Tactile Blog

You are now entering Madagascar

I imagine as a first-world traveller having never visited Africa, that arriving in Madagascar for the first time must be a culture shock.

My entrance was via Johannesburg, South Africa - my old home - so in a way, I was partially aclimatised to African Life™. And yet, Madagascar feels distinct from Africa.

The island of Madagascar appears near the horizon, after crossing the Indian Ocean
The land looks eroded, and the rivers are red with top-soil

Flying Johannesburg to Antananarivo (or Tana) took 3 hours, and it feels familiar here. Maybe a little more tropical, but a comfortable 28 degrees.

Walking through the streets of Tana reminds me both of Gaberone, Botswana and Port Louis in Mauritius. The roads are filled with chaos; pedestrians, motor cyclists, cars, and mini-buses all share the same space with the markets but somehow it all works out orderly. Here, the hooter becomes a beacon rather than a scolding. The result is a noisy, busy, and edgy commute.

My familiarity of the African Life™ falls short with the language barrier. Malagasy and French are most commonly spoken here, so I'm struggling a bit with the communication gap. Gesturing, pointing, and rewording are all useful tools for getting around, but I'm not sufficiently prepared.

The people here are a wonderful mix of African, Malay, and Indian cultures. Strangers greet you in the street and hallways, I miss that after having moved to New Zealand where in contrast it's considered polite to not make eye contact.