Madagascar: like nothing I have seen before

Trip Start Mar 17, 2007
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Flag of Madagascar  ,
Saturday, November 17, 2007

It is after midnight by the time we land in Antananarivo. We knew we needed a visa and we came prepared with pass pictures we ... did not need. There is a big cue for the visa. A big cue for immigration and of course, we are pulled aside by security. No, we do not have anything to declare.

We are picked up by a man, who does not speak any English or French and (we think) his wife and daughter. The wife, with the little girl on her lap in the car, is chatting the whole way to the hotel, working hard for her tip.

My first look out of the window in the morning makes me conclude: Anta is a purple city. We look out over a square with purple trees, full of people hanging around. The people are black. Of course, the people are black, Marina, you are almost in Africa.

The breakkie is very nice. It is great to have a choice of everything you can imagine, sitting on a cozy terrace.

I am a woman with a mission: our tickets to Nosy Be 'should' be waiting for us in the Air Madagascar office. Everything in town is on Avenue de l'independance. We step out of the hotel and within a minute, we are surrounded by at least ten people. Selling fruit, watches, newspapers, souvenirs, herbs, ... . And children begging. Little hands everywhere. Lots of steps lead us to the center. We find the Air Madagascar office and ... the tickets are indeed booked! In the same street are 2 launderettes, where we inquire. We have almost nothing clean left! Street numbers are none existing, so you really have to look for everything. The fist one cannot do it in 3 days and the second one is in fact a dry cleaner, between 1 and 2 Euro a piece, If you have a luggage FULL of dirty clothes, the bill would be huge. There is a beautiful station at the end of the street. No passenger's trains, unfortunately, only goods.

We go back to the hotel. I have a handbag (LEATHEL with all those little hands) and these tickets have to go to the safe. Dr T checks out the internet and ... it is not working. He tries another room: not better. We get a 'box', which should magically do the trick. It does, sort of. 

Stepping back out of the hotel, Dr T finds a lovely terrace, with cheap beer, this man is a wonder. We have a couple of beers: Three Horses Beer: 1,5 Euro for 650ml and a little snack. Dr T enjoys a crispy double hot dog for less than a Euro. Three Germans already had a couple of more beers. At another table, 4 local girls, share a bottle of water. One of them gives a little note to the waiter, who gives it to the Germans. They put their heads together and whisper. They look and the girls, at the paper and at each other. Finally one of the girls gets up and goes talking to them. More little notes are exchanged. Did they agree on a time, place and amount?

We go and discover the city. I am astonished. I have never seen such poverty. Not in the East bloc 30 years ago, not in Sri Lanka 20 years ago and never and nowhere in Thailand.
I wish Broekske was here. SHE would take pictures of this. I do not dare to do this. Whole families are literally lying and living on the street, for months already, without washing. Their clothes probably never washed.

The streets smell like old blood and intestines.  Here, life chickens are meat, which cannot go off, not living creatures. They are bound together with their legs or the feed are broken. If someone buys it, the head is chopped off. People sell chicken feed and eyes in a fluid. We learn later it is cows eyes, marinated in oil, eaten raw. Steak-frites is a popular dish in the little street restaurants for less than 1 Euro. We are not tempted.

Markets everywhere. With tiny walking streets. A creepy monument with an aids sign, no explanation. Next to that, a boy (man?) is lying, blind and paralyzed. You can think: 'that is easy to play', but he has no eyes and his legs are barely bigger than those of a baby. He waves with one hand, making 'euh,euh,euh' noises. He touches a local woman walking by, who hits him.

The children's playground is the sand: reddish brown. You can imagine how dirty they are after a day. Let alone months.

One lady sells empty bottles and jars. We have no idea who buy them!

Dr T finds the stairway to heaven.

Weights are carried on the head. Mostly by women.

It is an amazing world. I go home impressed.

We eat in the hotel. I have my first zebu. This is the local cow. The waiter thinks it is very funny that I never had zebu before. I guess, it is like saying in Belgium, you never had any beef.

Early day tomorrow. We rented a car. With driver. As you do here. We are planning to go to the Lemur Parc, the palace and the croq farm.
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