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So it’s actually happening. I’ve made it to Madagascar. You guys weren’t the only doubters, three months ago this trip was nothing but a pipedream for me (and yet another £10 bet with Hinesh – pay up lad!)
My journey so far has been relatively painless. I did confuse currency denominations to then tip the airport trolley guy what is probably the equivalent of his family’s weekly wage (I was to realise this when paying FAR less for an entire restaurant supper later in the day).
I’ve taken two flights to get to where I am now, the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo – or Tana for short. One thing you quickly realise about the Malagasy language is the Sri Lankan-esque names that people and towns have adopted. To give you a couple of examples: Ambohimahamasina, or Fianarantsoa.
Fianarantsoa is potentially the next and final stopover en route to reaching my ultimate destination, Toliara in the Southwest of Mada.
Google Maps reckons it would take just under 12 hours to cover just under 1000km. Google Maps clearly hasn’t been to Madagascar. Here’s an excerpt on the taxi-brousse bus journey, from the newly published Lonely Planet Mada guide (which I recommend to anyone planning on coming):
Beware: these amusement park rides are packed beyond capacity. Passengers bounce around and are frequently ill. There are a limited number of breaks, and provisions are sparse along the way. You will need a scarf and pullover for the dust and wind. All things considered, we have never seen a rougher form of public transport.
This is saying something, coming from Lonely Planet! Now, being me, I jumped at this opportunity. It looks like a cracking adventure through Mada’s remote wilderness, for supposedly anything up to 50 hours. And all for £20 rather than £150 for the 1 hour flight! A clear no brainer, right? Hmm. Ultimately common sense has prevailed, with gentle encouragement in the form of two hefty bags (combining to weigh more than me) and a common British cold that just won’t go away. However, there is a downside. All Air Madagascar planes have been blacklisted and barred from European airspace. In other words, I’d somehow be safer on the aforementioned “amusement park ride”. Some excitement at least. So I’m off to the airline office tomorrow morning to book the first flight down, where the work I have so eagerly been anticipating will finally begin.
The experience so far? As expected really. Tana is ok. Dusty, polluted, busy. Lots of comparisons to India. Spinetingling animal screams during the middle of the night etc. Bizarrely the Malagasy people look slightly Indian too – go back far enough and the Malagasys can trace their roots to Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East. Which I suppose physically averages out to India (or not)… And of course there is the heavy French influence due to Madagascar’s French-colonial past. This all reflects in the evolution of Malagasy cuisine, a real international fusion. Tana reminds me of Southern Vietnam and Laos in a sense – French-style patisserie cafes line the streets in places serving very tasty puds. And I’m not even a dessert person.
Anyway, that’s enough for my first post. Three snaps to finish off: 1 and 2) snaps from the plane as we approach Tana. And 3) the delicious pud after a somewhat carniverous dinner at, er, La Carnivore
PS – I miraculously didn’t sleepwalk on the flights! Which can only mean no stress whatsoever – this is hardly surprising. Of course there’s always the blacklisted flight on Thursday…