ChamEO Madagascar Expedition 2017 | Part IV

Monday, March 13, 2017

Day 5: Leave Ranomafana, Head Towards Andasibe

On this morning we awoke early, despite having arrived back at the hotel room after 1 am, following our rum-and-coke-excursion along the roads of the town looking for herps. But at the crack of dawn we were up again, fed, and loaded ourselves up onto the bus. The following three photos are from the previous afternoon but I'm going to cheat a little! Eager children bathing in the river begged Evan and Melissa for their coke and sweets, and were thrilled to get something sugary as if they weren't hyper enough! Mothers internationally love us.

To get to Andasibe we had to go back north and actually cross through Antananarivo on our way further north. We did a lot of miles of road this day, but also got to see a lot of interesting things. One of which was a geranium essential oil... factory? Refinery? Whatever the correct term, our guide Hery let us disembark the bus and have a look around. Some of us purchased little bottles of geranium oil, which made the bus smell pretty good. 

Until, that is, until someone who shall remain nameless accidentally spilled an entire bottle into their own hiking boot, forcing Hery to tie the offending shoe to the roof of the bus so that the rest of us wouldn't want to claw out our sinuses. 

We stopped then at a different road-side market selling hand-carved wooden cutting boards. While others bought boards I photographed the locals that ran up to sell little fruits while they had us there. 

Here is where it got interesting for us, as chameleon people. I, and others in the group, had kept carpet chameleons (F. lateralis lateralis) in captivity before, but after seeing them in the wild we realized we were doing things entirely incorrectly. We found them in a dry open grassland, much more reminiscent to me of Madrid, Spain's sierra than the picture I had in my head of their native environment. It was noon, so the air was hot and smelled of warm pine and fern. Again, if anyone else has ever been to the mountains near Madrid in the middle of summer, you'll know what I'm talking about. 

We walked the area for not quite an hour, and I in flip-flops. In that time I returned to the bus with a sandal tan across my feet! So the UV here was quite intense. And yet, we found a handful of little carpet chameleons sitting in open grasses in high-80°F temperatures. 

Our home for the 8-day trip. 

Then we moved on towards a village our guide Hery really wanted us to see, so that we could meet locals and see how they live. I hadn't but others had brought bags of clothing, school supplies, and other items for local families and children so this would be their big chance to hand-deliver those things into the hands of people that need them. 

Calumma Craig working on his GQ cover look.

Hery starting to hand out caps to the children. 

Look at the little girl's face!

Following the most amazing pork chop any of us have ever eaten (seriously, amazing!) we continued for several more hours north towards Andasibe. As we continued the climate changed and it actually started to rain! It rained just as we arrived at a reptile collection that we'd been told to go see for the chameleon species that we weren't going to be able to see, since we weren't going to pass through those habitats. 

Again, forgive the blurry photos! By now, with the rain, it was way too dark to photograph without flash but I didn't want to ruin any equipment either. So I switched to my older DSLR (which has a much worse ISO range) and just hoped for the best. Still, the collection was impressive, with species from panthers to Parson's to Oustalet's. 


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