In more ways than one, Madagascar was unexpected.
I touched down in Anantananarivo knowing only what I'd briefly glanced at in a Culture Gram the night before - which is to say, next to nothing. But then a two week roadtrip on windy mountain roads unfolded and I had a hard time believing my eyes. What a country. What a country. It is, without a doubt, the most amazing place I've ever visited. The landscape is curious mix of Africa, French countryside, and Colorado, plus a nod to China in the form of terraced rice fields. It was a funny feeling, knowing you're in the middle of Africa, yet every now and then having to remind yourself that you're not in Europe or in Colorado.
And despite the villages and fields nestled into the mountain range, something about the in-between space seemed so untouched, so pure. You'd look out over the land and it didn't seem to matter what year it was. (Though if you're ever considering making it your next travel stop, you should probably be warned that, at least from Anatananarivo to Manakara, there is hardly a straight road. Makes for a fun 16 hours!)
There was also the sudden realization that I spoke neither French nor Malagasy! It was an unexpected crash course in French that I failed to pass with flying colors. But despite the language barrier, the Malagasy people were so friendly and welcoming. I felt at home there, though the abundance of French food may have had something to do with that. Baguettes! Crepes! Butter! Cafe au lait! Croissants! Omelettes! Oh me oh my.
In time, there is more I'd like to share...perhaps when I get my journal back, which I accidentally left in a hotel room in the rainforest. Oops. But now it's getting to have an adventure all of its own: it traveled via courier back to Anatananarivo and should hopefully be making its way back to Nairobi soon. Fingers crossed.
On our way to and from the coast, we passed through Tsavo East National Park. Canvas tents sheltered our weary bones and we dined by candlelight under a clear, starry sky. One morning, an elephant wandered into the camp, knocked over a palm tree, and feasted on its fronds. Cheeky monkeys scampered onto the breakfast table, swiped the ramekin of jam, and devoured it, pausing to shoot us ornery glances. We flew over bumpy washboard, slowing down to admire leggy giraffes and graceful dik-diks and slow-lumbering elephants, long-necked ostriches and wallowing hippos and lazy lionesses.
What a life.