Day 341, Year 5 An Ancient Baobab, A Baby Lemur
Date: Saturday, October 2, 2010
Weather: So Beautiful; Winds SE am, NW pm
Location: Moramba Bay, NW Madagascar

Today was one of those crystal clear blue sky days that you would like to bottle and open on a dreary, cold, rainy day. I got up at 5:30 am to watch the sun rise and to hopefully see the birds on the nearby limestone islands come to life. And just like clockwork, they did. The sun came up and all of sudden the parrots were squawking and flying away in pairs and the black and the white Dimorphic Egrets were shaking out their wings and flying off for a day of hunting. The winds were blowing from the SE which was just about the direction we wanted to go in order to cross the bay and get to the sacred island our Rotary friend Wendy told us about. But my theory was that if we waited until 10:30, the SE winds would calm down. And sure enough, it happened that way. So we dinghied the three miles across to the sacred island. It is called sacred because there are many caves there where the Sakalava people bury their dead. For the Sakalava, it is fady (not kosher) for pigs to walk over a grave, and since there are African wild boars on the mainland, the islands are the only retreat. Probably only the most influential make it to this remote island, but we’ll never know as we didn’t visit any of the caves. We have heard that it is fady, basically forbidden to do this. So instead, we put our energy into finding the reported 2,000 year-old African baobab on the island. Without Wendy’s directions we would never have found it, but how exciting it was to see this tree with a girth of almost 50 feet. We walked around the tree counter-clockwise which we have heard brings good luck and at our height it measured 42.5 feet around. But it was actually bottle-shaped and bigger around further up, thus my estimate of 50 feet. While we were during this, our son Justin and his wife Jo and Ziggy were walking through the Redwood giants in California. We’ve been there and both experiences are overwhelming.

The wind completely died while we were on the sacred island so we had a good trip back across. We headed for Momma Lemur beach where we had seen so many lemurs when we were here before and a couple of them had wee babies. We were so looking forward to seeing them six weeks older. But were we ever in for a shock. We landed the dinghy and saw no sign of lemurs. Since they had usually been in the trees right on the beach we were a bit surprised. So we started walking back to the places where we had seen them when they weren’t on the beach and we saw that all of the bamboo forest had turned brown. At first we attributed that to dry weather, but then we saw the evidence of burning. The whole hillside above the beach had been burned and there were paths of burning all around the trees where they lemurs used to hang out. The paths were so controlled that it looked like someone walked around dripping gasoline and then lighting the area, and then someone else came along behind with sand and threw it on the fire to put it out. We went to the next beach where we had seen juvenile lemurs and found the same thing. The only burning on that beach was back around the tree where the juveniles used to hang out. We were greatly saddened, fearing that someone had started the fires to burn out the lemurs in order to catch them. Later in the afternoon we went back to the beach near where we are anchored and found the lemurs there and actually saw a mother with her baby. We were so excited. We can only hope that the other lemurs escaped the fire and found safety in a new home. At least the lemurs on Big Baobab beach are alive and well and so beautiful.

We talked to our daughter Heather late in the afternoon to continue our quick call on her birthday morning. She had a great birthday and Sam told us all about his monster truck-his favorite toy at the moment. Jonah kisses the phone and makes the Dinah Shore kissing sound of “mmumwah” and then says “bye.” How much he has grown up since this time last year.