Day 0 : Welcome to Tana ! We set off on our 27-day Adventure of Madagascar with an effortless 3-hour flight from Johannesburg to Antananarivo or ‘Tana’ as the local Malagasy fondly call it.
Landing at Antananarivo airport takes one back in time to when terminals where much smaller, a walk on the tarmac wasn’t out of the question, and there was no mistaking which carousel your bags are on as there is only one!
Mike and I were greeted by our transfer driver Ubi, who took us on the 1-hour transfer to the centre of Antananarivo in a spacious modern minivan, much to our relief after spying some well-worn Renault Taxis in the parking lot.
Terminal at Antananarivo One of the many Old Reno's Mike enjoying his first THB
The road to Tana travels in and out of small villages dotted with rice fields. Football is massive in Madagascar, and with it being a Sunday we pass many matches played on dirt fields between rival villages. While the streets are busy in Tana everyone drives respectfully, and a short beep of the horn is universal to let others know you are approaching.
Arriving at our guest house Les 3 Metis, a traditional Madagascan home that has been converted with friendly staff. After all our traveling it was time to sample the local beer, Three Horses Beer, a great drop! We enjoyed Dinner at Les 3 Metis restaurant and thought we better have the Zebu steak to tick it off our Madagascan experience. flavor.experience. Zebu Cattle are prized on the Island, and the meat has a delicious lightly gamey flavor.
Day 1 : Royal Hill of Ambohimanga
Before our evening Adventure Briefing which would officially kick off the adventure we took a day trip to visit the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga.
After a hearty Madagascan style breakfast which has an unmistakably French feel with delicious baguettes and a rather large omelette!
Ambohimanga is a short but slow drive out of town providing us ample opportunity to take in all the road side stalls that sell everything from food, spare parts, timber yards you name it you will find it !
Madagascan Road Shopping
Nuru our guide explained that The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is the most significant symbol of the cultural identity of the people of Madagascar. It was enchanting to explore this 19th century Royal City.
Exploring the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga
Later that evening we met our fellow adventurers to go through the adventure briefing and prepare for our first day on the road which is always the busiest between collecting cars finally adventuring on the road less traveled. A festive group dinner was enjoyed post briefing !
After a delicious dinner we were ready to hit the road on day 2
Day 2 : Tana to Antsirbe
After an early start and the excitement of picking up our cars it was time to hit the road! But before hitting the road we had a slight detour to stock up on replenishment's at a well-stocked supermarket with a flurry of activity in the wine aisle!
Excitement of collecting the cars
Exiting Tana was not as challenging as expected, mainly due to the courteous driving of the locals who managed to keep traffic moving on winding busy roads filled with rickshaws ("pousse pousse" which means "push-push") and Zebu Carts. It’s a slow drive but ‘’Mora Mora’’ slowly slowly is a way of life .
One of the many Zebu Carts
Our drive takes us on the National Route 7 passing many different villages each with its specialist product for some it raffia baskets, for others its bricks each village has its signature. There is an enormous amount of hard physical labor everywhere you look, turning acres of dry clay rice paddies with spades in preparation for the rains and carting piles of freshly kilned bricks upon the head and then stacking them on carts that are pushed along the road. This is a very poor country but everyone seems so friendly and happy. Within two days we feel very comfortable in this new environment
This youngster wanted us to take his photo.. we were happy to comply!
We stopped for lunch in Ambatolampy before driving through some light afternoon showers and reaching Antsiribe which is the second largest town in Madagascar and also home to the famed Three Horse Brewery!
Our guest house for the evening, Couleur Café has beautiful french colonial rooms with lovely gardens.. The bar has a delicious selection of Rhum arrange , which is rum infused with tropical fruits or Vanilla, which we of course, had to sample!
Rhum arrange Gardens at Couleur Café Russ enjoying a THB at the source