises.

On the positive side, the Air Madagascar staff have been uniformly pleasant. More food is served than on typical USAir flights, which is not saying a lot. The staff turn around the planes very quickly, and our baggage has emerged quickly each time we have flown. So, good marks to Air Mad, more or less.

Driving has its own adventures. Other than the state of the roads, which can be excellent or dreadful, there is the occasional “security check” by local police who often appear to set up check points at the outskirts of a town or city. The driver has to hand over a sheaf of registration forms (presumably that’s what they are) and then engage in a lengthy conversation with the policeman. The nature of the conversation is a mystery to us since it is not carried out in English.

We have never really had a problem at a checkpoint, but it did appear on one occasion that the tinted windows in our minivan violated some regulation or other and required the payment of an “instant fine.” The fine was paid, the police were mollified, the driver was happy, and the journey continued. I wonder if I could negotiate an “instant fine” should I ever be stopped in the US for some violation or other. On second thought, I don’t think I’ll explore that option.

Ft. Dauphin taxis

 

To complete our story, on Tuesday we went back to the Tana airport and set off by Air Mad for Ft. Dauphin. The 737 took off on time and landed early in Ft. Dauphin airport, which is a bit on the cozy and welcoming side for an airport. We then drove to our hotel, the Croix du Sud, had a pleasant evening, and prepared to leave the next day for Berenty Nature Reserve, the “land of the lemurs.” All that separated us from Berenty was a trip of 70 km over a road that defies description. But that’s a story for tomorrow.


Filed under: Uncategorized — greg @ 9:42 am

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The Chief Penguin

   

Greg Farrington

Greg Farrington, Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences, is visiting the island of Madagascar. He is joined by his wife, and Academy researchers, who are surveying and assessing this biodiversity hotspot.

Visit the Farringtons' personal blog, Madagascar Adventure, for in-depth details of this Academy expedition.

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