When it was time to leave Tana to go to Antsirabe (with a stress on the “e”), one of our friendly guest house boys took us down the stairs to a taxi to take us to the bus terminal. As usual we had to haggle with the driver about the price, but insisted on 12.000 Ariary, which is what Arianne had told us it would cost.

Our backpacks were squashed into the trunk of the beat-up Citroën and we got into the car…making sure not to sit in the  wet spot on the back seat, that had developped due to the heavy rains in the night and the many leaks in the roof of he car.

We had a pleasant little ride through parts of Tana we hadn’t seen yet and slowed down where we expected the terminal. Right away some men started running next to our car on both sides shouting things into our windows that we were incapable of understanding. The taxi driver asked us for our destination and turned into a mud road. And there it was: the “bus terminal” – a big mud filled parking area jampacked with little vans and people shouting, selling and moving around like chicken.

Bus station 2

V got out of the taxi to ensure our backpacks were safe, as the guys that had been running next to our car were already in the back, opening he trunk, while others were at my door calling through the window. I brushed off the guys, grabbed my backpack and day pack and approached the driver to pay him the 12.000 Ariary. Of course the guys around me didn’t just move away. They were still there….probably 7 or so (but it felt like a million) shoving, calling and grabbing at me.

I gave the driver 15.000, but he didn’t have the 3000 change, so started walking around looking for help. I was still being pestered and was trying to keep the people away from my belongings. What chaos!! And where was V? I turned to look for her and realized she was standing with a guy who was talking to our taxi driver. Her backback had already been mounted to the roof of a tiny 7-row van and the taxi driver was explaining they would deduct the 3000 he owed me from our bus fare.

Whatever! One backpack was already on the bus…looked like we were going with this one. The taxi driver left and we watched carefully as the other backpack was lifted up to the roof. During the whole time a bunch of guys were still shoving and shouting and motioning us to get into the van onto the last row. We were stressed and annoyed at all the pushing and calling and overwhelmed at he same time, so obliged and got into the van, still trying to make sure our backpacks didn’t disappear from the roof.

Two guys followed us into he van and started talking simultaneously. One was flapping a pad of official looking papers and the other was holding his hand out to me asking for the fee. 15.000 per person. What?? The guide book said 7000 per person. No, no! Its 15.000! For everybody!  Right? He nodded towards  the young man who was sitting next to us in the last row, who nodded back in agreement. So, what now? Argue our point based on what? Our guide book? Whatever!? Ok! But it’s not 30.000. It’s 27.000, as you owe me 3000 from the taxi driver! I had to repeat that 3 times, until the guy agreed. During this time, while we were squashed in the back of the tiny van with two guys that wouldn’t stop talking, vendors were incessantly trying to open our side windows wanting to sell us stuff.

Tana Taxi-Brousse waiting 1

Unfortunately again we didnt have the exact fare, so I gave the guy 30.000 and repeated that he owed me 3000. He nodded, both guys left the van and suddenly vanished. Everything calmed down immediately after that….

V and I looked at each other. What had that been? How did we end up in this van, that we hadn’t selected? And why did we just pay this guy the double of what we had expected and why had those guys been so hectic and pushy in getting us to pay? And what happened to my change? And where had the guys suddenly gone to? It started to dawn on us…we had been ripped-off. Those guys probably didn’t even work for the van we were sitting in and had disappeared with our big fare. Grrr…we felt like travel beginners. We remembered we had actually read about this kind of scam in some travel blog in another country. Then the young guy next to us started talking to someone through his window, pointing at us and laughing. Our anger grew! Anger at our stupidity and anger at these guys. So, that’s the friendly people we always read about when referring to the Malagasy…they laugh about foreigners being stolen from. Not nice! 👿

Tana Taxi-Brousse waiting 5

We sat there for a while mumbling, hissing and angry, wondering what we could have done to prevent this. The vendors outside were still trying to get rid of ware we were REALLY not interested in purchasing by pushing themselves through our window which I closed again and again….which did not make us more relaxed or happy. Then another official looking guy with a pad came in and took money from other passengers. Now we would have to pay again, as this was the real van guy! 🙁 Hesitantly I said “We already paid the other guy. ” “Oui, oui” he nodded. V and I looked at each other….what if the guys actually WERE from our van? Had we been prejudiced? After another while (we had been sitting in the bus for over an hour now and they had squeezed another girl into our 3-seat row) a guy came in and handed me the 3000 Ariary he owed me. V and I looked at each other again and felt very bad now. Ok, we might have been overcharged.  But they didn’t steal from us and we even got our change back. Note to self: Don’t think the worst of people, just because you are in Africa and the people might handle their business differently than you’re accustomed to!