A promise to Mada


The first time I heard about Madagascar was during ascience class presentation in junior high school. I was not very attentive, so I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was about. Nonetheless, I can remember that I got fascinated by a picture that looked unreal, as if it had been painted with a master’s touch. The picture displayed the Baobab Avenue at sunrise with children running in the middle of the road. One day, I promised myself, I would go and see that sunrise with my own eyes.

As time went by the idea vanished a little. Still, thanks to Pixar studios and their eponymous Madagascar trilogy, I was reminded of the promise I had made to myself when I was younger. When the opportunity to set up a touristic video of the country came to me, I didn’t waver one single second. Pixar made Madagascar famous without letting the audience really know what kind of country and people were behind that name.

What we learn when we get there is that, among all the notorious animals of the movie, only the lemur actually lives in the country. This one animal lives nowhere else. Mada, as its people call it, has not been entirely colonized by mankind yet. The beauty of nature and the environmental diversity of its lands give the impression that the country has been forgotten by time. It is the biggest African island.

Its dwellers, the Madagascans, are a mixed people with Indian, South-Asian and South-African origins. This gives birth to culturally rich children. The official language, Malagasy, is a blending of Malayo-Polynesian language with a substratum Bantu-Swahili. We can feel that Madagascans are very kind and patient, and very welcoming too. Even when the temperature is considered to be extreme, they remain quiet and hardly ever get angry. They even remain even tempered despite their complicated political situation and lack of money.

The beauty of nature and the environmental diversity of its lands give the impression that the country has been forgotten by time

I started my trip in the capital city Antananarivo, where respect for traditions is strong and soaks the national culture. This respect is reflected in the architecture, art and social customs of the country. People don’t hesitate to offer you a coffee or a beer just to get to know each other. While walking in the city, I noticed that some neighborhoods had kept the architecture of past French colonialism nearly intact.

One of the most beautiful sights of the city is in Rova of Manjakamiadana, also known as the Queen’s Palace. It is the former official residence of Madagascar’s sovereigns. Getting to this high point of the capital city will give you the feeling of climbing a mountain because of its steep slope. I continued on my adventure in Morandave, eager to see the famous Baobab Avenue with my own eyes.

To get there, I had to take public transport, which was risky or but an incredible trip. If road conditions are sub par, you risk breaking your back or worse and that shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, the chance to see the sunrise on the Avenue is worth it. The reddish rays of sun on the alley brought me back to the image I had kept in my mind for so long.

The inhabitants strongly advised me to go and see the Tsingy de Bemaraha, also called the stone forest. A canyon that takes your breath –and fingers– away! This limestone massif is extremely sharp and was formed from the earth with the monsoons rains carving its peaks. This reserve is also protected as a world heritage site of UNESCO since 1990.

After those two sites had fulfilled my adventurous cravings, I sought to get a bit of rest in the north of the island, Nosy Be, in particular. To reach it, I took a boat on the Mozambique canal. My crossing was enlivened by the spectacle of dhows and dugouts, and the beauty of a world of colors. When I arrived in the city, I could notice the important touristic affluence the island takes advantage of.

I could conclude my travel in a relaxed Madagascan atmosphere where I could taste local gastronomy such as romazava. This national dish is composed of typical Madagascan ingredients: zebu meat and acmella oleracea, some sort of spinach widely eaten throughout the island. I also ate sambos, the equivalent of our samosas.

I visited this country to uphold a promise I had made to myself, but Madagascar gave me much more as it showed itself to me. Mada can be a couples destination as well as a playground for an experienced adventurer. In either case, you don’t just visit Madagascar, you live it.

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