When arriving in Antananarivo, I really had to ask myself if I was still in Africa. Most people were small and had an Asian look. Except for the baguettes, the food was also 90%, usually with a unidentifiable peace of meat. Most places that was all that was served, so Madagascar has not been my favorite destination for food.
The sights and just the feeling of being here though is quite incredible. This is the place where two continents meet and a place where a lot, like the Citroen taxis and the old colonial buildings have been left unchanged since colonial times.
It has also been one of the cheapest places I have been. At the Analakely Market I was able to get original looking converse shoes for less than two dollars! Most places I found hotel rooms around 5-6 dollars and a 16 hour bus ride was about 5 dollars! Considering the accessible sea port with cargo arriving from the east and locals making about 1 dollar a day, most things were really cheap.
The Analakely Market where you will find anything you need
Fresh fruit juices here are just 15cents!
I spend four nights in the capital with my Cameroonian couchsurfing host who introduced me to the student life in Ankatso. Although there are lots of sights in the city, like the UNESCO heritage site of Royal Hill I just spent the time here chilling with my host as traveling around in Madagascar was quite exhausting. Still, it has been one of the most unique places I have visited and I know I will be back again soon.
The Ankatso student district is full of rooftops where people sit and drink beer
The view from my CS host in Ankatso
Morondava is a small city on the beach, but it is not the place you would go if you want a typical beach holiday in Madagascar. The beaches there are quite empty, but once in a while you will see some locals going there to poop. The water was also the same color as the poop so I decided to not go for a swim while being there.
Like most of the coastal cities in Madagascar it is mostly Muslim, but this place had a very laid back, almost Caribbean feel to it. The main gathering place for the evenings football match and later for live music was a bar called “Oasis- Chez Jean le Rasta” where I spend the last night and got to say goodbye to the French group I had been taveling with the last days.
The beaches in Morondava were completely empty. Even when the sun was setting!
When our three day canoe trip was coming to an end, we were drifting through a forest of beobabs-a type of tree which looks as if it was upside down with its roots in the air.
We got out of the canoes in a village called Antsiraraka where we had to walk and ride ox carriages for more than an hour to get through the muddy paths leading to the road where a 4*4 was waiting to take us to Tsimafana where I was able to catch a taxi brousse going south to Morondava together with one of the guides who were going the same way.
The whole three hours of driving down was full of baobab trees along the road. Especially beautiful was it to see them as the sun was setting, leaving just a silhouette of the beautiful trees with a burning red background.
We reached the Baobab Avenue after dark where the only light you could see around was from the bright stars in the sky. We camped next to the visitors center, paying a guy 2$ to stay awake by our tents all night.
Waking up in the dark and watching the sun rise behind the baobab trees was just as nice as seeing the sun set behind them. I got to spend a good hour alone at the site before tourists were driving in. That was also the time when I got in a pus pus (cycle taxi) and taxi brousse to Morondava.
I must say that my three days spent camping and canoeing on the Tsiribihina River has been one of my favorite travel experiences. The landscape and program was similar to when I was paddling on Orange River in Namibia and the Zambezi River in Zambia, but here we were traveling in comfortable “mokoros”(dugout canoes) where a crew was doing all the work of paddling, cooking and making camps at the nights.
On the way we stopped at villages, camped at sand banks and ate in the canoes, but my favorite stop was the Anosinampela waterfall, where we could have a swim after roasting the whole day in the boats.
I was hoping to see more wildlife, like lemurs and maybe some idris while we were on the river, but all we saw was a freshwater crocodile. The experience was more about finding inner peace while drifting down the river and enjoying the landscape. It’s something I would happily do again, once my sunburn has disappeared of course.
While waiting for my taxi brousse to fill up in Tanna there was a lovely French couple who sat down next to me and gave me a good introduction to life in Madagascar. They introduced me to their friends at a bar, who were going on a three day canoeing trip the day after. When I asked if I could join they simply made a call to their guide an it was arranged! I even got to sleep in their friends garden, and then we met again, ready for the trip the next afternoon.
The morning was spent exploring Antsirabe which has the reputation for being a smaller version of the Malagasy capital Antananarivo, or “Tanna” as everyone call it.
There were lots of old, colonial style buildings like the old train station which was now only operating with cargo transport to the capital. I also got to see a cock fight which apparently is a big thing here. People bet millions of Ariarys and even their houses, hoping that their cock will be the last one standing.
The group of Frenchies who I would spend the next week with
It was not before midnight that my new French travel group would arrive Mindrivazo, where our three day canoe trip to Belo-Tsiribihina would start.