Antananarivo

Entering Madagascar

Given I went to bed at 7pm (and managed to sleep all night!) the 4am wake up was not as painful as it could have been!

Even the taxi arrived perfectly on time at 4.15am.

It was just a short 15 minute ride to Cape Town airport, the roads were deserted. But there were flashing signs up by the road saying ‘no stop on the highway, high crime area’. Great! I only had half an hour until my check in closed. The queue to drop bags was long. And full of the usual indian and African travellers with more bags, boxes and oddly wrapped items than you can count. So of course it took forever. And they only had 1 person on the desk. Ridiculous. They must do this every morning!

Finally more people opened desks, but it was slow and I only just made it.

My flight back to Johannesburg was at 6.10am. It’s only been a short trip in Cape Town, but it was good!

2 hours later and I was back in Johannesburg. Just a 2 hour layover and onto the next plane of the day – to Antananarivo!

This was a small plane. It’s a 3 hour flight, so you would think they would run a decent sized thing! And it was squashy! I was rather surprised with my curried lentils and potato lunch – really good!

We had a fair amount of turbulance enroute. Made a bit more scary by the fact we were barely in an aeroplane. But we made it ok.

As we popped out of the clouds, Madagascar came into sight. Undulating green and brown coloured hills, cut up by brown dirt tracks and small villages. Everything looked so rural.

As we came into land, we skimmed over squares of dirt full of boys playing football, right by the side of the runway.

It was a tiny airport. The visa situation was a bit confusing. You visited the first person, who stamped a piece of paper. Then no idea which queue to join. So I joined the ‘no visa’ queue, which seemed sensible has I had no visa! The next man puts literally 5 different stamps into your passport (what a waste of a page, they don’t even say Madagascar!), the next woman scans it. Then the next man has a nose through before handing it back to you. Wow.

Bags came very quickly, someone basically handing them to you off the trolley. And my taxi was waiting!

I got some Monopoly money from the atm. The maximum it would give you was 100,000 ariary. Literally £20. What a joke!! And they came in 5,000 notes (£1). In a massive stack.

It took nearly an hour to drive to the hotel.

Some notes about the city: – it’s very spread out – traffic looked horrendous heading back to the airport. It was not moving for several miles. – despite being a city, it is mostly very rural looking – dusty – men pulling carts walk casually down the narrow road, as buses and cars swerve around them – children pushing other children on wooden trolleys move casually down the narrow road, as buses and cars swerve around them – there are rice paddies in the city – the rice paddies are surrounded by waterways – women wash clothes in these waterways and leave them on the banks (right by the road) to dry – there is a shop for everything – rice, vegetables, fruit, meat, phones, random plastic stuff… – people don’t look African. Some do. But most look a variety of Asian. – everywhere looks like Asia – shoes are optional – no 3G.

As I checked into the hotel, the reception desk had warnings up, not to go outside with handbags, cameras, passport, etc etc! I was tired and couldn’t be bothered anyway! There didn’t look like much around.

Travelling Madagascar alone would be pretty optimistic. I don’t even think it’s possible. So I’m joining a tour group. We all met at 6pm. Then went for dinner at a restaurant next door. Surprisingly the menu was Italian. Pizza or pasta. So I had a no-cheese, vegetable pizza. It cost £2. It was fine, nothing amazing, but then, we are in Madagascar!

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