Flying across Madagascar I feel already I’ve been conned – the landscape is parched and treeless, with each valley heavily terraced and the sure signs of rice paddies a giveaway to what’s happening below.
As we are on final approach into Antananivro airport we see our first tarsealed road but no vehicles. Thoughts of the drive a few months ago, into the city from Pyongyang airport flood back, surely Madagascar’s capital will have a few vehicles.
Then we’re on the ground and with an impressively easy process, we get our 30 day visas and no fees either. First impressions are good. Then Manfred picks us out of the throng disgorging from Customs, he recognises us from the WorldbyBike website.
Manfred is a German resident, been here 12 years, married a local and speaks fluent Malagasy, pretty good English and French and perfect German. He thinks like a German. This is something I picked up in the numerous emails we’ve exchanged as I’ve set up the hire of these three Honda Transalps, for the three week spin around the island.
“Should have come in yesterday” Manfred exclaims, the airport was shut down as the Army was searching under seats in the plane from Jo’burg, as rumours mounted that the exiled President was making a return to rally local support against the military rulers.
There will be a another coup within a month we’re told, and if the exiled president came back he’d get a landslide if any election were held. Political chaos reigns. And it can get bloody serious – last week 94 cattle rustlers were rounded up and slaughtered by rocks and spears, thrown from 3,000 annoyed tribal cattle owners.
Welcome to Madagascar.