On the Road: Madagascar, for Foam MagazinePosted by jenni.avins on Dec 14, 2008 in Culture, Travel, Uncategorized | Comments Off
I watched out the backseat window of an old Renault as we weaved between chalky magenta and aqua cement shantys, rickshaws resting on the side of the road, and people with African and Asian faces carrying baskets and bundles atop their heads. Nearly every taxi in Antananarivo is a painstakingly maintained old Renault or Citroën—distinctly retro European shapes repainted in Madagascar’s vibrant shades.
We zoomed by Zebu, hump-backed cattle that look like a cross between Texas Longhorns and water buffalo, pulling ploughs through electric green rice paddies. I watched the lush wet grass of the paddies, fuschia flowering Bouganvillea and clay-red earth color the landscape alongside the roads. I found all the same hues in the giant fresh peppercorns flavoring Malagasy dishes like Romazava, a stew of Zebu and greens called brèdes over rice. Over my week in Tana (Antananarivo’s nickname) I alternated between Romazava and French staples like baguettes with brie, chocolate croissants and fueled myself with Café Au Lait.
On a Friday night I worked up an appetite dancing at the Indra—a pulsating palace of speakers and sweat. After hours of shaking it alongside a few expatriates and many migrants from Madagascar’s coast, we spilled onto the cobblestoned street to finish the night with dripping brown bottles of Three Horses beer and Zebu kebabs on the curb.
Just like curbside kebabs, I found my best souvenirs of Tana in the open-air market. I navigated mazes of tented stands along paprika-colored dirt paths and bought toy Citroëns made from recycled tomato cans, necklaces of Zebu horn beads, pink straw alligators, fresh vanilla beans, and technicolor woven raffia hats.
My last night in Tana a friend took me for a motorcycle ride out of the city. We traveled on dirt roads running between the rice paddies and stopped only when all the lights were out of sight. A crescent moon hung like the Cheshire cat’s smile in the star-splashed sky. Taking off my helmet, I felt like an astronaut surrounded by strange constellations reflected in the still water all around.