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After a nice breakfast we headed back into Ranohira town to pick up our guide. Mammy joined us and we headed into Isalo National Park. There are many trails but the main circuit takes you up onto the massif and along a nice cliff area. There are incredible views and it is pretty decent trail wise.

The massif is a Jurassic era sandstone butte, 180km long and 25km wide. The massif was probably once a shallow ocean, or at least part of the coastline before Madagascar broke off from mainland Africa. When it hit another tectonic plate, the mountain was thrust up. You can find fossils up here – we did not but our lodge has quite a collection. The whole mountain range has been a protected national park since the 1960’s.

We hiked up about 1km in then 4.5km along the crest. There is a view point at the start of the crest where we spent a few minutes in awe. This place is beautiful. Photos don’t do it justice.

Selfie on the high point.

The grassy plateau where we took in the views.

At another viewpoint looking out over the village below, just outside the park.

Looking down into the valley where we hiked down the 234 steps.

Sandstone cliffs and out cropping all eroded in amazing shapes (including one that looks like a crocodile!)

Mammy showed us the endemic pachypodium lamerai (means elephant feet). It is a succulent plant that sucks up water during the rainy season then looks weird the rest of the year. Just after the rainy season it grows leaves and flowers. Shortly after the leaves and flowers fall off. The top plant in the photo below is over 250 years old and about 36″ tall. Slow grower for sure. They are very odd plants and look vaguely metallic.

There are lots of these huge Golden Web spiders that are bright red and black. The web is actually a gold colour. They are about 3″ across before including legs. That teeny spider in the photo would be a good sized one at home for reference.

After about 4km of walking steadily up the crest of the massif it was time to head down. 234 steep steps down. Darn hard on the knees. Then the trail got technical. However the work was worth it. Carl has asked us yesterday if we’d like lunch cooked at the campsite. We’ve learned over the years to always say yes when asked for this type of ad hoc thing. We sort of figured some small operation, you know one guy cooking some chicken over a fire. Nope this is a thing. And a good thing at that. We were one group of about fifteen or so. The campsite, 2km into the park was a mini restaurant. Probably 15 staff, cloth table clothes and an open grill bbq.

Our table as we arrived.

Oh yeah, smart guys they are. Beer, coke and water as an add on sale. Like I said, smart. Kept cold in the creek just hidden in that background greenery.

We got to busy enjoying our potato salad, grilled chicken and rice pilaf lunch to think to actually take a photo of any of it. It was gooooood.

Ring-tailed lemurs and white Sifaka are endemic here. There is only one White Sifaka left in this area after a large fire last November – the others in the group moved territories. They do not live in large groups like Common Brown or Ringtails. If you ever watched the Zaboomafu kids show, this is his relative. They dance across the ground in this kind of polka jump. We were never fast enough to catch it on video but it is very entertaining to see. These lemurs eat leaves and flowers and don’t need to drink water.

Staying Alive pose???

There are also Ringtail Lemurs here. A big family group of them. Their faces are so expressive. Ringtails have become Dave’s favourite.

There were lazing about as we ate.

After our very nice lunch we headed up the creek to view a couple of pools. After a bit of a walk through the dry forest, we literally walked along, over and through the creek bed. Where there were huge boulders crossing the path, some ingenious person carved steps right into them so we could walk over them (can’t go under it, can’t go around it, gotta go over it)

The Blue Pool so named because when the sun hits the water right, it is a bright blue.

Then another 100m or so is the the black pool. So named because it is many meters deep.

Despite the rough trail conditions it was worth the effort. So beautiful. We chose not to partake, but a German family who came to the pool right after us decided to go for a (cold) swim.

A couple shots of the trail.

After our adventures it was time to head back to the hotel pool and relax a bit. Last night at Le Fenetre we met a woman from Vancouver – the west side no less. She and Kris spent a few minutes sharing stories. Small world. But we also learned from her that Madagascar produces a world famous rum. We didn’t know this. Of course Dave had to try some so when we were at the pool today we ordered some. This is sipping rum so when we ordered guava juice and rum we got, well guava juice and another glass of rum. Glad it came that way. Dzama Amber rum is amazing straight. It’s shipped worldwide so if you like spirits, go find some and enjoy. The rum is produced on the island of Nosy Be, which we will be visiting at the end of our trip. Some rum might find its way into our suitcase! Definitely a nice way to relax by the pool after a nice exploration day. Life is hard for us, not!

Tomorrow we visit a sapphire ‘mine’ and hopefully see another species of lemur at another National Park.

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