As we depart Antsirabe on our way to Antananarivo this morning, Lori and I hone our skills in drive by shooting. Yes, we’re shooting randomly and rapidly out the car window. Photo shooting, that is.
We pass a bride and groom in the back of an oxcart. Shoot, shoot. A young bride and groom. Shoot. A wedding procession? I holler out the car window “Mazatoa!” (enjoy or cheers) and give the newlyweds a 2,000 ariary bill (not quite one US dollar). The locals laugh loudly at my gesture.
Doesn’t seem to me that I’m that funny. Wait a minute. A long line of very young brides and grooms in pousse-pousses winds along in front of the wedding oxcart. Oh, some kind of parade for a school not a wedding. I’ll just pretend like I knew that. Yes, I’m a foreigner. At least everyone will have a good story to tell today about the vahaza.
We make one last effort to see the THB brewery. I haven’t yet received a reply on the email requesting the tour that I sent a couple days ago. Maybe there’s a chance … but no. No tours today. Another fail. Apparently, today is Labor Day, a national holiday in Madagascar. Note to self: next time send a written letter to arrange a brewery tour and follow up with emails and phone calls.
We pass through town and start the drive back north on Route National 7 (RN 7) to Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, which is most often just called Tana. Like Los Angeles and LA. Or … hmm … I can’t think of any other towns known by a short name. New York and the Big Apple? Not quite the same.
Almost every village along the way has a specialty on display in their road side stands. Nearby villages often offer the same products. Could be fierce competition or friendly cooperation. Hard to tell.
At the village of fruit, I see a new to me fruit. The vendor tells me it’s coeur de boef, French for heart of the beef. Well, she tells me several times anyway until I figure out what she’s saying. She gives me a sample to taste. Wonderful. Creamy with hints of citrus, strawberry, and banana and yet a unique flavor all its own. I learn later that its common name in English is custard apple. Makes sense. We buy fruit but not the couer de boef. Misa buys some too. We put them in the back of the car. It’ll be a couple days before we get home. I hope it keeps back there.
I finally figure out what one of the vendors has been persistently trying to tell me. Several houses next to the fruit stand burned down yesterday. They would like money to help. They show me the houses. Probably a kitchen fire. Most Malagasy cook on propane stoves and charcoal fires. Some folks are sifting through the remains and pulling out what’s left. Mostly cooking pots. I give them some money.
At the village of vegetables, several teenage girls work hard to sell us their peanuts. We don’t buy any. Even if we did, I wouldn’t trust eating them. If I can’t peel it or cook it, I don’t eat it. And even if I can peel it, or shell it as in the case of the peanuts, I’m concerned about what might be getting on my hands from the peel and shell and then in my mouth. I’ve had one violent weekend of food related illness here in Madagascar. I hope to never experience that again. I give them some candy instead.
The cool to cold nights in the Malagasy central plateau offset the hot days and make the region conducive to growing vegetables. They grow potatoes, carrots, cabbage, leeks, onions, garlic, and more. We, including Misa, add vegetables to our growing store in the back of the car.
Next are a couple of villages of toy trucks. A friend’s son back in our village is having his second birthday soon. We buy a THB beer truck for him. It’s a little compensation for twice failing at a THB brewery tour. The truck is entirely made of wood including hand carved wheels and should pass a two year old’s durability test.
Then comes a village or two of toy music instruments. And then the village of baskets and other woven souvenirs.
The roadside stands for the village of baskets and other woven souvenirs perches above a river canyon on a narrow strip between the road and a drop off down to the river. I meander up the road to view the river cascades below. Lori buys more for her gifts to be given collection. Our Renault Duster sure can hold a lot of stuff.
Arriving in Antananarivo
This isn’t our first time in Tana of course. But all the other times have just been coming and going to the airport. Misa grew up in Tana. He gives us a short driving tour of the city on our way to our hotel, Grand Mellis. This is a big, busy city.