Sunday, 26 February 2012

Mad Reunion

There has just been a significant anniversary of the CROCODILE CAVES OF MADAGASCAR EXPEDITION and t'other weekend six of the original team gathered. Our expedition yielded a clutch of academic papers, a fine spread in BBC Wildlife magazine, a book - Lemurs of the Lost World, and most important of all we also achieved proper protection of the crucial Ankarana Reserve in the north of the island. So what did we talk about most?
Food... We reminisced about the awfulness of rice and bean stew dinners; we spoke of breakfasts of left-over cold boiled rice - topped with sugar or if we were feeling particularly decadent - tutti-fruitti jam, and we recalled the glorious moment (after the dried bananas had run out) when Sally Crook arrived at base camp with Mars chocolate bars for all.

Anne reminded me too of the Puke-bird. I didn't immediately recall the species but it called an increasingly frenetic caw-caw-caw-Caw-CAW and climaxed - unappetisingly - in a sound resembling someone retching. Then story reminded me that we'd been compiling lists of all the animals of the reserve and recorded seven of the fourteen members of the endemic Vangidae family. Rather like Darwin’s finches, each Vanga species has a bill of different size and shape, designed for different feeding strategies. They also seemed to have very different calls. One wolf-whistled. Our puke-bird was a striking black and white bird, the size of a raven, with a long curved slender beak which gave it its common name, the Sicklebilled Vanga. They flew around in disorganised rowdy flocks, often egged on by an attendant Drongo. When at their most excited they broke into paroxysms of caw-caw-caws, followed by a disgusting noise like someone vomiting. If we imitated their call, they became all the more excited and every member of the flock of twenty or so Sicklebills would all start to Caw-caw- caw ... puke! It wasn’t only us that wound them up. One morning a rabble of Sicklebills landed in a tree close to a troop of resting lemurs and an amazing shouting match broke out. The lemurs became terribly agitated and all started grunting frantically and penduluming their tails. The Sicklebills stayed put, so the lemurs let out a shrill volley of ear-piercing shrieks which upset the Sicklebills enough to make them fly away.

Sharing time with people on expeditions, you see people at their best and at their worst (retching for example). Small thoughtfulnesses are long-remembered. Lasting friendships form. So, comfortable in each others company even after years apart, we spent a wonderfully no-airs-or-graces relaxed and enjoyable weekend together. It was a good reunion; well I thought so anyway. It was only sad that the team remain so intrepid that others were away in interesting places. Take a look at Paul's website for example

Taking a break from clinic work in the primary schol at Morondava


  1. Absolutely loving your new blog and all this fantastic news about the new editions, new covers, new inclusions of nepali words... most of all am just so glad that the horizons for Glimpses are opening up more and more. Many congratulations!! Keep up with the blog :)

  2. Thanks for your generous support, and I was delighted to read you've an embryo screenplay. I'll look forward to seeing the first performance!