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Nov 22, 2011

Madagascar: Getting there

Alice and I were in Madagascar last week, checking out the farm that supplies the beans for our Madagascar bar. We had very limited access to internet so we’re doing the posts now that we’re back. Hope you enjoy!

The first part of the whole adventure was just getting to Madagascar. It turns out that Madagascar is almost the antipode for San Francisco, meaning that it’s almost exactly halfway around the world from us. Originally, Alice and I had planned on taking the same flights over but after a missed alarm and an airport shuttle no-show, I’d be setting out first and Alice would be joining a day or two later. My route to get there was San Francisco (SFO) -> Atlanta (ATL) -> Paris (CDG) -> Antananarivo (TNR):

The total distance, according to Google Maps, is just under 12,000 miles. I left SFO on Saturday at 7:40am (PST) and arrived in Tana (the French colonial shorthand for Antananarivo) on Monday at 3am (GMT + 3), which means those 12,000 miles turned into about 36 hours straight of plane travel. The only good thing about flying for that long is that by the time we got to Madagascar, my body was so confused that I didn’t have much trouble adjusting to the new timezone. I met up with Bertil Akesson, the son of owner of the farm and the one who handles bean sales, in Paris for the flight to TNR:

I also met  Olvier Coppeneur as he would be joining us on the trip:

After landing, we had to pass through immigration, which took almost an hour:

We picked up our luggage (fortunately no bags were lost) and exchanged some money. The currency in Madagascar is the Ariary and $1 is worth about 2000 Ariary, which means when you exchange a few hundred dollars, you get this:

I felt pretty flush with cash until I realized a bottle of water cost 3000 Ariary 🙁 Pockets stuffed with bills, we grabbed one of the ubiquitous taxis and headed to the hotel. The main roads from the airport were fine, but as we got closer to where we’d be staying, the “road” turned into an almost impassable series for bumps, ruts, and rocks. Our taxi driver navigated it expertly, though, and we made it. I should point out, by the way, that hotel can conjure images of plush beds and fresh towels but that’s not exactly what our accommodations were like. The room was clean and had electricity and there was a shared shower (in the laundry room) and a shared bathroom (the sink broke shortly after arrival, though). When we asked about internet, we got a quizzical look from the owner of the establishment… and no, there was no room service 🙂 We were all exhausted and so we went straight to bed so we’d be ready to see Tana in the morning.



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