Our Madagascar family road trip in a 1987 Peugeot Station wagon
We’d waited a year and a half to do this trip and the excitement we felt as a family was almost palpable. The kids had watched the movie ‘Madagascar’ at least 20 times and the words and tune ‘I like to move it, move it,’ would creep into my head at any given moment. The time had finally come and we were off to the big island of Madagascar.
We checked in our bags at the O.R Tambo airport in Johannesburg, handed the birth certificates to the Customs guy, proving that our kids are ‘ours’ (a requirement for all people travelling in, out and around South Africa with children) and then the marriage certificate to prove that we really are married and subsequently produced ‘these’ children whom now accompany us on our travels! It was the marriage certificate that almost changed everything. A typing error stating a different day of birth for my husband!
After many years of cross-border travelling, you get a feel for the ‘border’ officials and I instinctively knew that this ‘guy’ would not have hesitated to cancel our dream trip if we annoyed him in the slightest! He told us that the information was incorrect and we could not travel on ‘this’ incorrect document even though it was so clearly a Home Affairs department typo error! We looked at him blankly and said very little. We stood there – mostly in silence – except for my children tugging at our sleeves and loudly stating that they are bored of waiting and when can we go? Maybe this helped. After staring into our eyes long and hard, he reluctantly stamped the paper and we were free to pass through the pearly gates into ‘Duty Free,’ one step closer to Madagascar.
A few hours later, we’d fly over the Mozambican channel and into Madagascar airspace, overlooking an arid countryside with intensive agriculture, resembling a patchwork quilt of Autumn colours.
This trip would not be the tropical, palm-tree-perfectly-bent-over-a-turquoise-sea ‘type trip’ but rather a road trip starting from the capital ‘Antananarivo’ into the highlands and eventually meandering down to the dry West coast of Madagascar. It might not be a trip for ‘everyone’ but it certainly was the right kind of trip for us! An adventure that would take us deep into Malagasy culture and way of life, through astonishingly productive farmlands, on windy roads used by Zebu carts, Pousse-Pousse’s and long-legged road runner chickens!
It would be a 12 day road trip in a 1987 Peugot Station wagon (fairly new in the way of Malagasy vehicles) that would take us down to Morondava – famous for it’s avenue of baobabs. Then we’d catch a boat to the remote Belo-sur-mer where we’d lounge under the hot west coast winter sun on a turquoise beach, watching the three-mast sailing boats sailing into the sunset.
Madagascar took us by surprise. It’s very different to mainland Africa. It’s a place where Asia meets Africa, influenced by French culture but proudly Malagasy. A place were taboos and ancestor worship remain strong, where jam baguettes are a staple and where Lemurs take the place of monkey’s.
Over the next couple of months, I’ll be posting about this fascinating travel destination and sharing things like ‘where to hire a driver,’ (absolutely necessary!) where to see the Lemurs, things to consider when booking your trip, accommodation reviews, taboos and the places we saw and experienced.
12 days was no where near enough time. But it was enough to know that Madagascar is a destination like no other and a place that I hope to explore in depth one day.
“We like to move it, move it. We like to move it, move it…”
Rice paddies, mange tout, sweet potatoes and onion crops
Before we went west, we took a 3 hour road trip east of Antananarivo to the Lemur capital, Antisabe.
Food of Madagascar: Croissants, Zebu, Duck, Foie Gras and tropical fruit
This is the normal mode of taxi transport in Tana (Antananarivo)
And this is the popular transport in Antsirabe: The Pousse-Pousse
A trip to the coral islands on a pirogue
“You are the books you read, the films you watch, the music you listen to, the people you meet, the dreams you have, and the conversations you engage in. You are what you take from these. You are the sound of the ocean, breath of the fresh air, the brightest light and the darkest corner.
You are a collective of every experience you have had in your life. You are every single second of every day. So drown yourself in a sea of knowledge and existence. Let the words run through your veins and the colors fill your mind. ” ~Jac Vanek