Madagascar Diaries
By Kelly Barker, Durrell's Head of Marketing

   « Introduction Day 1 & 2
Travelling to Madagascar & First impressions
Day 3 & 4  »


Monday 24th October

5:11am

Madagascar Diaries - By Kelly Barker"Sat in Costa Coffee, checked in at Heathrow and ready for Paris. I have never even been to Paris, never mind Madagascar! Although an hour stopover in Paris hardly counts as exploring. Last night I stayed in a dinky pod in hotel – it just about fitted my 30 odd kilos of oversized luggage. I had to climb up to the bed, which was actually quite cool. I was so paranoid I would sleep through my alarm, I woke up every hour on the hour but I feel so excited and the coffee is starting to kick in now.

Preparing for my trip was hilarious, by the time I packed the second hand football shirts, the Madagascar25 baseball caps, video camera, stills camera binoculars, mosquito net and myriad of medicines for every eventuality, my backpack was overflowing!

I haven’t travelled in this way for nearly 15 years so feel a mixture of excitement and fear of the unknown, I simply can’t wait to see the field projects and learn about this fascinating island that I have heard so much about for 6 years solid.

Saying goodbye to hubby at Jersey airport was quite sad but then I felt like a big explorer about to start an amazing adventure, plus I was still buzzing from the Madagascar25 fundraiser on Saturday night, where we hope to have netted £40K and my what a character Brian Blessed is (our speaker for the night). I had Graeme le Saux sat on one side of me and BB on the other. Brian is like a sponge for facts and figures and his memory is unbelievable. I really admire people like that who can remember foreign names of villages in the middle of nowhere that they visited once 30 odd years ago or countless mountains they attempted to climb. I really must start on the old crosswords or Sudoko as my memory is more like a sieve.

Back to Saturday’s event for a minute. It never ceases to amaze me how lucky we are at Durrell. That plain, challenging function room was transformed into a jungle in 6 hours, by Durrell staff that care so much about what Durrell does, they don’t mind giving up their weekend for free and slogging their guts out. There’s so many times I think to myself that Gerry D would be proud, although I bet he wishes we didn’t have to do any of it and all the animals weren’t at risk.

Brian’s speech was excellent, (if not a tad long)! I was hoping he would tell the ‘s**t’ story (the Queens favourite apparently) and he didn’t disappoint. Can you imagine the realisation, when practically dangling 27,000 feet off the side of a mountain, in a tiny tent with your fellow climbers and after hauling one of them back in, there’s a strong smell of s**t? Brian looked over and realised the chap had bought the s**t back in with him…. the gale force had picked it up in the air and landed it back on his shoulder, unbeknownst to him!!!"

24th October (still)

The Journey, 5.45pm

"It was going swimmingly….several oversized bags checked in (check), comfy clothes (check), IPod, books & on-board entertainment (check), security jobs- worth (definitely check). No way was he letting me through with the video camera tripod, “Madame you are not taking that on the cabin, you have 2 choices, we will take it away and destroy it or you will have to go out of the airport, back into departures and check it in” said the mean man. But why I said, trying to flutter my eyelids (completely lost on him) at which point he proceeded to demonstrate a pretend bop over a pretend person’s head implying what I may do to some poor unsuspecting passenger. “I have been on two flights already” I pleaded “and no-one else even batted an eyelid”! There was ‘no way Jose’ so my relatively stress free journey so far was starting to take a u-turn. Still, for those that know me well, this is nothing compared to the usual Barker travelling experiences. To give you an example, try 9 days stranded in Newark due to 2010’s ash cloud! So here I am 2 films in, about to start a 3rd, thinking I can totally handle Tripod man!"

Tuesday 25th October

8.30 am

Madagascar Diaries - By Kelly Barker"Yeah! I am here. Wow what a journey. I got to the hotel at 1.45am, quite a trek. The airport was hilarious, (well not that funny, when you are a bit like a zombie), disorganised chaos. It took 2 hours to get my visa. Poor Jose (taxi driver) was faithfully waiting for me with his Kelly Barker name card. We had a funny conversation where I was trying to remember the French for water because I was parched. I wish I had brushed up on my French before leaving.

The hotel is lovely and my breakfast consisted of the nicest mango juice ever known to man. Just waiting for someone from Durrell to pick me up…."

25th October

2pm

"Wow, the Durrell office in Tana is cool... Everyone here is really welcoming and friendly. I spent most of the morning chatting to Lance, Richard & Jonah and we talked about some things to improve communication (Facebook etc). I told the guys about how positive the financial situation is compared to previous years and about the Soiree fundraiser on Saturday night.

The football shirts have gone down a storm and it looks like we will take the 2 team kits to the festival Du Songatana, which Hasina is taking me to tomorrow at Maralambo (near our Nosivolo river fieldsite). This is an environmental festival where many village communities come together to celebrate all things fish (it's full of fish that are only found in that river, let alone anywhere else in Madagascar). Community conservation is one of the main reasons I wanted to come to the field so I am very excited. Not as exciting is the fact that it is a 2 day trip in a landrover.. yikes!

I am going to film Angelo and Lance talking about the Ploughshare’s once the sun calms down a bit. It is set to reach 37 degrees this week!! Right off to check some emails whilst we have wi-fi then do some video diary too."

25th October

6.32pm

Madagascar Diaries - By Kelly Barker"I am back in the hotel and am just chilling out, getting ready for early start tomorrow. Am so covered in dirt that no mossie will surely come within a mile but the fumes are killing me, or is it the wine! I filmed Lance and Angelo talking about Ploughshares today but worries about the volume on the video camera. It’s funny as there is a very little naughty boy who lives at this hotel and he keeps running behind me slapping my bottom! What do you say to that when you don’t speak the Lingo!?

I have got a feeling that the accommodation over the next few days won’t be as equipped as this so am fully expecting to dig out my mobile mosquito net and sleeping bag liner. Please don’t let the mossies get me! They usually seek me out through hell or high water! OMG just as I write I saw the biggest mossie looking blood curdingly hungry, fly under the bed! Can’t bear it…!"

 

Day 1 - Travelling to Madagascar
Day 2 - First impressions

Day 3 - Travelling to Festival du Songatana, part 1
Day 4 - Travelling to Festival du Songatana, part 2

Day 5 - The festival
Day 6 - Travelling to Alaotra

Day 7 - Visiting Alaotran communities
Day 8 - Gentle lemurs at the lake

Day 9 - Travelling to the pochard
Day 10 - Madagascar pochard breeding centre

Day 11 - My Ampijoroa and other animals
Day 12 - Ploughshare tortoises

Day 13 - Au revoir   

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