It was a beautiful morning when we woke up on the beach on New Years' Eve. The sky was clear blue and the temperature had still not crept into the triple digits. We crawled out of our tents and began looking around our campsite, as we hadn't seen it in daylight yet. The beach was beautiful, and we saw the local fishermen were already out on the water. A few of our tour group decided to take a dip in the ocean, but Suzi and I decided to get cleaned up.
We grabbed our soap and toilet paper and made the trip up the dune to the shower/restroom to see what we would need. We realized that the door to the shower was not actually hinged to the frame, and we would have to stand guard for each other. We took the plastic bucket from the shower area and brought it to the well to fill up. Suzi went in first while I stood guard. After she was done, it was my turn. I am not a big fan of showering with cold water, and had never used a bucket and cup before. It did feel good to get the layer of dirt off me, as it had been 3 days since my last shower, however it is difficult to get really clean by dumping water over your head from a cup. Once I had finished, we got dressed for the days' hike.
The activity for the day was to drive out to a large plateau and find and research radiated tortoises. We left camp at about 10 am. The temperature was already close to 100, and the sun was shining bright. After a while, the road started to slope upwards toward the plateau. It was extremely rocky, and we couldn't get the trucks all the way up the hill before we had to get out. We had to walk a few hundred yards uphill, which in the heat of the day was difficult. By the time we got to the top, Suzi had to take a rest in a shady spot under a baobab tree.
The ground on the plateau was very sandy, and there were many different types of spiny plants there. We found several radiated tortoises in the shade of the baobab trees and proceeded to do some research. We took weights and measurements, looked for any that may be eating (and what they were eating) and looked for any other interesting info. I helped a little, but was more fascinated with checking out the plants and surrounding area. I know that I heard lemurs at one point, but never saw them. After recording our data, we explored a little more and found an opening to what I'm guessing was a cave. No one wanted to get to close to the opening, but I really would have loved to have seen down inside. One of us grabbed a large rock and threw it in, counting the time it took until we heard it hit bottom. I think we made it to a count of 3 or 4, so if anyone can tell me how deep that is I'd appreciate it.
Soon it was time to leave the plateau and head back to camp. We got back to our camp site hot and tired. We lazily sat around under the shade of the meal hut. There was a large sea turtle shading itself under an old car off on the sand. We had lunch and prepared for the activities for the rest of the day.
Later that day, we moved to a small hotel on the beach a few kilometers away. I can't remember the name of it, but when we walked into the dining/bar area, I was reminded of a small Key West type bar. There were all kinds of decorations around. We got our keys to our rooms, which did not amount to much more than a hut with a door. They were actually quite nice, and definitely the best accommodations we had had to date. There was a toilet and a shower, but no hot water. Oh well, can't have it all. Klaus and Bill had gone out earlier to arrange our wedding in the village and we cleaned up and dressed for the occasion.
It began to get dark, and Bill let us know it was time to leave for Itampolo. Everyone loaded into the vehicles and we headed out. Ray wasn't feeling so well, so he stayed behind. We drove back over the dunes and into the village. We pulled up in front of the mayor's office and got out to look around. A couple of the local residents offered Suzi and I sarongs, which we both put on.
When the time to start came, we were all led into the office of the mayor. There was no electricity in the building, and the light was provided by candles. We sat down at the desk and the mayor made a short speech. We had given Bill our rings, and after the mayor was finished speaking, Bill gave him the rings and he put them back on our fingers. We were then asked to sign the record book for the village, and after Suzi and I shook the mayors hand, we were married.
We went back into the front room of the office, where the villagers had set up a large table for all of us to have dinner. There was a group of local girls that had been asked to sing for us, and after quite a long musical interlude we sat down to eat. The food was quite good, consisting of stewed turkey (the ones from the basket at the airport when we arrived) and a heaping bowl of rice. After the meal, we thanked our hosts and headed back to the hotel.
We were all extremely tired when we arrived back at the hotel at around 9:00 pm. Most of our group decided to go to bed, but a few of us stayed in the bar area to talk for a bit. Klaus let us know he had a surprise for us, and produced a few bottles of chilled champagne to celebrate new years with us. All of us were very grateful, but we were all so tired that we knew we wouldn't make it to midnight. We thanked Klaus, and he put the champagne away for another day. Shortly after, we went to our bungalow to get a good nights sleep before the long trip back to Toliara the next morning.