Early Sunday morning we had breakfast at our hotel. €20 for coffee/tea, yoghurt, fruit and a ton of bread. How very French. We checked out of the Paris hotel and took the metro back to the airport. We had just enough time to check the bags, clear customs and security and board our 11 hour flight. Once again the air was clear and we saw some Italian Dolomites, and the Egyptian Lake Nasser and the dam. It was very cool to see from the air because we cruised Lake Nasser a few years ago and loved it.
Many hours later we approached TNR (Antananarivo airport). We glided over the runway, one wheel down, then two and then full power back on. Guess we were running out of runway. Time to go around and try again. Not sure I’ve ever done a touch and go in a Boeing 777 before. The second time around and things went much better although we did use the full length of the runway. We did see the far end thick stripes and end red lights as we U-turned to go back to the terminal. I think the airport has 6 gates total. You can see the single baggage claim from the customs line. Hardly a massive airport for a capital city. Staff were nice and efficient as they checked us for Ebola, so we got through quickly.
Carl our driver met us and drove us to the Sakamanga Hotel. Saka being the Malagasy word for blue and manga being cat. So the Blue Cat hotel. Really cool that the little soaps in the room are blue cats. Mind you, after the very long flight and it being nearly midnight local time we went right to bed. And sleep we did. Hard. Breakfast is served until 1030 and we only rolled out of bed slightly after 10. We made it downstairs with little time left. The ladies at the buffet were friendly and polite but made it very clear that we had 10 minutes to order food.
After breakfast we sunscreened up and went to find a bank machine. Ariary (mga) is the local currency and not available in Canada so we couldn’t buy any ahead of time. It was relatively easy to find an ATM and draw 400 000 per transaction. Yes, 400 thousand. 400 000 is about $150 CAD.
This looks like a ton of money but it’s not. This is just under $300 cad.
Once we had some cash we went on a hunt for a mobile phone SIM card. One must have internet to blog after all. However, Easter Monday is apparently a huge holiday here. Every store is closed and there was a festival at the city hall. So we took the opportunity to wander around and see how the locals have fun.
We did get more than a few curious looks. One little girl was vey interested in those white folk and a few teenagers waved at us. We did feel completely safe and most people didn’t really care. We did get a few vendors trying to do their job. One woman with vanilla beans and a couple guys with amethyst and pink sapphires. We do want to buy some vanilla but not on our first day. We also would like to find some sapphires. But not from some guy on the street.
With no luck finding an open AirTel store for a SIM card we headed back to the hotel for lunch. Coco rubbed pork with rice is a local Malagasy dish. Called Ravitoto. Looks a bit suspect, but quite tasty. There is also a spicy red sauce not in this shot and has quite a kick. Mmmm.
Lunch, 1L of water and the (large) beer was less than $10 (25500 mga). Keep in mind these are inflated tourist hotel prices.
After lunch we decided to head back out into the neighborhood and get a feel for Malagasy local life. Once again everything was closed but that was OK. We just wanted to look about a bit. It was nice to see people socializing and enjoying life. Kris noticed that we didn’t see the usual stray dogs we might expect. We did hear a dog barking in a yard but haven’t seen any. Given that this is still the tail end of Madagascar’s plague season (yes, actual Medieval England bubonic plague is still common here) we shouldn’t be petting stray dogs or cats anyway.
The taxis here are really cool old Renaults.
After a bit we headed back and it was swim time. The pool is unheated but oh so nice.
We needed to shower as it had been a couple days so back to the room for a nice shower and then to dinner. Kris had a huge chicken breast/wing and I had a Zebu steak. That’s fancy Malagasy for cow. Both were quite flavorful and the accompanying green beans and frites were also yummy. Dinner with wine was 128 500 mga. That’s less than $50 with a bottle of imported French wine. We’re finding food is fairly cheap so far.
Tomorrow we check out early and have a good long drive to Andisabe. Let the adventure begin.