Last nights rain blew over and I woke up to magnificent blues skies without a cloud in sight. I was at the park office by eight thirty and off with a guide and provisions (water and bread for lunch - as you're required to supply the guide as well I don't think he was happy with me) by nine thirty. The circuit I'd picket out was 22 km (just over thirteen miles) - not too bad for a day hike, but the catch was I wanted to be back in town around two so I could start the long haul back to Toliara. The time factor, the terrain, the heat, and the fact that I'm just not in very good shape made for a difficult hike.
We (my guide, La-la, and I) hiked up into the escarpment. There's really a series of sandstone escarpments (or I guess ridges) with valleys and streams winding through - quite a maze. We hiked over one of these ridges and down in between another to a place called the Piscine Naturelle (Natural swimming pool) - it would have been a great place to swim. Unfortunately I didn't bring a suite - despite recommendations from the guide book and every tourist I've spoken to. When we got there we had it to ourselves - a large pond partly covered by a grotto and fed from a waterfall. Unfortunately two groups showed up while we were there. Next hike was the longest and toughest. Over several ridges and up and down too many canyons to remember, but we ended up a the "Frog Falls" (I can't remember the French name) - another beautiful spot for a swim. A slightly larger pond almost completely in a cave with a huge waterfall into the middle. From there is was a scramble down a steep canyon to a road and an easy hike back to Ranohira. The last kilometer into town the clouds started racing over the mountains and by the time we got to the outskirts constant thunder and occasional drop was hurrying us home. By this point I was pretty much a wreck - I really had to push myself, but we made it back by two! It really was a beautiful hike and I really would have preferred to spend a few days in the park instead of just a long morning.
Back in Ranohira I drank several liters of water and realized that I must be destined not to see any wildlife. Isalo National Parks is supposed to be one of the best places to see lemurs and colorful frogs - I saw neither. Actually the closest thing to wildlife I've seen in Madagascar (ignoring the insects) was a little brown toad in the W.C. last night. Assuming I can arrange it a trip to Berenty Nature Reserve - outside of Tolanaro (Fort Dauphin) - on Sunday is going to be my last chance to see some of Madagascar's famous wildlife.
Had a little difficulty with the taxi-brusse to the nearby sapphire mining town (never did figure out it's name, but it's where I can catch a ride to Toliara) - I thought they were trying to rip me off - finally agreed to pay half of what they originally asked and was still convinced that I was paying to much - but then I saw a local pay as much for a shorter segment. In the mining town I found a taxi-brusse going my way and asked how much it was. I was told thirty thousand (I'd paid twenty-five on the way) - I insisted that I knew the price was twenty and eventually the price came down to twenty-five. But the guy I was bargaining with was annoying me so I paid the driver with a twenty-five thousand note - he just glared at the guy and gave me five thousand change. The guy was pretty pissed - especially as there was a pretty good sized crowd laughing at him.
Another hour and a half wait for the van to fill up (another brand new one - less than 10,000 km on it) and we were off. I wasn't going to make it by dark as I'd hoped, but we weren't going to be to late. Pulled in to Toliara shortly after a fantastic sunset. I picked a cheap hotel out of the guide book and was pleasantly surprised. No hot water, but a very good restaurant, lovely garden, and clean bungalows. Since as far as I know I'm still waitlisted on tomorrows flight I want to be there early. After arranging for a five thirty taxi, eating, and packing for the plane I could barely keep my eyes open - I know I'm going to sleep well tonight!