When we landed in Toliara, we were greeted by more members of our local tour group, Klaus (a different Klaus) and a young Malagasy named Dimy, who was probably in his mid-teens. Toliara is at a much lower altitude than Tana, and we realized that it was going to be much hotter here. Klaus and Dimy helped us gather our luggage, and then Dimy passed out lunch to the group, which consisted of sandwiches made with cheese and tomatoes, and bottled water. The sandwiches were very good and as I was finally getting my appetite back after the Paris salmon incident, I had two. While inside the building, we spotted our first critter of the trip, a green and red day gecko on one of the beams. After finishing our sandwiches, we went outside where there were three 4x4 vehicles waiting for us.
As the drivers were loading the vehicles, we took the opportunity to look around the outside of the airport. We found several geckos and saw some interesting flora. The drivers were having some issues loading up all our luggage and leaving enough room for all of our group as well. While they were loading, I noticed a basket which contained two live turkeys. Somehow, I knew they wouldn't be making the trip back with us.
Once the vehicles were all loaded, we were on our way. We had an understanding that if anyone in any truck saw anything interesting critter-wise that we would stop. We hadn't gone more than a couple kilometers when the lead truck stopped and everyone piled out. Bill had spied a large turtle shell by the side of the road. After a few minutes to examine it and a lesson on the type of tortoise it was from, we were back on our way.
We drove on a paved road that was in good condition until we reached a village at a crossroads. We got out for a little while and mingled with the locals. The village had several "hotelys", which are small places where you can get a somewhat cold drink, a snack or even a place to stay. They aren't the Ritz by any means, consisting mainly of a small wooden building with a shack in back, but they are very inexpensive. After a bit, we all piled back in the trucks and took off south down a dirt road.
We found out that the dirt road we were on was actually Route 10, a major road in the country. There were places where the road was a fine red dirt that coated the trucks. The road was very bumpy and the going was slow at points. Erosion was bad and there is no heavy machinery like we have in the states to grade the dirt. There were times that the road would split off in numerous directions. This was due to the fact that when it rained, one road would become impassable and drivers would go back and make another road. We asked how the drivers knew which one to take and found out that they follow the one that looks like it was most recently travelled. Makes sense to me. All the different roads would always converge back to the main route at some point down the line.
After several stops along the way to see numerous chameleons and other animals, we were told we were coming up on the Tropic of Capricorn. We soon came upon a sign next to the road that confirmed this fact. Everyone piled out and took pictures next to the sign and looked around a bit. Most of the group had left Paris together and had been awake for almost 24 hours, and as it was getting late in the day and there was a large clearing about fifty meters off the road we decided to camp for the evening.
We pulled off the road and into the clearing and everyone immediately began to explore the area. We tromped through and around the trees and found all sorts of animals. Klaus, Dimy and the drivers set up camp for us while we were gone. When we got back, all the tents were up and the dinner table had been set. Klaus brought over a bowl full of hot redskin peanuts that had been salted and heated in oil. They were so good that I almost burned my fingers stuffing my face.
We sat down to dinner as it got dark. We had bread and cheese, wine, more peanuts (at least I did) and a few other items. It was all very good and after we were done, we went to explore the campsite at night. We found many other animals as we walked.
I had mentioned to Suzi before we left on our trip that one thing I really was looking forward to was seeing the sky at night. I can tell you that I have never seen a sky like that in my life. We were so far from anything that the sky lit up like a Christmas tree. I could see every star it was so clear. It was truly a sight to see and after a while of stargazing, we all said our goodnights and crawled into our tents to get some rest.