We awoke at 5:30 am. I slept quite well considering that I have always had a problem sleeping when I'm hot. I guess we were all so tired from our first day that everyone slept well. It gets light very early in Madagascar during the summer. At times, we would wake up at 4:45 am and the sun would already be coming up.
Our hosts were very efficient. Klaus and his group were up before us and had breakfast already going. It was very tasty, consisting of French bread with jam and cheese, juice and coffee. The coffee there is a true eye-opener, very strong. While we ate, Klaus and his group began to strike camp and get packed up for the drive to Itampolo. We pulled all our luggage from our tents and they packed everything into the vehicles for us. We wandered around the campsite again, looking for more critters.
After everything was loaded, we all packed into the trucks and took off south. We knew that it was going to be another full day of driving. We continued on down Route 10, the now infamous dirt highway. Along the way, we stopped several times to take pictures of the indigenous wildlife. We spotted several chameleons along the way, mostly Oustalet's, one of the largest species. They are quite large and sometimes can get quite agitated when they are picked up. On one stop to see another chameleon, a flash of movement caught my eye. I walked over and saw a dung beetle rolling a nice little ball of poo across the ground. I had seen these on TV many times, but was really thrilled to see one doing its thing in the wild. I got a couple of pictures and took some video before everyone else came over to see it.
There are many small villages scattered throughout Madagascar, some of which are not even named. As we passed several of the smaller and more remote villages, we realized that very little traffic passes by, and three trucks passing through was an event, especially when those trucks were filled with tourists. The villagers would always turn to see who was going by, and the children would run out to the side of the road and wave. I told Suzi that I felt like I was in a parade, as we would all wave back as we passed by.
We had been travelling for a while on some very narrow roads. At times, the branches of trees were coming inside the trucks with us. We could see some zebu, the Malagasy version of cattle, through the trees at certain points. Around noon, we came upon a clearing with a pond in the middle. Several boys (some looked as young as 7 or 8) were herding the zebu to the pond. We decided to stop and take some pics and video. As we took our pictures, more and more zebu kept pouring out of the tree line. It seemed as if we had hit the community zebu watering hole. Most of the zebu would drink or walk right into the middle of the pond to cool off. It was really a sight to see.
We found several snakes and groups of very colorful butterflies around the pond. At one point, Bill offered a few bucks to the first of the local boys who could produce us a tortoise. They all scattered and we paid out to one who brought us a small turtle. We also realized that this pond was a place for the boys to cool off as well. Unaffected by the fact that scores of zebu had already washed (and probably relieved) themselves in the pond, we witnessed a few of the boys go in waist deep and splash water over their faces and heads. I don't think there is enough money to have made me get into that pond.
Since it was about noon, we decided to eat lunch by the pond. Klaus and his team set up our tables and broke out a really nice salad that had corn and tuna in it. It was very good, but it was also difficult to keep the flies at bay as we ate. A funny side note to our meal; before it was served, we asked Klaus what was in the salad. He told us that among other things it had what we heard as "mice" in it. After a few startled looks and some further questioning, we realized that he was saying "maize" (corn), but with his German accent we had misunderstood. Nothing against you Klaus if you are reading this, just our American ears are not used to hearing a lot of accents!
After a while, we packed up again and kept heading south. Around mid-afternoon, we stopped at the small village of Fanantenana for a pit stop. Several of the group had to take a restroom break. I didn't go, but from what I heard, the toilet was not very well maintained. After a cold drink, we loaded up again and kept going.
We stopped again in a small village that sold local art. Most of the art consisted of wood carvings. Suzi found a really cool looking carving of a zebu being attacked by a crocodile, but it was too big to take with us. We ended up buying a couple of carved masks. They had lemurs on them, and when Suzi asked about the lemurs, one of the men in the village carved rings onto their tails while we watched, making them ring-tailed lemurs.
We kept driving south from the art village for a few more hours, into the spiny desert. The dirt roads that we had been driving on for the better part of two days gave way to a fine white sand, and the temperature seemed to rise another 5 degrees. We stopped when one of the group spotted a spider tortoise by the side of the road. As this was one of the species that we were looking for, everyone took pictures and Chris, our tortoise expert, jotted down some info. The name "spiny desert" comes from the many different species of flora that are found there, most of which have some sort of spines on them. Even the tree trunks of certain trees were covered from the ground up with spines. I found the octopus trees very interesting, especially when we were told that they always lean to the south.
We continued on and drove out onto the beach at dusk. There was a small camping area we were heading for and, after 14 hours on the road, I think most of us were more than ready to get there. After some dune driving and a couple wrong turns, we ended up at the campsite. Klaus' team got all our tents set up for us as we explored the area. I saw a scorpion on the sand near our tents, which was interesting to me, as it was the first wild scorpion I have ever seen. We also found a small hole in the side of the dune near our tents that was inhabited by a spider. We got some very good pictures of him guarding the entrance to his burrow.
We found the bathroom/shower on top of a dune near our campsite. It was very rustic to say the least. It was built with wood and had a thatch roof. The interior was divided into two rooms by a stone wall. On one side was a European style toilet, which consisted of a hole in the floor with two footstands on either side. The shower side had a stone floor with a hole in the middle as well, and a bucket and a cup to shower with. The water to fill the bucket came from a well about 100 yards away. I had prepared myself for sparse facilities, but I wasn't sure if I was ready for something this sparse.
After a bit, everyone crawled into their tents to get some much needed rest.