Thumper…

November 16, 2014

Tana to Ambositra, Madagascar

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 12:33 pm
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Tana is a city of contrasts, a mix of old and new and the old traditional ways often sit uncomfortably next to the old, the new marching on, but the old not quite willing to give up ground just yet. Rice fields grow in the middle of the city, a river runs through, with slums and brick makers gracing the river bank, all just a stone throws from the hustle and bustle of more typical city pursuits.

Transporting mud bricks - Tana

Transporting mud bricks – Tana

Today was our first day looking around and we left in time to be caught in the Tana peak hour traffic. Pretty much the same as every other capital city I guess – too many cars at the same time, driving down mostly single lane main roads not designed for cars. Many of the cars are old, especially the taxis, which makes you feel like you’re in another world altogether.

Taxi!

Taxi!

Our ultimate destination was Ambositra, a city not far away in distance, but thanks to the windy, mountainous roads, interesting scenery and traffic, it took us almost the day to get there! The road is shared with the taxi buses (more like our delivery type vans) that are loaded with all kinds of goods the people are carrying, as well as many bull and carts on the edges of the road and of course people walking.

Taxi Bus

Taxi Bus

Not far down the road from Tana is Ambatolampy, a small city specialising in Aluminium pot making. There are quite a few of these small business around the town, tucked in between houses and I’d imagine they’re all fairly similar. We got dropped there by our driver to look around. After we’d done that, we got told we had to pay. sigh. OH&S is unheard of in these businesses, they don’t have any protective footwear or clothing, children run around the area and some of the work areas are so dusty you can barely breath (and you come out covered in dust). Despite this, they were more than happy to have us watch and it was interesting watching the recycled aluminium go through the process to become something useful again.

Pouring into the mold

Pouring into the mold

Along the way we stopped at an old bridge, with a new one about 100m up the road. They wanted a bigger bridge that would better suit the modern traffic, and eventually got one, but in order to ensure the people used the new one, they made the old one uncrossable. Proof that people don’t like change perhaps?

Forced to change

Forced to change

We reached our destination later that night, just in time to have a short walk around before it got dark. There were plenty of pousse-pousse (pronounced puss-puss, basically a rickshaw pulled by humans) around here, querying us for a ride, but not hassling us incredibly like some Asian countries would. Thought about getting a ride in one, but there were some really steep hills that we had to walk up to get back to our hotel (Hotel Violette) and I felt a bit guilty making the men pull me up them! Had some street food for tea that night, before reflecting on my first real day in Madagascar.

Street Food

Street Food

Madagascar is its own world. Not French, Asian, African or European, but a mix of everything. Two story mudbrick houses, narrow streets but with footpaths. Really scenic, with rice paddies making up the bulk of the industry/farming. Different culture altogether.

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November 2, 2014

Uganda to Madagascar

Filed under: Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 3:43 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ok, it’s been a while and I’ve since had another trip (Vietnam earlier in the year), and a few people have mentioned to me that they want to see photos from that one. Seems only fair that I finish off my African trip last year before I put this years trip up. So here goes, and at the very least, I’ll get us to Madagascar in this post!

So my last day in Uganda was supposed to be fairly uneventful (1/6/13). Put some new strings on a guitar, did some computer maintenance and hung around Butera for a bit. Later in the day I attempted to have a bit of a rest – my flight out was around 4am the next day (Sun 2/6/13), so basically it was a night of no sleep coming up. I’m not so good at sleeping during the day, so that was a little unsuccessful. Finally got tired of that, packed up my stuff and made sure that I put everything I didn’t want to lose in my hand luggage, because I didn’t want to arrive in Madagascar with nothing if my check in luggage was lost.

We took the hire car back, had some pizza for tea (not at the usual Nicky’s Pizza haunt though), visited the dock area and downed a few passionfruit while they were still plentiful.

All fairly uneventful. That’s when the fun starts. I’d just visited the bank to get some UGX to leave with Mike. Policeman pulled us over and claimed we’d done something wrong. To cut an extremely long story short, he wouldn’t take us away and wouldn’t give us his ID number (as they are legally obliged to do) so we spent nearly half an hour arguing over his payment to “release” us. Finally we gave up and paid him (and his offsider) around 10,000 UGX to let us go. We had plenty of time, but I still had a plane to catch!

Now if the night ended there, you would probably shrug it off as typical Africa. It’s not unusual for white people to be pulled over by the cops in Uganda and asked for money. The police often aren’t your friends in these countries. Of course, the story didn’t finish there and we drove about 5 minutes further from the city toward the airport when we did the right thing and stopped at a traffic light. We were just about to take off for the green light when a car came around the corner, running the red light. While we waited for that car, a guy jumped the retaining wall toward our left, ran to the back of the car, opened the boot (it was a 2 door 4WD Rav 4, so has a hinged boot) and grabbed the top bag. Remember the bag that I packed everything I didn’t want to lose in? Yes, it was that bag. Gone were camera and phone chargers, ipod, external hard drives, all my favourite clothes, my song book (I’d been writing songs and hesitated greatly about whether I’d even bring the book), toothbrush, sunnies, jumper, torch, malaria medication… sigh, you name it, it was in there. I still had my money, wallet, passport, phone and cameras, which all would have been in that bag if I hadn’t have been lazy in putting them away, so it could have been worse. And I will concede that the thief got lucky, because what were the chances that we would stop and the boot unlocked at that particular moment. You couldn’t plan that. Anyway, Mike and I did jump out to chase him, but he vanished over another wall too quick and we quickly realised that even though Ev was still in the car, a) we were still vulnerable coz we left the doors wide open and b) we jumped out so quick we didn’t actually put the handbrake on and the car was starting to roll away…

So… anyway, full credit to QBE, I rang them straight away and they were excellent – suggested we go to the police and were very understanding when I told them our earlier run in with the police and why I wasn’t so keen on visiting another police station, especially around 1am in the morning. I eventually pulled in at the police station when I got to the airport – I couldn’t say they were that helpful either, in fact, there was one guy snoring loudly on a bench just near the front desk, they didn’t speak much english at all and halfway through the report the woman puts down her pen, wanders away and leaves us standing there looking at her partner. Nobody says a word and a few minutes later you hear the toilet flush… then we resume. Was pretty funny, but we held our laughter in til we’d left! After it was all done, she said the person who could actually sign police reports wasn’t there, but she wrote our details on a piece of paper and that was what I left with. I checked in with 7kgs of luggage. Wow.

After that, the flight to Madagascar was uneventful. More time was spent hanging around in Nairobi airport waiting for connections and around 4pm that day I arrived in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar. Small airport, many willing “helpers” who wanted a tip for carrying my luggage (as if I was going to let anybody near my luggage!), signs in Malagasy and French and a driver who spoke not much english for our short trip to the IC hotel. Being a Sunday, pretty much all of the shops are shut – we had a few minutes to duck into the one shop that was open and get some supplies (some food and of course a toothbrush!) and a brief visit to the pharmacy to find some replacement doxycycline (malaria medication) (which they didn’t have, I got something else, which I think was used if you actually had malaria and ended up making me sick).

Tennis Biscuits

Tennis Biscuits

I wasn’t expecting everything to be in French so I couldn’t read much, but I could read the label on the packet of “Tennis” biscuits. I didn’t get any, but I do wish I had’ve got some of them for my tennis team! Great view and sunset and good food (went with the safe spag bol, it was all I could read on the menu) at the IC restaurant to finish the day, but it didn’t make me feel much better.

View of Tana from IC Hotel

View of Tana from IC Hotel

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