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I forgot to mention THE event of yesterday – after what seemed to be an eternity of bouncing along rough roads – yes, we had been warned! – we hit new, smooth asphalt. No potholes (yet) so I guess that this stretch had been opened very recently. Why? as apart from a few carts drawn by zebu, and two mopeds we saw no traffic until we got to the bustling part through the town of Ifaty. We were some 15 km from the town of Toliara (or Tulear or Toliary depending on your age, religion or preference).
Christophe and Nadia needed to get to the town to take the lottery element out of starting the car and to get the puncture fixed. The activities organised by the Bamboo Club included a guided tour of the local botanic garden, the Foret de Baobabs and so John and I found ourselves in a zebu drawn ox-cart, fitted with a mattress for our European rears, for the short ride to the ‘Foret de Baobabs’ botanic garden with two guides to educate us. They spoke good English and did a great job, leading us through a maze of tracks and showing us all sort of plants, mainly of medicinal use, but also those of interest to a Cactus & Succulent plant lovers audience. A great help for when I get round to putting names to some of the pictures taken in nature during the trip.
One of our guides would run off to gather or spot some wild life that can not be guaranteed to be rooted to a particular spot, while the other guide explained the medical uses of some of the plants. When I told him of some of the pills that are part of my daily breakfast routine, he was very knowledgeable – he was studying medicine at University, looking at all aspects of the subject.
We saw a large weaverbird’s nest in one of the baobabs,
a trail in the soft sand that led to a snake of the constrictor group,
at least three different species of lizard,
nearly stepped on a very well camouflaged nightjar (bird), asked why there was no obvious regeneration of the baobabs, only century old giants showing signs of old age and much more. Our guide showed us three twigs, some 30 cm ( 1 ft) tall and told us how these had been grown from seed sown 20 years ago! He thought that growth could be faster if the plants received more water and nutrition in cultivation, but it certainly put the plant’s reputation as a slow grower into context! We saw a fish eagle couple at their nest high in the top of a baobab. Our ‘spotter’ guide brought us three scorpions that he had found hidden underneath old rotting branches. Two were of the same species, with the female carrying the formidable sting.
All of a sudden there was an unexpected rush as a lizard which must have been curious to see what was going on, rushed in, believing that the scorpions were his lunch. Our guide used a stick to knock the female scorpion with sting from John’s boot, before it could cause him any harm. No body was hurt and the lizard left hungry.
In addition to the lizards, our spotter also managed to find a chameleon:
It took a while before we were able to ID these enormous ‘mealy bug’ type insects, you need to read on to find the answer on future pages:
Our outing was complete when our spotter reported having found a group of lemurs in the trees ahead. Lemur taxonomy is controversial and I use the term to cover all Malagasy primates Unlike the plants in this garden, the Lemurs did not come with ID tags. They stayed in the trees and were difficult to catch on camera as twigs and branches distracted the automatic focussing. What ever their name, they always look cute.
Back at the Bamboo Club, Christophe and Nadia had returned and reported that the alternator had been replaced with a new one so that we could stop pretending to be religious by saying a prayer before Christophe would try to start the car.