When to break the budget: Madagascar
There is one of them in every family! The budget controller! In our case, it’s my husband. My husband can stick to a budget no matter what or no matter where! He takes it pretty seriously, which I am usually happy to go along with, except for ‘today.’ If there be any day to break the budget, ‘this day’ would have been it! But we didn’t. After a grueling 8 hours of sitting in a car, dodging potholes, people and chickens and accompanied by two very grumpy young children, we decided to stay in the centre of dusty Miandrivazo in the Baobab Hotel.
We pushed on passed the plush-ish 3 star hotel that overlooked the beautiful Tsiribihina River with a fiery orange sunset as a back drop, the sparkling blue pool and the gin and tonics that were literally screaming my name! We told the kids who were beyond all reasoning, to get back into the car and to walk away from the pool. We were going somewhere cheaper! So cheap, that we could afford 2 rooms. (The family room did not have a bathroom so we booked the next door room as well which came with a bathroom…but with no curtains.)
To be fair, the rooms were clean and the service was absolutely fine. But after the long and hot day in the car that we had had, a dip in a pool and a relaxing location would have been just great! We did try to relax. We went for a late afternoon stroll along the Tsiribihina River to catch a view of the sunset. But when I pulled out my camera, I quickly realized that there was absolutely zero chance of getting a natural, tranquil shot of the sunset. It had been the National Independence day only a few days before and it seemed that every child in Madagascar had acquired a cheap multi coloured flash/strobe type light. We were followed by a dozen children who would leap in front the camera, flashing their strobes in my direction! On one occasion, a child held up their terrified baby sister in front of my camera lens, who was by this time screaming in terror at the sight of such a white person, (me) insisting I take her photo, all the while flash lights were flashing as if we were in a London night club and children were yelling, “photo, photo, photo!”
Then in one short moment of calm I spotted my photo opportunity of the day. A perfect silhouette of a boat bobbing in the distance, just as the sun was going down. I rushed to the river bank and positioned my camera – only to be interrupted by the sound of people shouting at me in a rather angry tone. I lowered my eyes and there I saw what seemed to be the ‘men’s bathing spot’ and about 10 or so naked men, frantically covering their bits! That was the last straw – we went back to the hotel for a beer and a cold shower. (There was no hot water)
It was Friday night in Miandrivazo and we were the only guests in the hotel. This was a pleasing thought. All we really wanted at this stage was some food and ‘sleep.’ ‘Tomorrow’ would be another long day on the road and we were beyond ‘having a good time.’
We decided to go for something familiar like ‘Chicken and Chips.’ Five minutes after we ordered, we heard the last desperate clucks of a chicken in the vicinity of the kitchen. An hour later, dinner arrived. We were served a ‘long-legged road runner chicken’ that had been cut into 4 tiny portions and roasted on the fire. I guessed the chicken couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old. Though it was tasty, I swore I’d never take our ‘short-legged’ chickens for granted again. Hungry and tired, we went back to our room and opened a pack of salty biscuits for pudding.
We brushed our teeth, said our ‘Good nights’ and climbed into our beds. Just then, the entire street began to vibrate. Could it be an earth quake? No, it was the Karaoke bar just a few metres down the road. Minutes later, the street shuddered again; a concert with drums as the opening act and a voice which sounded like a bad version of the Gipsy Kings drowned out the drunken Karaoke singer, raising the noise level to ‘It’s impossible to sleep.’ Then the dogs started; a full-out street war broke out with packs of wild, rabid looking beasts ripping each other apart and howling into the early hours of the morning. A few hours later, after the last burst of song or a cat being murdered, I can’t be sure, came from the Karaoke bar, we were finally able to attempt sleep.
Zzzzzzz. Zzzzz. Z. z. z… Dammit. It’s a mosquito.