The Wayfarer (mnfaure) wrote,
The Wayfarer

Madagascar - Antananarivo

Our trip to Mada got off to a most propitious start; our tickets said check-in was at 9:30 and the flight at 11:30, arrival in Antananarivo (hereafter "Tana") at 12:15. Our plane left an hour late, and instead of the posted 45 minutes, the flight took 1 hr and 45 mins. However, as we flew over the delta around Majunga (Mahajanga), with its startling graphic array of reds and greens, we were no longer thinking of the tardiness. There were only 26 or so passengers aboard (capacity 60+), so we bounced freely from window to window snapping pics. 

The patchwork-craziness of the rice paddies also charmed us, as did the toy-like villages of red mud walls and thatch roofs...

(forgive the fuzziness: altitude, dirty plane windows and all that...)

At the airport, we were met by T, a friend of an acquaintance, because we had kilos and kilos of vermicelli and sugar for her. She negotiated the taxi fare for the three of us, and we set off to her room at Antananarivo University. We hadn't gone more than a few kilometers when the taxi stopped for gas. At the station, I caught sight of a transvestite (sadly didn't photograph him adjusting the tissue paper in his bra). 
Given the preponderance of sexual tourism in Mada, I expected to see more prostitutes than I did, but aside from this fellow, I didn't see but a handful more.

Tana, in all its squalor and color, is a very photogenic city, and you could take thousands of pictures a day there. It was torture being in a moving vehicle and seeing all the great shots flying past, unsnapped.

Here are two very typical views of the city and, in fact, life in Mada at large. Houses (and apartments) in the cities are usually co-inhabited by several families. Satellite dishes aren't as prevalent as they are in Mayotte, but atennas are. Houses literally bristle with them.


Advertisement is taken to another level in Mada, too, with entire houses being painted with ads for various goods, soft drinks and beer being the major ones.

T and her fiance, D, invited us to share their lunch. As it was going on three o'clock when we arrived, we were only too happy to accept. We had fish in a tomato sauce served over rice with "rice water" to drink (In Mada, they leave a little rice in the bottom of the pan and cook it until it is slightly burned--if it isn't already--and then they add water. It tastes much like burned popcorn. Not pretty to look at, but not too bad going down.) 

This is T's "room," a wedge that measures no more than six feet at its widest point. The door is behind the flowery curtain on the far left, and you step past the kitchen to get to the bed, where we are eating. Despite the humble nature of her quarters, T generously offered to let us sleep in her bed for the night, but we had already made plans to stay with a couple we had met on CouchSurfing. This is were we ended up staying:

Pool, chauffeur, guard, housekeeper, nanny, gardener...the difference between the two dwellings was shocking and surreal. Our hosts were just as warm and welcoming, though, and we passed a nice evening in their company. Saucisse de Toulouse cooked on a chimney fire. Yum! And the chimney fire was needed for more than cooking; it was cold in Tana! I loved it. :D

The next morning we left for a hotel in downtown Tana and spent the day being harassed by hawkers, beggars, peddlars, taximen...not a relaxing time, to say the least, but then, very little about our trip was truly relaxing.  This lady asked me to take her picture, but so many people had been asking me for money that I was sure she would do the same. I didn't do my best to get a good shot--more like fulfilled my "duty" and escaped. I regret not taking the time now. :( She has such a great face.

Like I said in yesty's post, people everywhere, selling, selling, selling anyplace they can set an umbrella, table, or mat, even on the stairs...


And here, one of those lovely details I alluded to yesty, dinner, all tied up and ready to go. :P I easily think of fish for meals in my seaside towns, but rarely crab, shrimp, mollusks, and so on. And here, in Tana, the landlocked capital of Mada, they are selling live crabs, trussed with leaves of grass or reeds into handy bundles of ten.

Despite the crushing poverty in Tana, there are always those who try to cultivate a little beauty in their lives, perhaps a reminder of the countryside they left behind in pursuit of the dream of more.

Distressingly, few of them find it.

At the hotel, we made arrangements to leave early the next morning for Antsirabe to begin the adventure leg of our trip. And my, what an adventure it was...
Tags: madagascar, pics
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