Our first stop – Mauritius – came to an end yesterday. It was only meant as quick breath-through after our industrious weeks of planning before moving on to the real first stop on our list.

Our taxi driver Hassen was half an hour early and confused our before-departure-plans thoroughly! “Better early than late” he smiled….Yeah, yeah..Gotta write a mail to rebook our Nairobi flight before we leave..Grrrrr! By the way, we decided to skip Nairobi due to the current events. My African family strongly discouraged us of following our original plans of staying for five days. “Kenya is not safe for foreigners right now”.

Anyway, having written the mail, we were brought to the tiny (but brand new) airport by an unusually quiet Hassen to be over two hours early. So, we ended up having an extremely good coffee, taking advantage of the good wifi reception and spending our last Rupees on chocolate while the other passengers were already embarking.

Then we learnt that according to Antananarivo law “absolutely harmless” insecticides had to be sprayed along the aisles….yummie! AND that it is forbidden to sleep in the aisles! Good to know!

No sleeping

When our Air Mauritius flight started its descent to Tana (as we insiders call Madagascar’s capital 😉 ) I felt pretty excited as I’ve been wanting to go there for years!

What awaited us was the complete opposite of the sparkling, luxurious airport in Mauritius: Wild formations of people…supposedly the queue…trying to get through emigration and customs in a dingy hall with wooden stalls.

We successfully left all of that behind, got a taxi, fell for the trick we were warned about in the guidebook but failed to remember when we needed it, agreed to a much too high price and started our journey into the city.

What followed was a tiny culture shock. Ivato, the area around the airport and the first 10 or so kilometers towards Tana is packed with poor people walking, standing, lying left and right of the dusty, reddish streets. I have traveled a bit, but I cannot recall ever having seen so much poverty at once. And the amount of people everywhere! What hustle and bustle! And the traffic! We were a bit overwhelmed at first.

After about an hour we reached our guest house, the Karthala, an old house at he top of Tana’s Fahavohitra quarter (get accustomed to these long names…they don’t get shorter here!) run by an older lady named Arianne. She was not there when the taxi left us at the bottom of the stairs that we had to climb with our heavy backpacks to reach the house. Just to add another long name, I will mention that the chambre d’hôte,  as guest houses are called here, is on Rue Andriandahifotsy. The only people around were two friendly boys (calling them young men would be exaggerated) that tried to figure out what room we were in.

As we were really tired and weren’t quite sure how safe it was to wander around at night, we were very happy to see that the  Karthala served dinner. There was no menu or the like, so we just asked for dinner for the two of us. We were served a deliciously seasoned vegetable soup and a dish that seems to be typically Malagasy, looked pretty disgusting, but tasted great: sausages with beans in sauce.

sausages and beans