February 9, 2002 - American Museum of Natural History, New York
It's a clear day in the city. Saturdays should be more about walks in Central Park, eating brunch at a West Village Bistro or checking out the latest stuff in the Chelsea Antiques market. Not today. Rather, the three of us are stuck inside getting our trip ready.
This task is the first of our expedition and is one of the most critical. Gear, clothing, equipment, collection materials, permits, tickets, passports, visas, and so on, all need to be laid out, counted, checked, sorted, checked and resorted again. Failure to it right the day before means remembering that you've left out something critical as you're on the way to the airport. In that event, everyone is affected. It might be more a mater of minimizing stress itself than really having absolutely everything we need. A lot of things can probably be had in get Tana anyway.
Still… Liz managed to completely pack, then unpack then repack her backpack a second time before she was satisfied.
In between the to and fro from Liz's office to Marks' and on top of all the packing details, Liz was busy worring about the cacophony of animals in her office….feed the leeches, feed the baby leeches, feed the turtle ('Grumpy'), feed the lonely goldfish ('Grumpy's homeboy), clean the turtle tank, clean the leech tanks, look for leech cocoons…she was going insane.
Whew… how many trips between offices or back outside to the pharmacy (oh right today Mark and Evon start their anti-malaria drugs – Liz started hers on Thursday)...electronics store…oops...forgot the film….Hmnn? maybe we should run out and pick up an espresso to keep us going. Okay….everything seems to be in place and nothing looks like it will spill in transit. I guess its time for Evon to test the crocodile noose. Liz seems to be just about the right size!
Our spirits are good. We're all pretty excited about the trip. A few trepidations about a 12 hr hike into Andringitra but by then we oughta be in pretty good shape. Our reconaissance is reasonably thorough. Evon has good information about where along the treck we are bound to encounter crocodiles. There is some talk of modifying the end point of our time in Madagascar to encompass Fort Dauphin (Tolagnaro). Mark has brought along the requisite literature on the leech fauna… along with some anecdotal reports of enormous land leeches in Midongy.
There are last minute emails to send, preparing the web site for our dispatches, calling the airline to make sure we are confirmed, car service to the airport (and large enough to take 3 people with 15 pieces of luggage)… Everything is in place with the exception of actually getting there. There are contested presidential elections in Madagascar which have had the capital (Tana) paralyzed by general strikes over the last 2 weeks. It is not clear that flights will actually get into the country on schedule (or at all) while these matters sort themselves out. But then having to sit and wait in Paris for a day or more can't be all bad.