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Toliara turned out to be a large buzzing town. Christophe took us to the artisan market, on the beach, where we enjoyed picking up small stocking filler type souvenirs (mainly for myself) and negotiating with the store holders to arrive at a price where we both felt that we had made a fair deal. There were lots of larger, more expensive and perhaps less ethical items on offer, but these were just not practical until the end of the trip.

Christophe took us to an Italian restaurant for a pizza. The walls of the restaurant were covered in paintings by local artists. The price, in ariary seemed like a huge amount but quite reasonable in Euros and even better in Pounds Sterling. The folded copy of the Sun Newspaper had gone down in volume since our arrival, but was still enough to afford the purchase. We would return to town the next day when the banks would be open so that I could change more Euros. But how would I get the picture home? Simple, they would take it off the wooden frame and roll it into a tube for easy transport. The image below shows the picture before packing. Back in England, getting it put into a proper frame costs the same as the painting itself.

Ring-tailed lemur painting

Ring-tailed lemur painting

The painting, stillon the wall

The painting, still on the wall

We continued out of town and soon arrived at a turning sign posted to the chalet complex that would be our home for the next two nights at Auberge de La Table and the Arboretum d’Antsokay. Yes, back in comfort and with wifi in the bar / restaurant when the electricity is on. By now the discipline of daily blog postings had gone out of the window, so I made do with just a few brief messages to assure friends and family that all was great. Although the chalets were again very comfortable, many of the rooms where we stayed relied on solar energy and did not provide sockets in the rooms to enable camera batteries and laptops to be charged. After the car battery problems, now resolved, I had not even considered asking to use the car chargers that I had brought along. So daily priorities were to charge laptops, so that images held on the camera could be downloaded to the laptop, then to clear the memory cards in the camera before attempting to split the images into sensible ‘stops’. The accommodation complex and the arboretum was established around 1980 on the initiative of Swiss amateur botanist Hermann Petignat, whose son, Andry,  is a good friend of Christophe and Nadine. Christophe is acknowledged as a contributor to two books co-written by Andry: ‘Baobabs of the world’ (2012) and ‘Guide to the succulent plants of South-West Madagascar (2016) both with text in French and English. Both books were on offer in the souvenir shop which also provided one of few opportunities to use my credit cards,  so came back to the UK..

What is the point of staying in an Arboretum without taking the opportunity of a guided tour by Christophe. Again, there was clear and very useful labelling on the trees and shrubs that again would come in useful for plant IDs back home. It turned out to be quite a long walk and the best light had gone as we got back for a beer before dinner. ‘Do you want to go back for another walk?’ Christophe asked. No thanks, as I was checking my emails and had two cameras full of images to download before the power went off. I thought he had been joking but he and John joined the garden’s guide to take a look at a family of nocturnal lemurs that were due ‘to perform’.

Here is a selection of today’s images:

Operculicarya pachypus

Operculicarya pachypus

Angie grows a Operculicarya pachypus in a pot in the living room. I’ve often wondered why. If it’s for the flowers – don’t bother! Tiny!

Terpsiphone mutata - Madagascar paradise flycatcher

Terpsiphone mutata – Madagascar paradise flycatcher

Between all the stems, branches and twigs, it was nice to find this splash of colour! You won’t find this bird in Angie’s living room!

Arboretum d'Antsokay

Arboretum d’Antsokay

This map of the Arboretum provides perhaps the best view of the huge number of things that we saw and photographed. Well worth a visit!

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