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Home » Africa » Madagascar » Madagascar on a scooter | Part 1 | Antananarivo (Tana) – introduction

Madagascar on a scooter | Part 1 | Antananarivo (Tana) – introduction

Who gets it in their head to buy a second-hand scooter in the capital of Madagascar to buy? To travel more than 4.000 km over this enormous island? No one before me had ever come up with this idea. I just did it and discovered the real Madagascar. Travel with me to the Red Island and get to know the baobabs, lemurs, chameleons, snow-white beaches and above all the hospitable Malagasy: TONGA SOA.

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For me no hour-long rides folded in a minibus

From my guesthouse in the center I get the shivers when I see how the minibuses are crammed and drive out of the city in a long traffic jam. After a day in the capital of Madagascar it is already clear to me. I can't see myself sitting in a van like that for 24 hours if I want to go south.

The overcrowded taxi-brousse or minibus in Madagascar
The overcrowded taxi-brousse or minibus in Madagascar

To see the whole island at your leisure, there is only one way: buy a scooter. On the second day I walk to the street with a few shops that sell second-hand scooters. I don't have to negotiate for very long. There is little choice. The only scooter sold here is the Yamaha Jogpro. Officially 49cc, but to be able to climb the many mountains they are actually 90cc.

The Yamaha Jogpro is made roadworthy in Tana
The Yamaha Jogpro is made roadworthy in Tana

Take out liability insurance for the scooter

For a sloppy 1,2 million Ariary (about 300 euros) I am the lucky owner of a great scooter. The seller takes care of the formalities. All I have to do is take out liability insurance.

Also read: East Africa on a scooter | Part 1 | From Kampala to Bugala Island (180 km)

Take out insurance with Allianz in Antananarivo
Take out insurance with Allianz in Antananarivo

The office of the insurance company Allianz is happy in the center. I'll be there in a few minutes. I park my scooter and stand in a long, long line. "Vaza," I hear. Vaza is the word for 'foreigner' in Malagasy. A man in a tie leads me down the line to a desk. 'Take a seat. My colleague will come to you shortly.'

There is really no shortage of paperwork at Allianz. 30 questions here and 40 questions there. Six signatures and voila. Yes, for a sloppy ten euros I have liability insurance for my scooter. No idea what it's good for. 'If the police stop you, they often ask about it,' says the employee. “And if you don't have the proof, then you have to pay them a present. That's just how they are.' "What's a present?" I ask. "That's, for example, a 1.000 Ariary bill." "Oh, so a bribe."

Liability insurance for the scooter of Allianz Madagascar
Liability insurance for the scooter of Allianz Madagascar

With the insurance certificate from Allianz I return to the scooter trade. I get a laminated card with it as proof of ownership. We agree that I will drive around Antananarivo this afternoon and then come back tomorrow morning to fix any flaws.

A lunch in Antananarivo with a view

First I leisurely drive back to my guesthouse to take a dip in the pool. The receptionist is visibly impressed when I show her my new acquisition. However, she does not understand that I want to travel all over Madagascar on a scooter. Incidentally, nobody in my guesthouse understands that.

View from the terrace of my guesthouse in Antananarivo
View from the terrace of my guesthouse in Antananarivo

For lunch I go to a restaurant across the street from my guesthouse. The menu is written in chalk on a blackboard. As a main course I choose a tilapia (Nile perch) and the dessert is a mousse of lawyer. And all that for 8.000 Ariary (2 euros).

And while I eat all these culinary delights, I fully enjoy the beautiful view of one of the built-up hills of Tana, as Antananarivo is popularly called.

View from the restaurant on Tana
View from the restaurant on Tana

A test drive in and around Antananarivo

To test the scooter, I make a tourist trip of about 70 km in the afternoon. First I'm heading for the much acclaimed royal palace of Ambohimanga† This palace is the only Unesco cultural heritage of Madagascar. A real disappointment if you ask me.

The Unesco sign in front of Ambohimanga . Palace
The Unesco sign in front of Ambohimanga . Palace
The Palace Ambohimanga

From the palace I drive to Ivato, where the international airport of Antananarivo is. Incidentally, only a handful of flights from abroad land in poverty-stricken Madagascar every day. Around the corner from the airport is the Croc Farm. There it is not the forty crocodiles that steal the show, but a poisonous green chameleon. Nowhere in the world are so many of these colorful toppers waddling around than in Madagascar.

A poisonous green chameleon in the Croc Farm Ivato
A poisonous green chameleon in the Croc Farm Ivato

By late afternoon reach the city limit of Antananarivo. And then I also notice how great the traffic chaos in Tana is. wow.

Everything is on the road. Cows, young men pushing carts, rows of minibuses and zebu carts. I always try to take a different exit to avoid the traffic jams. That's inconvenient, because I've never seen a maze bigger than the maze of streets and alleys that wind around the hills of Tana.

Rova of Antananarivo

By sunset I reach the Rova, it palace of the queen† Its restoration is in full swing. Yet I find the palace much more beautiful than the Unesco palace Ambohimanga. And the 360-degree panoramic view from the palace grounds over the metropolis of Antananarivo with some four million inhabitants is nothing short of breathtaking.

Queen's Palace in Tana
Queen's Palace in Tana
View from the Queen's Palace in Antananarivo
View from the Queen's Palace in Antananarivo

In the next part of my Scooter trip through Madagascar I travel from Antananarivo (Tana) to Antsirabe, a ride about 175 kilometers. You can read all about it in my next blog.

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Eric on a scooter in Uganda

Eric

What is it like to drive more than 10.000 kilometers in Madagascar on a locally bought scooter? Or on a pikipiki (scooter in Swahili) through East Africa? In more than 20 years I have visited more than 100 countries. This has resulted in a lot of priceless travel experiences, which I would like to share with you.

ERIC – OVER 100 COUNTRIES
– Currently in Kenya.
– Share unique travel experiences.
– Favorite destinations: Madagascar, Uganda, Japan, India and Colombia.

Seen a mistake? Ask? Remark? Let us know in the comments!

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Eric on a scooter in Uganda

Eric

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