Me. Boiling hot in the Tsingy
Madagascar... these days, what people think of when they hear of Madagascar is many little singing, dancing lemurs and troops of ferocious fosa. Perhaps some of Madagascar is like that. What comes to mind when I think of Madagascar is probably the poorest country I've seen. The main highway, or "route national," is barely wider than one standard US lane, and with all the potholes, if you average 50 kph you're lucky. The villages we passed were fortunate to have a few tin roofs. Most had no visible metal in the entire village, except perhaps a bicycle or two. But people were always cheerful and pleasant, not begging or money-grubbing. There's probably not enough tourists to warrant such behavior.
Transportation through the country was ...mm... interesting. Over our four days, we traveled by ferry, semi-tour bus taxi-brousse, foot, authentic taxi-brousse (taxi bruise, we say), taxi, 4x4 and airplane. By far the cheapest per kilometre was the taxi-brousse, which was a truck that loaded people into the back as it headed north. The most comfortable was of course the airplane, but it was also the most expensive and only used to get back to Nosy Be. Taxis were far too expensive for frequent use, and we only sank to that level when a normal taxi-brousse would have taken 3 or 4 times as long to drive the same distance. The 4x4 was a luxury we paid for because the road we wanted to take had washed out three days earlier, and was impassable to anything but a gnarly vehicle.
Planning the trip was fun. The first quote we got from a tour company was a shocking 1500 Euros, thank you very much, so Mom and I did our thing and set about to drop the price by about half. Private taxi? No need. Private tour guide? What a bore! Four-star resort on Montagne d'Ambre? How about a hotel down in town which serves its purpose at half the price.
Overall the trip in Madagascar was, beyond an exercise in interesting modes of transportation, a great spread of culture, wildlife, landscape, and adventure. I wish we'd had more time to travel around.
You can also see my parents' impressions of Inland Madagascar in the Destinations section.
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