Madagascar Experience chapter 1 : The long way to the 7th continent

The airplane passes by the shoreline and starts to descent. Below me the blue of the sea touches the green of the rainforest. There are very few clouds over the sea but much more over land. Even though it’s not monsoon season, there may be some pocket of rains in the forest

I am flying from Mauritius to Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. It’s the last part of a long air journey that started in Athens, then through Istanbul flew to Mauritius and from there to Madagascar. It’s the beginning of a 15 day journey to a unique, as I’ve heard and read, island. A land that has been isolated from all others for several million years and is large enought (roughly the size of Great Britain) to have evolved several separate ecosystems and dozens of endemic species of flaura and fauna, animals such as lemurs that originaly live only there. Due to this huge biodiversity sometimes it is jokingly called as the seventh continent

My long journey started on a Friday night from the airport of Athens. The itinerary was to fly from Athens to Istanbul (a short, 1.5 hr flight), then have a short 1.5hr layover and then fly to Antananarivo via Mauritius. A long, around 13hr flight with a stop in Mauritius for other passengers to disembark. But right away there were … issues ๐Ÿ˜‰

After we boarded in Athens, we were informed that there would be a thirty minute delay in take off due to heavy traffic in the airport of Istanbul. Although some of the delay was covered by flying faster after take off, again we were delayed before actually landing (the airplane was circling around Istanbul),. Finaly we landed with a delay of around 40 minutes. Due to the short layover and the delay it was hectic, since boarding for the next flight had started before we landed (according to my boarding passes). I was not worried a lot though, I anticipated that the next flight would be delayed too, as it was obvious many flights from all over Europe were delayed due to the air traffic

Thankfully my gate was very close to the dropoff point where we disembarked from the first flight. I got there just a little after actual bording started and was inside the airplane quickly. But then take off was delayed again, we left on 2:45am instead of the scheduled 1:25am which means a second delay of around 1hr 20min. I guess due to the heavy traffic and delays they were awaiting for more passengers with connecting flights to arrive.

After that, it was a long unevenful flight, first to Mauritius and then to Madagascar. Food was OK (I had chicken with some kind of rice and some nice cheese. I also watched “The Martian” on the entertainment system and tried to get some sleep

In the morning, we had some nice breakfast (omelette and coffee, nothing special but nice). At around noon we landed in Mauritius where a lot of people disembarked. We didn’t have to leave the aircraft but we stayed there for around 1hr for refuelling etc.

The last leg of the journey, from Mauritius to Antananarivo took around 2.5hrs. It was on full daylight, so I had the chance to see from the windows of the aircraft the turqoise waters around Mauritius, the approach to Madagascar from the east coast, flying over the dense rainforest and the much different highlands of the central plateau of Madagascar, near the capital

We landed on the Ivato international airport on 15:00 o’clock with a 45minute delay. The airport is really small comparing to European standards. The airplane parked just outside the gate (thera are only two actually) and all passengers just got down the stairs and walked to the terminal. Getting out was a looong process, there were 4 queues involved (passport control, visa, customs and police) and it took around 1.5hrs. I was afraid I’d miss my prearranged transfer to the hotel, thankfully they waited for me. I also grabed a SIM card for my tablet from the TELMA mobile store conveniently located just outside the arrivals area

The transfer to the hotel took around 1 hr, and I was lucky, usually due to heavy traffic it takes more at that time of day as the driver said. There is only a small road going to the city, passing by houses, rice fields and more houses. Antananarivo is very hilly, especially near the centre and my hotel was in a part with steep uphills and winding streets. It was located in the touristy area around (and a little higher than) Independence square (place de L’Independence)

I was joining a group tour around Madagascar with G Adventures for 15 days. At 18:00 a group meeting was scheduled and I made it just in time The members of the group, other fellow travellers, were introduced to each other, and then we had dinner. I had grilled zebu with some white sauce on top plus fried potatoes and sallad. It was my first taste of zebu, which is a species of cow with horns which is very common in Madagascar and eastern Africa. Natrually it tasted like beef

Aftr dinner I just went to take a shower and then to bed. Although I travelled for so many hours I didn’t suffer from jet lag since Madagascar is on the same time zone as Greece. But I did have a small headache so I took a paracetamole pill and just slept to wear the fatigue off

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