Today’s destination is Isalo, home of the famous Window Rock. In route, we pass farms studded by large granite outcrops. With 91% of the country now deforested, it’s hard to imagine this land was once completely covered in forest. An hour or so into our journey, we pull over to visit a silk house. Here they harvest, treat and spin silk. This particular house works with wild and farmed silk moths. The process is done entirely by hand and it is unbelievable to see from start to finish. The product – gorgeous scarves, hats and purses. Some of the products are left natural, others dyed royal blue, green and vibrant red.
Back on the bus, we’re now headed to Anja Park. The further south we go the more numerous and grand the granite outcrops become. Peering out the window, I spot the magnificent giants known as 3 Sisters. Jolting out of the ground, they stretch mightily towards the heavens. Our guide, Ludo, told us at breakfast we would have the opportunity to see this well-known landmark but his description did not do it justice!
The numerous granite outcrops serve the people in this region as sacred burial spots and they bury their dead in the cliffs. After allowing the bodies some time to rest, the bones are washed and lifted into high crevices. Often you can find zebu remains next to the burial sites where they have been offered as sacrifices.
Leaving the park, we drive through large herds of zebu, none of which seemed to be in any hurry. Before my eyes, the land once again changed, shifting from high plateaus of granite to lowland sandstone. We made it to Satrana Lodge just in time for dinner and a quick shower before the power was turned off for the night. For the most part, power in Madagascar is shut off from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. Well, the places that have power, that is! However, the dark does have its benefits. That night I saw the stars as I have never seen them before. Without any light pollution, the phenomena that is the Milky Way appeared to span across the sky as a sea of twinkling crystal.
The next morning, we’re off to Isalo National Park. The park is home to some very forward brown lemurs and a VERY small population of sifaka that were all but extirpated by a fire not long ago. Fresh water springs flow throughout the park and form a natural swimming pool. A group of us climbed to the top of one of the isalos and were treated to a marvelous view of the valley and some really cool specialized plants. We gathered by the river for lunch and that is when I learned just how forward the lemurs could be. A very curious brown lemur came down to investigate our group. We’re all oohing and aweing over how cute she is when all of the sudden she runs straight up to me, proceeds to climb up me onto my outstretched arm and steal my banana! I was shocked!
Leaving the little banana thief to enjoy her meal, we made our way down the mountain side. We made it to the site of Window Rock with time to spare. The sunset was another spectacular end to the adventures of the day!