Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We're Here!

Please say: Madagascar. Now say it again...doesn't it sound lovely? And to type the word feels great too. M-a-d-a-g-a-s-c-a-r. I like it! Finally we arrived in this interesting country, the fourth largest island in the world.After a long but smooth trip with Air France from Dusseldorf through Paris, we have arrived in Antananarivo, otherwise known as Tana. With 14 pieces of luggage on two baggage trolleys that refused to go left or right, we finally made it straight out of the airport. We did not even pay for our visa. There is some confusion as to whether we had to pay for a visa, and travel books mention outrageous amounts of over 60 € per person and waiting times of more than 1 hour. Well, I can tell two things: there is a huge sign at the airport reading something like: “Your stay in Madagascar costs you 0€ if it’s for less than 30 days”. A return ticket indicating your return date is however essential.


Our new driver Lo├»ck brought us straight to the lovely little AKOA hotel (www.akoahotel.com) whose friendly staff certainly helped us to feel welcome in our new country. It’s hard to capture my first impressions of Antananarivo in one sentence, but I will try it with some key words: Red, hilly, crowded, amazing views, narrow streets, mixed people, street children, grave yards, small shops, stunning sunsets and shivers. With its red brick houses, a large lake in the center and many excellent restaurants, Tana appears more western than other African cities. On the other hand I find it very 'third world', with people walking everywhere, vegetable and meat stalls at every street corner, way too many (stinking) cars on impossibly narrow roads, beggars and no street or traffic signs - imagine, in the entire country there is not one traffic light. In fact my very first impressions were made a few years ago when I visited the country with a friend from Zimbabwe. I don't think much has changed since, but if it has, or will, I'll be sure to let you know as I intend to keep you posted at least once a week. So you can subscribe to my ramblings, if you like, by entering your email address in the box above.