One Day In Madagascar
Photos & Text by Audra Barrios
I wake up to a sting on my arm. Without opening my eyes, I roll over and swat at my arm only to be stung again on my hand. I sit up quickly and feel around the dark tent for my headlamp and glasses. It takes me a second to find the culprit: a tiny scorpion, the size of dime. I put it into a cup so that we could ID it if I started to react badly to the venom.
What would I even do if I reacted badly? I am sleeping in a hot tent in a mango grove next to a village so small, there wasn't even a market. We crossed two rivers on boats to get here, because there are no bridges. The dirt roads we spent hours traveling on don't show up on maps. I am in the middle of nowhere and aching from scorpion venom making it's way though my arm. My mind races as I lay back down and pull my sarong over me. I am afraid to fall asleep, worried I might have an allergic reaction to the venom that is making my hand throb. Eventually sleep finds me.
The next morning, our Malagasy guide Coco, a large man with dreadlocks and tattoos wakes us early. My arm aches and I feel slightly nauseous, but ready to go. We eat a breakfast of French bread, jelly, tea and mangos. There are so many mangos that the air is sweet and the ground is sticky. Children throw them into the river. Dogs chew them.
We load up into the jeep as the world around us begins to wake up. The road is one lane of sandy soil surrounded by dry forest. The bumpy car ride and early morning lulls me to sleep. It isn't long before our car rolls off the road and everyone that was sitting next to me is on top of me. Our driver has taken a curve to quickly and our car is briefly stuck on it's side with two wheels spinning in the air. He is able to un-flip the jeep and we continued on our way.
When we arrive to the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, we are equipped with harnesses. We begin our hike through a dry forest, leaves crunch under our feet. Praying mantises and chameleons camouflage in the brush. A group of crowned lemurs moves through the vegetation that has grown around the rock formations. Day geckos watch us from high above in the trees. Giant blue snails and millipedes with bright red legs also call this place home. Fossils of their ancestors are imbedded in the limestone.
Some of the critters from Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park & immediate surroundings:
I flip on my headlight as we make our way into a cave that sparkles. At the end of the cave, it opens up to the sun. There is a steel ladder, at the top we clip our harnesses to the cable and begin our ascent to the top of these jagged rocks. We climb up, over and through the formations along suspension bridges and stairs carved into the rock. Twisted Euphorbias, plants covered in spines grow in the crevics.
This was one day
of 50 on the island. For the past 10 years I have worked with animals from Madagascar in captivity and it was my obsession with wanting to see these animals in the wild that lead me to make the 35+ hour voyage across the world to this island. It was beautiful, exhausting, & amazing.
I can't wait to share it with you.