how many trees? part three.

July 11

near Tsaratanana
the forest corridor, near Tsaratanana

More inventory today, and we had a blast. We each fall over about six times in the course of a day in the forest, and spend the rest of the day laughing about it. We actually inventoried nine placettes today though! Huge. And only two left to do tomorrow, and voanjobory for breakfast. Jour de fête!

Inventory! This porter was one of the most industrious people I've ever encountered.
Inventory! This porter was one of the most industrious people I’ve ever encountered.

Oh, embarrassing moment though. I was totally exhausted by the end of the day, and Augustin shouted to me to estimate the height of one of the trees, while he hovered his pen over the log book.

“Umm… entre 13 et 14 metres.” This is what was happening in my head, and would have been pretty accurate, but what came out of my mouth was “entre treize et quarante.” (“Between thirteen and forty.”)

Augustin and Sarah looked at me as if they had misunderstood. “Quoi?”

“Entre treize et quarante.”

“Liz, WHAT?”

(I’m frustrated now.) “ENTRE TREIZE ET QUARANTE.”

“I think you mean ‘quatorze’.”



July 12

Today Augustin told us that we might as well stay at camp, since there were only two placettes left to do and we were surely exhausted. We were, but not desperately so. Still, we did stay, and used the time to work on writing and filming our videos for the WWF website. But now its raining, and we’ve been in the tent for like five hours, including while we ate dinner. UGH.

dinner in the tent
dinner in the tent

Since Jamila and Sarah have both gotten quite sick during the trip, they’re super cautious about drinking ranomapongo (a sort of tea that’s made from boiling the burnt rice on the bottom of the pot) and coffee, and I really love both of those things. I’m looking forward to meeting up with the boys, who will eat and drink anything, so that it doesn’t look like I’m on a solo suicide mission every time I drink anything. I trust Augustin, he knows that I have a weenie white girl’s stomach and that the water has to be boiled to be safe for us. Maybe I’m too comfortable… I mean, I’ll get tested for parasites and stuff when I get home. I feel like now is the time for me to be savouring the experience of camping in a canvas tent on an island in the middle of a swamp, surrounded by ravinala trees, shivering and drinking sweet coffee with a dozen porters wrapped in fluorescent coloured fleece blankets in the morning mist. Sigh.

July 13

kids in Tsaratanana, practicing for their album cover photo
kids in Tsaratanana, seemingly practicing for their album cover photo

It’s noon-ish and we’re back in Tsaratanana, and I’ve already eaten three bananas today, so it’s looking like a good day. The porters just came into the hut, after getting paid, to shake our hands and say goodbye before heading back to their families. It was sad to watch them go. I’ve spent so much time with them over the past month or so, and it’s not as if we can easily keep in touch or anything. In fact, we had a hard enough time communicating (verbally at least) while we were together, but we got along wonderfully and definitely formed some sort of bond. Especially the wily guy with the jeans (note – he is pictured above, measuring a tree) and the cute one who built the table. Great great people.

They all wanted to be in Jamila's photo, so while she was climbing up the hill, they climbed onto the roof!
They all wanted to be in Jamila’s photo, so while she was climbing up the hill, they climbed onto the roof!

We were talking with Augustin today about Canada. We mentioned how cool we find it that the women clean the black bottoms of their cooking pots on the riverbanks by using their feet to scrub sand and coarse grass over them. It’s super effective and it’s sort of social for them – they stand around scrubbing and chatting. Augustin asked, “what, your pots don’t get black on the bottom in Canada?” And we explained that no one really cooks on fire all the time in Canada. He thought that was pretty hilarious. And when we asked about buying rice mats (like those that are on the floor of every hut) to hang on our walls at home, he said, “what, no one sits on the floor to eat?” We said that everyone pretty much always eats at a table, with a chair. I thought Augustin was going to pass out, he was laughing so hard! A table?! Bahahha! Augustin has a wonderful laugh.

