Wow what a week! Our nine hour trek dodging the downpours back to Marolambo seems a long time ago and we are feeling more familiar with our friendly town in the jungle.
A firm routine has been established here in Marolambo, which dances between our morning dose of nemes and ramananika at Madame Olivette to our evenings with Chez Martin, who has never failed to produce a wonderful meal. We’ve have been constantly surprised with delicacies from eels, zebu, chicken, duck, carrot and cucumber salads and even the occasional mananasse (juicy pineapples!)- we have been spoilt by her friendly hospitality. I lie here now on our final night with only the gloom of the Milky Way above to write this final blog in the bush. We all lie contented with our share of the 200 brochettes sitting rather heavily I suspect in our rice adapted bellies but beer, brochettes and beans are the perfect final dinner!
Our last week has consisted of our now much rehearsed routine of methods, microscopy and treatment for Ampassambola and Marolambo so we’ve certainly been kept busy and occupied. Although the rain did make an appearance for a few days and added a damp dimension to our jungle experience, the sunshine returned and we have been blessed with golden rays for our last few days.
With methods completed we treated ourselves to a couple of afternoons off; these we maximised by some lovely trekking to two waterfalls. The first waterfall, some 6 miles from downtown Marolambo took us on some muddy tracks and our guide soon realised our ‘vasa pace’ would extend the 40 minute estimate to a 90 minute expedition. Sure enough through a very muddy track we reached a beautiful waterfall, with an exciting whirlpool which tested our fingernail strength to hold onto the surrounding rocks. Our waterfall competition however was unanimously won by our third and final waterfall of the trip- known to the locals as the ‘steaming waterfall’ it is truly spectacular. Having the entire fall to ourselves, we enjoyed sunbathing, paddling, swimming, reading and tucking into our picnic of ramanonika, mofo gasse and mananasse- pure paradise! Do look out for some photos!
We couldn’t afford too much fun though as the team have worked exceptionally hard with focus groups and meetings with the village Chefs, elders, doctors and mayors- all proving extremely interesting and worthwhile for our future expeditions and plans. We have had excellent results for the MDA programmes and have now treated over 1800 children with Praziquantel and Mebendanzole in the Marolambo region- a huge achievement!
A huge thanks goes to our Malagasey team members, Manou, Ari and Gina without whom this trip wouldn’t have been the same. From terrifying Gina with cat impressions, to Manou’s dancing down the streets of Marolambo and Ari’s energetic Scout songs- we have really made friends for life.
We mustn’t forget our dear friend and body guard Celestin- who, from the outset you might think was just our ‘banana man’ at the MDA but no, he has been a stoical member of the team too- even though we did manage to lose track of the number of wives he had in the various villages!!
In Marolambo, the Durrell ‘office’ has become our home from home and thanks to the lovely Marguerite and Bellamin we have been well looked after.
So we are all set now for our trek to the airstrip tomorrow where we will be met by Ryan our trusty MAF pilot, we hope we’ve all lost a couple of kilos so we can take off from the rather short tarmac!
I’m sure I speak for all the team- we have had a wonderful expedition- completing all research, education and treatment programmes successfully. We have made great leaps within the villages, establishing new contacts and reaffirming old. Within the whole team we have become great friends and I want to thank them all for a fantastic trip. Now I must head off to the land of nod, thankful for a safe, successful expedition and lying under our trusty stars of the southern cross.