This project has lasted longer than any relationship I've ever been in
Well, every relationship apart from the current relationship I'm in with my beautiful, talented, wonderful, smart and clever girlfriend!!! ;) Isn't she amazing? She's very supportive and has been out to see me 9 times since I left Denmark 1,003 days ago. Now we've reached 114 countries and have 89 left. This is definitely a 5 year project and no longer 4...but I'm happy with it and how it's turning out. I combine that little slice of happiness with a longing for going home...
The good ship "Mojangaya" brought me safely to Madagascar after about 45 uncomfortable hours at sea. My bones were soar and I was happy to see land. I had arrived to Majunga on the northwestern part of this massive island nation. It's twice the size of the U.K. and it's larger than Spain!
"Mojangaya" wasn't the first ship to arrive at Madagascar's shores. It was once a haven for notorious pirates such as Blackbeard! And Madagascar has been visited by some early explorers from Asia along with explorers from the Arabic peninsula. Then of course the French along with various Africans joined the party and now you have a solid mix of very attractive people!! I have heard that the most beautiful people come from Madagascar. I disagree. For me the most beautiful people are the Senegalese. But I'll rate the Malagasy population, and especially the women, as the cutest I've ever seen! And a lot of them are very sexy too.
In Antananarivo. Reminds me of Bangladesh.
This is a country "of many different places" for me. Some of it looks like Bangladesh. Some of it reminds me of Bolivia. Sometimes the landscape looks like Scotland and sometimes something else. So much of Madagascar is its own though, with lots of endemic and absolute unique flora! And when I reached Mojunga I was reminded of Cuba.
In Majunga on a quiet street. Reminds me of Cuba.
Immigration were kind (and cute) and courteous. I had no trouble getting my $30 visa on arrival. It took a little time though as we had to wait for people who weren't there (that's a bit of a theme in Madagascar I have found). But apparently an officer at the immigration police wanted to train her English, so we passed some time with that...
It was late afternoon when I left the port and started looking for an ATM so that I could secure myself some local Ariary. As a Dane I need to remove 3 zeros and multiply by 2 to convert the rate. But for the rest of you $1 is equivalent to 3,210.00 Ariary. That's when it struck me that I was walking on a street which reminded me of Cuba. But I didn't linger and with money in my pocket I jumped into a tuctuc and continued straight to the bus terminal. It was now around 4pm.
Tuctuc'ing my way to the bus station in Majunga.
It didn't take long to find a bus to Tana (Antananarivo) which is the capital of Madagascar. It's a "10 hour" bus ride from Majunga. I bought a ticket, a simcard, some samosas and something which could have been smoked ham? It tasted like it? Then at 6pm the bus left and it soon become dark. I couldn't sleep and it was impossible to get comfortable with way too little legroom for me. But the road was smooth and there wasn't much traffic. Besides the bus was reasonably comfortable although tiny :) We stopped a few times during the evening and night so that I and the other 30 passengers could load up on food and drinks. The atmosphere was so spectacular and I knew around then that I was in love with Madagascar. It all seemed so different to me? It wasn't like anything or anywhere I had been traveling for a very long time. Even the food and drinks where different. It had become adventurous and joyful again. Lovely!!
On the road to Antananarivo. Roadside micro businesses.
Back in the bus I leaned against the glass window and glazed up towards the stars. There were so many of them. It was magical! Around 05:00am I finally feel asleep. At 06:00am we had arrived to Tana. Taxi drivers were swarming around me and although I didn't know the price I knew they where asking for all too much. So I walked off and found a taxi driver about 10 minutes away. He only wanted a fraction of the price. Around a dollar I think. At 07:00am I had arrived at my hostel. It's pretty much the only hostel in Tana, but it's high quality and conveniently located downtown. And a bed in the dorm only costs $8. I went straight to bed!!
My body was still soar 2 days later from the 45 hour boat ride...followed by the 12 hour bus ride. I'm getting older!!
Tana (Antananarivo) - a small part of it.
Tana is an extraordinary city! It's up at an elevation above 1,000 meters so it's quite cold! That's good because malaria mosquitos do not like that. I'm madly in love with Tana! It's a city with an excess of different neighborhoods. You literally don't know what you will find right around the corner. There are an enormous amount of cool places to discover and I love doing it. At night it's a pretty dark city as electricity is relatively scarce. It's ill advised to walk around at night, but I've done so anyway. Desperate people do desperate things and poverty produces it's fair share of desperation. But I don't see Madagascar to be as poor as I was told.
In Tana it's a very mixed population. There are the beggars and tricksters. There are the street venders with their blankets and goods lying at display directly on the ground. Then there are all the people in fancy clothes with their smartphones and smart hair. The majority of all the cars in the city are modern enough to drive about in Europe if they needed to. There are modern shops, cafes and supermarkets. And then all the micro businesses as well. It's life...
There are many tourists at the hostel. That's when I'm reminded that I'm not one of them. They are either planing to go whale watching or diving or to see the baobab alley. They go spearfishing or to see the lemurs or they ride around in the wild on quad bikes. There's plenty to do on this grand island. And I'll do none of it this time around.
I'm trapped with a lot of work. I want to get as good an impression of the Red Cross here that I can write a story about it.
The Red Cross doing its part. The world would be a different place without it!
But most of all: I need a boat! I really thought I had it all planed out. On a weekly basis Maersk Line offers a service which goes from Madagascar to The Seychelles via Oman to Mauritius...and back to Madagascar. Maersk has been helpful before and they were both kind, courteous and forthcoming this time as well. But the ships they use here are "time chartered" which basically means they have no say in regards to the ships crew or operation. They simply arrange for the freight and cannot give me passage. That was an immense blow to my planning!
Port Louis is in Mauritius. Tamatave is the main port in Madagascar.
It shook me a bit to learn that. Because both Mauritius and the Seychelles are quite far into the ocean. People keep asking me about North Korea and my plans for that. Little do the know about the many tourist that visit every year. But no one says: How will you get to the Seychelles? I wouldn't have an answer anyway. Right now it seems tough.
But after a weeks worth of visiting shipping companies and searching the internet I might have found something. Not to the Seychelles...but something plausible to get me to Mauritius. However nothing is sure until I'm on a boat. And lately we've discovered that even being on a boat isn't a guarantee ;)
A bottle of of vodka goes for less than $2!
I've been met with a lot of hostility from a few shipping companies. And I've been embraced positively by others. It's often hard to explain the difference between me and a backpacker. The person receiving the request isn't always able to see the big picture. Taking part in the Saga is a possible thing!! And I will make sure that it is always rewarded. At times I wonder if I'm a visionary? I certainly see a clear path and have a lot of visions about the future for this project and for the world. But I often fall short in conveying this to others. In fact at times I feel like too many are waiting for this project to be complete. And they completely ignore what can be gained in its process...I think I will remember who was presents during the Saga and who only showed up at the end ;)
I found a restaurant where they keep bringing you meat of all sorts until you put your flag down!! With dessert included I paid $13.
While searching for a ship I've come across a lot of people who talk about a shipping line which takes cargo and passengers to Mauritius. I have myself found the same ship online. Actually there are 2 ships and the price is €255 for a one way ticket. But I've been in dialog with the manager of the company who informed that they discontinued that connection long ago. So it only exists online and in the memory of some people. There's a lot of that going around...
I have met wonderful people here! There are surely more to come. The food is good and the islands is adventurous to be on. I could stay here and be happy! But I'm sure my smile will be much bigger as I see myself at sea...hopefully soon.
The taxis are super cool ;)
Anyway, here's a list of the transportation which has brought us this far ;)
(the count "only" includes movements with my bags)
- 107 trains
- 79 metros
- 17 trams
- 242 buses
- 36 minibuses
- 47 taxis
- 58 shared taxis
- 36 motorcycle taxis
- 2 shared motorcycle taxis
- 3 4WD bush taxis
- 7 4WD
- 4 tuctucs or similar
- 9 trucks
- 2 NGO vehicles
- 13 ships
- 15 boats
- 4 fastboats
- 4 sailboats
- 3 cruise ships
- 1 ferry
- 1 high performance yacht
- 1 horse carriage
- 1 shared bicycle
- 1 police car
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - island hopping
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga