I managed to stay super busy until the last minute, when I went to Sambava to pick up my friend, Abby, who was visiting from California. I was really excited to have a friend come to visit me. It is really great to have any visitor, but family and friends just aren’t the same.

Abby got to see my village and my house and all of my projects. I’m sure that like a lot of people who read my blog, it was nice for her to see all of the things that I write about because it isn’t always completely clear. The people in my village were great as always at helping me host my visitor and we had more fruit given to us than we could finish. Abby even got her hair braided.

However nice it was, our trip leaving Matsobe started with a few bumps. We were supposed to fly to Tamatave from Sambava, but nobody from Air Madagascar thought it important enough to tell me that our flight no longer existed, but was only through Antalaha – a city about one and a half hours away. So, we showed up at the airport only to find that we were the only two people there; and no plane.

The office was very helpful and apologetic, and by some stroke of luck we managed to get on a plane from Antalaha the next day. We went to Antalaha, and walked around there – not the worst of days, but we did lose a day in Tamatave. The travel was a bit much because we had to fly to Tana and then catch a plane to Tamatave; but we made it! Not too mention our second plane only had about 12 seats!

In Tamatave we stayed at a friend of a friend’s and it was super awesome. Her house was super hot, but she was very nice and really helpful and just a lot of fun. She worked in Litchi export and so she slept most of the day and then went to work around 5pm until 7am. She also gave us one of the best pineapples I’ve had in a while. And, well, we all know that nothing can be too bad if you’ve got a real good pineapple. In addition, her neighbor was from Andapa as well and so he was happy to hang out with us and talk and guide us around. It was really great, but translating can get a little tiresome at times.

We walked around Tamatave and just saw the town. The food was pretty good and we had some coconut ice cream that was awesome! We also went to Ivoloina park, which was a few kilometers north. It was a pretty cool place and thankfully, there were lemurs for Abby to see. We walked around and saw the lemurs (both wild and caged) as well as other animals too.

The flight to St. Marie was on schedule and painless. We got to our hotel and reached Paradise.

Last June I went to Nosy Be with my mom. It was awesome, and I had a great time there, but something wasn’t right about the island. The people weren’t the Malagasy people I’ve grown to know the past year and a half and the hotels and prices were so ridiculous that it just didn’t feel right, even if we could afford it. St. Marie was not the same.

St. Marie is an island paradise where Malagasy people are still nice and say hello, not everyone is trying to rip you off or exploit you and prices are expensive (in comparison to other places in Mada) but they aren’t ludicrous. We were greeted with smiles and everyone was very helpful in giving us information so that we could plan our trip.

Abby failed to tell me in advance that she doesn’t like to ride bikes and that the speed makes her a little uneasy. This was a little difficult because St. Marie is a little difficult to get around. However, we still rented bikes and she toughed it out. We saw a good portion of the West and a waterfall as well as a boat ride into some Mangroves on the East side. The weather was hot and more or less dry for our entire visit and it was nice that the rainy season hadn’t really come down yet – even though it did make me worried about the crops in this country as a whole.

After we went to the small island to the south called Ile aux Nauttes. It was really paradise. We were traveling at low season and so there weren’t a lot of tourists to begin with, but on the small island, there were only a few people staying at a few hotels, and many places without a visitor. Having the time on the islands was nice, to give me a little beach, sun and relaxation. I think in our five days or so on the islands I ate more fish than ever and it was really good. Also, sometime Abby wouldn’t be too hungry so I’d end up getting two meals!
We flew back to Tana and then left for Andasibe. The traveling to Andasibe was painless (a big surprise after all of my experience with local transportation). Once we arrived, I gave a friend of mine a call – Back in August I went into the forest for about 10 days looking for the Greater Bamboo Lemur with a team of Malagasy people from Mitsinjo in Andasibe as well as researchers from the SAVA region. So, now that I was in their territory I gave them a call and let them organize everything for us!
We visited the Mitsinjo reserve as well as Andasibe National Park. The park and the reserve were very beautiful and the Indri were amazing as always. Their loud wail is quite cool when you get really close to them. However, hearing it in the morning from far away is just a small grade higher than a rooster in my opinion.
The weather in Andasibe was much colder than the rest of the trip had been and it was nice to need a blanket to sleep at night. It was also very nice to have cool weather while walking around in the forest. Over the span of the whole day we managed to see a lot of Indri, Sifaka, Bamboo lemurs, and brown lemurs. Abby told me she really wanted to see lemurs on the trip, so I felt like this was a good finish for the trip (even though we had seen a few lemurs here and there along the way).
We returned to Tana and stayed at a guest house of a friend of a friend. It was nice to have a real hot shower before my return to site. I wasn’t quite ready to end vacation, but I was eager to return to Matsobe and everyone there. Of course, the plane changed flight times, then was late, and then the taxi took forever, but I made it back.
In the next few days I’ll just try to figure out where everything stands. Heavy rains haven’t really started so the rice planting will probably be put off. I gave 800 plastic pots to the tree nursery before I left and I need to see how that is (I heard a rumor that the planted all of them!). I also need to see how things are going with the Reserve, the Guardian and all of the ways the two of them interact. Finally, I need to get all of my workbooks for the student done by this month, so I’m not scrambling in January.
It’s good to be back, but definitely busy…