I arrived in the capital Antananarivo, and will leave via this capital.  I arrived without a plan, thinking a plan would be easier when I had the lay of the land.

Walking along, young men come up to me, sideways, and offer me hand size packs of compressed black stuff, and I think, “Holy Bob Marley, I’m home.”

But then they say, sotto voce, “Vanilla!”.  Vanilla?  What exactly do these guys do with vanilla that it is sold on the streets in this manner?  Vanilla brownies?  I suppose it could catch on.

Antananarivo Street - Stalls - Rickshaws

Anyway, being past an age where my brain can benefit from any hallucinogenic support, even one as doubtful as this, I decline courteously.  They back off smiling.  Only a matter of time, they think.

Antananarivo StepsThis capital, Antananarivo, built on a defensible hill and situated on the central high plateau of Madagascar, has a cool, relaxed dampness that belies the tension in the air.

Picture:  Steps down one side of the main ridge, up the other, hawkers all the way.

The people are consistently friendly, but I am also consistently told “it is dangerous to show your devices”.  The coups and unrest of recent years have impoverished an already poor people and driven (some) police to extortion.  It is best to assume when this happens that “all bets are off”.

I expected poverty, but this is much poorer, much grittier, than I expected.  You understand here where the expression “dirt poor” comes from:  many are so poor they literally live in the dirt.  You see kids curled up, sleeping in it.

Antananarivo - White House on Hill

I am somewhere between Africa and India, with India’s confusion and rain, Africa’s earthiness and dust, and the gritty poverty of both.

Antananarivo Street - Baskets


Three months later, at the end of my stay in Madagascar, I returned to Antananarivo, and despite the warnings about hiding your camera, decided the beauty and poverty of the people deserved a better record.  The last few Madagascar posts are this record.  Among them are two of my favorite posts.