September 20, 2016
This post begins a 2 and half week trip to Madagascar in the fall of 2016, starting with 10 days in the remote West, including a 4 day canoe trip on the Manambolo River.
From Johannesburg, South Africa it’s an easy 3 hour flight to Antananarivo, called Tana for short. SA Airlink flies small regional jets from OR Tambo.
Our flight was the only arrival at 2PM. Nevertheless, passport control was confusing with multiple unexplained steps. They pass out forms while you’re standing in the passport queue. If you finish the 3 part form (spaces too small to write complete answers) just step around those passengers that are still writing.
They collect the Health form first. Then you buy a timbre or stamp. At the time of our visit, September, 2016, it was $30USD for 30 days. Next there is a longer queue to get the actual visa. They collect all the passports quite quickly but it takes 4 people to process the hand written visas. Passengers hangout, waiting for their name to be called and their passports returned – like waiting for your latte at Starbucks.
Baggage claim is right next to passport control and there are ATMs in the main lobby, although the Bank of Africa machines didn’t let us take more than 100,000 ariary (about 30USD) at a time. Later we found that BNI Madagascar machines let us take out 300,000 ariary.
Alex from Remote River Expeditions (RRE) was waiting for us as promised along with our driver and an assistant. Alex sat in the back with us in somewhat cramped conditions as we are not small Malagasy people.
It’s a long slow drive out of Tana with crowded busy streets. It’s a poor, colorful city with a mix of styles that feels like Asia, Africa and colonial Europe all jumbled together.
At the outskirts of town begins the agricultural landscape with green rice paddies and other crops in the low lands between golden hills.
We pass through a number of crowd-filled market towns.
We reach the Hotel Kavitaha on lake Itasy in Ampefy at sunset.
The hotel has pretty garden grounds on the banks of the lake.
Our room is simple and small yet clean with a comfortable bed and TV.
Dinner is supposed to be at 7PM. A large group on a cycling tour fills half the spacious dining room. We have a fixed menu but it takes over 30 minutes to get the first course, a huge bowl of squash soup – quite good. Our guide Alex sits with us for a while to chat. He eats beans and rice with a side of greens. He finishes before we get our main course. I’m about to give up when the server announces, “it’s coming.”
It was almost worth the wait – a beautifully grilled fresh lake fish with a side of vegies and fresh hot potatoes followed by flan.