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Sound of the Day Camp wouldn't be camp without the sound of the generator firing up. It's used to recharge batteries in the laptop computer, satellite telephone, and digital cameras. Without it, we would not be able to send the dispatches, images, and sounds from the field, unless we had a king's ransom of disposable batteries.

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May 30, 2000

Author's tent The author's tent, with laptop and satellite phone ready for transmission, at Camp Two in Marojejy Reserve.
I'm now sitting in my tent at Camp Two, high in the Marojejy Reserve. It's early morning, and one team has already headed off into the surrounding rain forest to search for a rare lemur known as the silky sifaka. We are in pure, unspoiled tropical rain forest. Everywhere I look from the ridge we're camped on I see dense woods, except in a few places where sheer cliffs preclude the growth of trees. Straight in front of me to the north, perhaps a thousand feet up, one of those cliffs ends in a nub of bare rock that pokes into the sky like a giant knuckle. It beckons insistently to the climber in me, but the only trail here leads in the opposite direction toward the summit, and this is no place to bushwhack.

Our tents are spread over a small ridge that leads up from a tumbling mountain brook. I call it a brook only because it has little water now in the dry season. But that water trickles down a vast slope of smooth rock slabs, enormous boulders, and cliffs that drop straight down. Clearly, in the wet season, our little creek must be a raging torrent. Unlike the English Camp at Ankarana, where trees socked us in, the slabs of rock have created an open area, affording views all around.

Mandenina The Marojejy Reserve rises behind the village of Mandenina, which means "waiting" in Malagasy. So much rain falls here every year, it is said, that residents are always waiting for it to stop.

Looking up to the north, west, and south, I can see a steeply rising mountain flank, which cups our modest encampment as if in a protective hand. To the east, the land drops away to the valley we ascended yesterday. Earlier this morning, as we spooned up a breakfast of rice porridge with canned milk and raisins, we watched as sunlight moved down the huge rainforest trees to the west of camp along the stream, starting at their emergent crowns and ending at their roots.

Wildlife abounds here. On the way to Marojejy yesterday, my guide Desiré Rabary, a robust Malagasy with a high-pitched laugh, picked out one animal after the next: a juvenile chameleon clinging to a shady weed on the trailside, a big-bodied bird with a dash of blue around the eyes (the blue coua), a caterpillar which would grow up to be ... and he rattled off the scientific name. He was just as conversant with plants. Among the many plants he pointed out were wild coffee ("just a little bit of caffeine") and a long-fronded plant locals bend in a certain way to form a cup. "When a woman is pregnant," he told me, "she places these leaves at the bottom of the rice pot so that the rice does not stick. They believe that by doing this, her baby will come out as easily as the rice."

Gecko The tiny leaf-tailed gecko brought into camp last night was no bigger than your pinkie.
The findings were as rich at camp last night, even though we'd only been here a matter of hours. Somebody brought two tiny geckos into camp, one of which had holes "rotted" out of its tail to mimic a dead leaf. Wright, for her part, saw things in the stream yesterday that she'd never seen before. "You mean new species of fish?" I asked. "No, things I've never seen before," she repeated with a smile. I finally caught her drift: entirely unusual creatures, including what appeared to be an aquatic walkingstick.

As for lemurs, we've already seen the eastern gray bamboo lemur (a small grey-chestnut lemur) and the nocturnal lepilemur, and we've heard the woolly lemur. But as yet there is no sign of the silky sifaka. We expected this. Rabary says it can take a week to find a troop in the forest, even though curious silkies have been known to come right down to Camp Two. One must be very quiet, he says, or they flee. The porters who ferried all our gear up here on the end of bamboo poles yesterday described the lemur's cry as "she-FAHK." As Wright pointed out, that's its alarm call. Hopefully that doesn't mean they run off every time they see a person. That would not bode well for our study of this handsome primate, which Rabary assured me no less than four times during our five-hour hike up here is "the most beautiful lemur in the world."

Peter Tyson is Online Producer for NOVA.

We'll keep you posted on developments here at Camp Two.

Forest of Hope (June 7, 2000)
A Great Day for Silkies (June 4, 2000)
Camp Life Unveiled (June 3, 2000)
Three Hours with the Silkies (June 1, 2000)
Angels of Marojejy (May 31, 2000)
Wildlife (May 30, 2000)
Into the Marojejy Massif (May 28, 2000)
Croc Cave (May 26, 2000)
Fossa! (May 25, 2000)
Bat Cave (May 24, 2000)
Update: English Camp (May 23, 2000)
Update: Sunken Forest (May 21, 2000)
Update: Night Walk (May 20, 2000)
Update: 70 Feet Up (May 19, 2000)
Update: Tropical Downpour (May 18, 2000)

Photos: Peter Tyson

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