November 17, 2010 | By Donna Evans
Madagascar is a unique destination. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit this amazing country where Malagasy is the language and Ariary is the currency. It is the fourth largest island in the world and flight across it takes 3½ to 4 hours. The best way to travel in this country is by charter, since Air Madagascar is quite unreliable. The diversity of the island is as expected in a country of this size.
We arrived at the capital of Antananarivo, or Tana, as the locals call it. It is a wonderful city where the culture is unspoiled and the people are lovely. There are no 4 or 5 star hotels, but the accommodations are comfortable.
The food is very good and the hospitality is excellent. Our guide, Rija, took us to the colorful local market where we bargained for many textiles, crafts and other goods. Our time in the city was short, but we were able to see the accommodations of the people.
The rice paddies are right in the city and a day without rice is unheard of in Madagascar. Our guide said sometimes that is all they have to eat. They season things well with fresh spices and herbs, making a meal of “just rice” a very tasty option.
The people are now using some of the mud from the rice paddies to make bricks, since the income is much better. It will become a huge problem when there’s not enough rice to feed the people and no more mud to grow rice in or to sell as bricks. They aren’t looking that far into the future yet. They just see the immediate income.
This unique country has lots more to offer – rainforests and beaches, wildlife and wonderful people. It is worth the trip off the beaten path.