July 14

This morning was sort of melancholy, for some reason. Sarah woke up feeling homesick, which was too bad. Also, we’re leaving Tsaratanana today, and I’ve grown really attached to the place. I just bought a beautiful rice mat, with purple patterns woven in, made by the Coba president’s wife. I knew that I’d buy some to take home, but the fact that I know the woman who crafted it makes it so special, I’m stoked. The Coba president just told me that they’re going to start growing voanjobory here in November, and he knows that they’re my favourite, so he said I’ll just have to come back and get some. Ha! I wish. It’s times like these that make me jealous of Ryan for having the opportunity to live here for a few years. I feel so welcome here, and the kids are peeking in the door and getting excited every time I smile at them, and there’s a mouth-watering smell drifting from the fire. It’s so simple and lovely. (Note – I’m typing this up now, glued to a laptop, and I absolutely miss this Tsaratanana scene.)

imagine how great this photo would be if my eyes were open
imagine how great this photo would be if my eyes were open


We walked to Antaninary this afternoon; actually, we’re in sort of the next village over, Anarasoa. It’s super beautiful and close to the forest corridor, which looks promisingly dense and lush. Ooh la la, a serious tropical humid forest! The walk here was tough for me, because I was having issues with sand getting in those awful and enormous blisters on the bottom of my feet. I don’t want to get too gruesome, but suffice it to say, I was sort of anxious to arrive. We’re staying here in the village tonight and tomorrow night, I think, and then the next day we’ll head up into the forest to meet the other team at their campsite. It’s going to be funny though, because they’ll be excited, thinking that we’ll bring cookies and/or chocolate or anything novel, really. But we have nothing. Straight up rice and beans, and that is it. Ha!

During dinner we met the Coba president, and one of the villagers who’s working as a porter came down from the campsite to have dinner with his family – I guess it’s only 45 minutes walk or so, so they sort of commute. He reported that Ryan’s feet are completely mangled and infected from all the parasites and leeches and other various cuts and craters, and he’s been sitting at camp, bored out of his mind, for like four days. Brutal!

chameleon moving way too fast
chameleon moving way too fast

July 15

It rained like mad last night on our little tent on top of this hill. I kept waking up and hoping that we did a decent job setting it up so that we wouldn’t wake up to a total disaster. But I guess experience has taught us well, and we remained pretty much dry. And my mind has officially been blown. This village has a WC! (An outhouse.) I guess they built it this month after Charles had been in town doing his household surveys, and now we get to use it! Phenomenal. And, if people actually use it, it’s so great for the village. Normally, people just do their thing wherever they want, often not even out of sight. It’s a germophobe’s nightmare, and with good reason. WCs are a huge step.


AHHHHHH the boys are here! Too too excited. They woke up to this sort of gloomy, rainy day and heard the rumour that we had arrived in the village, so they all took the day off and came to hang out with us. They said that the campsite is on top of an enormous waterfall and is totally gorgeous, and we can shower in it! Drool. I’m beyond excited. In other news, the pervy “Michel” mustache that Charles began cultivating before we left Vondrozo has reached a truly amazing level of “Michel”-ness. I love love love it. We sat around and chatted (and gawked at poor Ryan’s destroyed feet), until Charles decided to take it to the next level and bought two litres of tokagasy, the local moonshine. It came in a jeri-can and a broken off Coke bottle, and was full of floating dead flies, besides the fact that it tastes like ass and fruity jet fuel. But we drank some, of course, and played cards (mostly Go-Fish, since I know no card games). They left, sadly, but we’re moving up there tomorrow.

Charles... I mean "Michel" and Jamila
Charles… I mean “Michel” and Jamila

July 16


Last night was like a weird trippy dream. We were sort-of-almost sleeping when we heard a deep growling right outside our tent door, and assumed it was a dog. But the growling persisted and did not sound like any dog that we’d ever heard, and then we heard a pack of the village dogs come over and confront the mystery beast, barking and fighting with it, within metres of where we were huddled, terrified, in our sleeping bags. The mystery beast never barked though, and we figure that if it was a dog, it would have. Maybe it was a fosa? Weird. Jamila was out of her mind though! She was on the side of the tent closest to the riot, and she leaped on top of Sarah and I, which was hilarious. What a weird night. I also had to pee like never before, and I didn’t want to go outside, even after the noises had stopped. The words “rabies shot” kept flashing in my head. So I ignored my body’s urges and went to sleep. I think I’m going to pay for this biological denial sooner or later.


approaching the waterfall, with camp at the tippy top
approaching the waterfall, with camp at the tippy top

We’re here! The waterfall is incredible, and I washed my hair. BUT I dropped my soap dish, which fell to its death 200m below. Oh well. I am speechless.


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