On Feb 19th we were supposed to leave for St. Luce, a conservation zone 30km north of Fort Dauphin. However, when we all showed up for the trip at 7:30 am, it wasn’t quite clear what was happening. The confusion might have had something to do with the cyclone that was predicted to hit us head on. So, the combination of a legit cyclone and the horrible roads meant that the profs weren’t so sure that we could make it back from St. Luce if we happened to make it there in the first place. So, we (the SIT kids and the Centre Ecologique de Libanoana students) all waited for 3 long hours only to be disappointed when Jim told us that we would be heading to Mandena instead of St. Luce and we wouldn’t be camping. I’ll be honest. We were all crushed, mainly because we had been anticipating and looking forward to the camping and hanging out together portion of the trip all of the previous week. However, we did still get to do our field research on a littoral forest, so that was quite fun (no sarcasm). We spent all day whacking through the dense forest while it poured on our heads. Probably the funniest part of it was when they told us that we had to move an 8-meter pole through the forest upright for 50 meters to measure the vertical plant structure. It had been a struggle to get ourselves through the forest, let alone an unbendable giant pole…so we attempted that for all of two meters before they decided that it would be easier to use a metal pole that broke down into four 2-meter sections. Never-the-less, it was still exhausting work and we must have had at least 15 liters of water dumped onto our heads from whacking all the tree branches.
The second day ended up being much nicer, so we were able to camp that night, which was superb. Anna and I set up shop next to each other so for about five minutes there was the concentrated smell of the L. L. Bean store, as we both have the same Beans tent. After a night of swapping stories between the CEL and SIT students, we woke up to a group of bamboo lemurs near the latrines. Let me tell you, everyone suddenly felt the urge to use the restroom once word spread around. It was also our first wild sighting of Madagascar’s finest, Hallelujah.