Thursday, August 31, 2006

Lemurs and Malagasy Rock Bands by Nicola Jane Barratt

Lemurs and Malagasy rock bands - Aug 31, 2006

Did our first excursion on Saturday. Drove out of town for about an
hour to get to a private lemur reserve. The total distance was about
20 km (14 miles) but this took an hour! The winding streets of Tana
are very crowded, especially on Saturday. There are lots of
rickshaws, small ones for carrying a single passenger and large one
for carrying goods to market, like vegetables or rice. Some carts
drawn by oxen, some scooters, motorcycles, lots of minibus and taxis -
which are mostly old 2CV's from France and a few giant SUV's like

Two or three storey brick buildings line these narrow streets. They
have steeply peaked clay tile roofs with spires at the corners, and
balconies with carved wooden or wrought iron railings. The ground
floors are mostly little shops, some with strings of sausages and
dryings chickens and ducks hanging in the doorways, others full of
spice bins, others selling mobile phone scratch cards.

The roads wind through town then go for miles along dikes built up
between the rice paddies which fill every low spot around town. The
countryside opens up, hills with gold and brown grass, scattered
trees, larger homes built in French country style, villages of
highland Malagasy homes - tall mud brick, chickens and pigs on the
ground floor - cooking and dining on the second and sleeping on the
upper floors under those same steeply peaked roofs.

The Lemur Park has 9 species living free in groves of bamboo. They
are mostly rescued lemurs as there are no lemurs native to this part
of the island. A river forms one boundary of the reserve - lemurs
don't swim so it keeps them in! We see sifaka, crowned sifaka, brown
lemurs, ring-tailed lemurs, mouse lemurs, ruffed lemurs and others.
Our favorite is the sifaka or "dancing lemur". They are called this
because they always move on two legs - but they don't walk - they
bounce or leap, up to 7 m (22 feet)! They love to bounce down the
bamboo fence railings that run along the river - leaping after each
other - wonderful to watch. Then they sit and eat leaves or the fruit
which is put out for them.

Saturday night in Tana there is a "rock concert" out in front of the
gorgeous 19th century train station. A stage is set up and two
different bands play - sounds like a combination of jazz and Santana
with Malagasy lyrics. There are stalls set up that sell snacks and
drinks. Lots of bottles rum and fruit juice combos, Three Horses
beer, beef brochettes, cookies and crackers. We listen for a while
then go out for a lovely French meal in a quaint restaurant up a
winding cobblestone street.

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