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August 2, 2003

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Someone must get paid by the letter in Madagascar, because all of the names have a few extra syllables added. Some example city names: Fianarantsoa, Antananarivo, Ambatondrazaka, and our favorite, Zazafotsy. Most people shorten all of the names to just two syllables. Today we started in Fianar (short for Fianarantsoa). Traditionally, the heaviest missionary activity occured here, so Fianar is a bastion of Catholicism. Church spires compete with the mountains for dominance of the city's skyline. For us it's too cold in these mountains, so we make our way east to the rainforests of Ranomafana National Park. We hope to see some lemurs there. But first we need to cope with the roadways. The park lies only 90 kilometers from here - an hour drive on decent roads. We expect to complete the trip in 4 hours.

When you're in a taxi-brousse, everyone is on the same team. That means if one person has to stop for a reason, no matter how trivial, the rest of the passengers patiently wait.
A boat would be a better option for this road.
By nightfall we reached Ranamofana Park (it took us 5 hours). We toured the park at night and saw nocturnal lemurs. The shy, diminutive mouse lemur and the much larger red bellied lemur both came to investigate our banana supply.
The mouse lemur is the smallest primate in the world, it's 28 cm long including tail and weighs only 1 lb. It sleeps in tree holes or leaf nests during the day but can be seen at night when it leaves its nest to feed on flowers, insects, and young leaves.