Looking out the window we could see our first glimpse of Madagascar. The horizon changed from water to a sprawling arid landscape pock-marked with teal lakes, from which rusty veins flowed before merging into a large red river. At the transition between earth and sea, in a vast inlet where the turquoise ocean battled the murky river amongst tear drop islands, it appeared as if the two waters refused to yield to or blend with the other. We knew we would see some amazing things over the next 37 days.
We've been here a mere few hours and we already love it. Landing at the airport was relatively easy. We accomplished our six point To-Do list: 1) Buy a visa 2) Get our bags 3) Buy a SIM card and minutes (we have a phone number now!) 4) Change money 5) Buy airline tickets for the next day and 6) Find our driver (yes, we had someone waiting for us with our names on it). Slightly out of order, we got our visa and found our bags, then we met our amazing driver who directed us around the small airport to accomplish the rest of our tasks. Madagascar's main languages are Malagasy and French, thus Erin will be in charge of the next 37 days. Erin had been nervous that the dialect or accent would be difficult to understand, but it was beautiful European French. She was so pleased at the great start!
Driving into Tana (short for Antananarivo) we couldn't get over what we were seeing. Multi-story houses cascaded down lush hills, which fed into plains of rice paddies. In between rice fields tiny mud-caked islands supported a cluster of houses, while children played soccer on dry desert squares with flimsy posts (no nets but they wore beautiful uniforms).
We'd be warned about the dangers of Tana, and only planned to spend the one night before taking off to Sambava. So we expected to arrive, lock ourselves up in our hotel and leave the next day without a second glance. Instead, we pulled up to our cosy townhouse hotel to the lively sounds of a rock concert on the other side of the street. Once we were reassured that it would not go on into the evening, we enjoyed the diverse set from our balcony. We tried to eat out for lunch, but with it being between lunch and dinner on a Sunday, nowhere was open.
We watched the red glow on Tana's Haute-Ville (very reminiscent of Quebec City) and managed to stay up to see the clock turn to 8:00. Then a great night's sleep awaited us.