Thumper…

January 5, 2015

Back to Tana

Today was the last day of our tour and I can say I was glad about that.

We started off by going to a gem stone and sapphire shop, they were happy to give us a few free rocks which of course I have to cart home (chose to cart home?).

After that was a candy making factory where we watched them make some lollies. They made some eucalyptus lollies, where instead of using oil, they used crushed leaves to flavour it. Crushed leaves. Not cooked, just straight crushed leaves… hmmm. Plenty of other flavours were also available and we purchased quite a few packets because they were so cheap (they didn’t even taste that nice).

Making candy, Antsirabe

Making candy, Antsirabe

While we were there, there were a few young boys pushing this cart heavily loaded with bags up a fairly steep hill. We were a little unsure about taking a photo of them, but when they saw us with the camera they had a good laugh and asked us to come and help.

Hard work uphill, Antsirabe

Hard work uphill, Antsirabe

The worst thing about Antsirabe was though, every time the car stopped we had people banging on the windows trying to sell us stuff. In fact, generally all around this central highland area was fairly similar in that everytime the car stopped you had people coming up to try and sell you things, but I guess due to the amount of people in the town, it was much worse here.

I needed to post a postcard, so we stopped in the centre of town near the post office. I had to fight and push people away just to get out of the car and they stayed there and hassled us. It would have been nice to have a look around this area as there was a nice town square type thing with a monument there that obviously meant something. Unfortunately it was really only possible to see it from inside the car. (It was the Fahaleovantena, monument to the 19 tribes that make up Madagascar and features the head of a zebu (cow)).

Fahaleovantena monument with pousse pousse in the front, Antsirabe

Fahaleovantena monument with pousse pousse in the front, Antsirabe

The area around here was also known for little wooden trucks and cars, and they made for colourful stands on the side of the road. I picked one of these to grab a couple of small cars as souvenirs (except that I got the aluminium can ones).

Cars and trucks for sale

Cars and trucks for sale

As well as toy cars, they also have plenty of Mary statues on the side of the road. I can only assume there is a strong catholic presence around this area and the number of catholic churches in Tana supports that.

Mary statues

Mary statues

We had lunch at the Coin Du Foie Gras, in Behenjy, nice working toilet, nice view from the balcony, not so nice duck pizza.

Duck pizza, Coin Du Foie Gras, Behenjy

Duck pizza, Coin Du Foie Gras, Behenjy

It wasn’t long before we were back in Tana, taking a look around the town. We went to Analamanga Hill that has a church and Manjakamiadana Palace on top, which overlooks the lake and Mahamasina Municipal Stadium. Great view of the city. Unfortunately again, as soon as we got out of the car we were hassled by loads of people trying to sell us stuff. Of course they wouldn’t take no for an answer, they would keep pushing each other to gain a position closest to you, often you would end up getting pushed as well. Perhaps the strangest thing though was a young girl, maybe 2 or 3 who was there begging. Could barely speak, but knew enough to ask for money, while holding out her hand – and she knew the tricks, she knew what she was doing. When she didn’t get anything, she got angry and started hitting me – thereby acting more like a spoilt child than somebody truly in need. I must admit though, it didn’t break my heart, nor tug at my heart strings – truthfully giving a few aria is not going to help her. It’s more sadder that potentially those responsible for her have sent her out to go and beg, rather than look after her and themselves by trying to earn money responsibly. I understand the challenges of third world countries – I have friends who live permanently in other third world countries and I’ve visited a few as a volunteer and missionary. Giving people money doesn’t help them in the long term, but giving them a way to help themselves does. Trouble is, many don’t want to help themselves and want to live on handouts. Anyway, I’ll get off that bandwagon now…

Lake Anosy and Mahamasina Municipal Stadium, Tana

Lake Anosy and Mahamasina Municipal Stadium, Tana

We had a chance to take a couple of quick photos, but didn’t spend too long thanks mainly to the people hassling us all the time. If that’s what it’s like being a celebrity, I’m more than happy not to be one!

After that we had a brief drive through town down toward the railway station. There were cars everywhere, people everywhere and we didn’t take a walk around because it was a little dangerous (so we were told). We paid a visit to the Marche artisanal Digue market, which isn’t far from the airport or where we stayed. They have stalls both sides of the road, before one side gives away to carparking while the shops continue on the other side. There were very few people around, which meant that again, we were prime targets for people hassling us. One stall holder followed us down about half the street, through all the other shops, trying to get us to buy something we’d stopped to look at. We thought he’d given up, only to find him there a bit later on. It became a bit of a circus, with other people following him, following us. Painful. We had a few things on our shopping list and being the end of the trip, we were running out of Aria and not that willing to get more. So you could also say we were on a strict budget as well! The worst part about shopping here was that the people got really upset if you didn’t buy something you looked at. They’d start shouting and screaming at you, becoming aggressive and throwing a tantrum like a child, as though that would somehow make you want to buy from them. Truthfully, Madagascar is the worst country I have been to in terms of people hassling you and begging. And it was more due to the response when you refused that makes me label it like that. I’ve been to Asia – they will hassle you but generally not get aggressive. Mainland Africa – they will hassle you but not as much as in Asia, and again, not that aggressively, but Madagascar – oh they’re in a world of their own!

Analamanga Hill, Tana

Analamanga Hill, Tana

Ev was looking at a t-shirt there and our driver said to us, wow, that is expensive. We explained that yes, it was expensive by their standards, but when we compare it to what we have to pay in Australia, it is dirt cheap. We started explaining some of the prices we would pay back in Australia for items around the shop. His eyes widened and I think he finally got why tourists come here and are happy to pay more than the locals. A small win in the scheme of things perhaps.

After we finished at the market the driver took us back to his house to have some afternoon tea and meet his wife. He had a quite a nice house, a separate building in an apartment block where most of the rest of his family lived. He served us a special local cake that he had got from the area near the hill and some drinks to go with it.

Cake and drinks from our driver

Cake and drinks from our driver

Our tour finished at the IC Hotel, admittedly, one that I was glad was over, which was a bit of a shame. While I loved the scenery, the language barrier was really difficult in relation to our driver and we missed a lot of discussion involving the local customs and culture. That wouldn’t have been a problem if we were expecting that – in fact earlier in this trip we’d done Malawi by ourselves, with no tour guide/driver at all. But we’d paid extra specifically so that we would have a guide who spoke English and so that things would be organised. It drove us mad that we would get to places and have to spend time questioning whether it was included, because if we didn’t, we would find ourselves having to pay for it once we had agreed to do it, or worse still, at the end. Our poor driver, who while he had done the trip before, hadn’t had to be the guide while doing it. He did his best, but it wasn’t his job. He kept the car perfectly clean – every morning up early giving it a wash. He’d even make sure all the windows were spotless because we’d taken to taking photos out the windows! He did his best also to keep away the guys who would try and carry our bags. We were appreciative of that.

Incidentally we gave our feedback to Nomad who the tour was through when we returned, they get a local operator to run it (don’t know who) and Nomad had had other complaints regarding the same tour and were reviewing it all. Hopefully something came out of it.

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: