Friday, 16 September 2016

Andasibe to Antananarivo

September 14

We were down to breakfast at 7 again, as José wants us to hit the road at 7:30. It was raining. It looked like it rained a lot last night. We were so lucky yesterday to have a sunny day.

They asked us how we wanted our eggs. We were excited for a moment until the waiter came back to say he was sorry, that we do not get eggs on our plan. That was twice during our trip when we tried to sneak in some eggs but to no avail. But we did get the same good breakfast as yesterday with the yoghurt and cheese.

When we got to the car I told José that I wanted to get a new basketball for my friend from yesterday. José said that it is easy to buy basketballs in Tana, but impossible in Andasibe. He offered to drop the basketball off on his next trip to the area. So we needed to stop at the house with the court. I was hoping that it was actually the house of the boy that I talked to and had my photo with. It could have been the home of one of the other boys.

The house was easy to find. José and I walked into their yard. We saw a young man, likely older than my friend, but tall and lanky like him. He called to the house. Out popped another tall and lanky young man, but still not the same boy. Another call into the house and my friend came out. I explained in English that I was going to buy the basketball and have José deliver it. He was confused. José repeated in English. He seemed quite pleased and off we went.

It was still raining. It rained off and on until we were close to Antananarivo. The Tana traffic is overwhelming. José worked his way up and down the crowded and narrow roads until we made it to Ambohimanga, the King’s palace. He was the original king of Madagascar. The palace was then used by other royals, most of whom were queens, as a country retreat after the new palace was built in Antananarivo. As I had mentioned in yesterday’s post, this was not part of our official itinerary. We skipped the reptile farm and substituted this instead.

When we got to the start, we found that there was only a French speaking guide. I was actually happy about that, a chance for me to practice. It was quite easy since most places had little signs in Malagasy, French and English. The tour was quick but relatively interesting. At the end the guide said we could carry on to the top to see a garden and the great view. The view was a big reason why I wanted to stop there.

We walked back down the hill to José. We carried on through the crazy traffic to the Chinese lunch that José had promised. It seemed to take forever to get there. Nothing is easy in this country. Eventually we got there.  José had his fried rice (it had to be rice for him). Po and I shared two noodle dishes.

We discussed basketballs. José said we would have to go down into the centre of town to get the ball. I said that there was no way I was going down there, which would take at least an hour and then probably more than that to get back as we would be approaching rush hour traffic. I asked José if we could just give him the money to buy the ball sometime in the next weeks. He agreed. He had just bought a ball for his daughter knew where to get one and how much they cost.

Our next stop was a bank to change some money. We stopped at one bank. It was packed. There was a board showing which client was up next and which teller to go to. But one of the tellers shown was presently unoccupied. We had no idea how long it would take. We decided to move on.

José stopped at another bank. Only one teller was working but it was not as crowded as the previous one. A customer was kind enough to tell Po that she needed to leave her passport and the Euros on the teller’s counter. Each new customer left their documents on the counter. That got you in the line up. There was only one teller working.

A man came to the counter and started unloading piles of money to deposit. As I mentioned in a previous post, a business can accumulate big piles of money with the crazy value of the Ariary. It looked like it would take a long time. I went outside and José mentioned that there was another place down the street that we could try. But Po’s passport was now with the tellers. I went back inside. There was another teller working. At the other teller the piles of money were still accumulating. Finally Po was called up. We got our Ariary.

The quality, or lack thereof, of service at the banks must be a problem for everyone. To have people line up for an hour or more to do their banking must be a real drag on business. And the value of the Ariary is also bewildering. It is a new currency, but it was set with such high numbers. I tried to explain the phrase, “What were they thinking?” to José.

From there to our hotel was not far. We were flabbergasted when we pulled in. We thought our last hotels were amazing, each like a little oasis, but this one is the best. It is set in a little forest of tall trees. The dining room and lobby is full of antiques. Our room is two levels, not that we need it, but it is really nicely decorated.

We went in for supper. We were free agents. No supper is included with our room, so we can order off the menu. I ordered the special pizza. It was one of the best pizzas I have had in years. It only cost about $3 US.

We returned to the room. I needed to turn up the heat. Yes, this place has heat, and we needed it. It is somewhat cool outside and the room is done in concrete and stone. It was our last night to sleep in Madagascar. Tomorrow we will be starting our long flights home.

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