Up early to do a bit more exploring in Tana before heading to the airport for my flight. I’m generally not a big fan of organized tours, but in this case I’m super glad I booked it. Despite only having three nights in Madagascar, this company packed a lot in when I told them I wanted to see as much as possible and they really did their best to not only be flexible when I changed what I wanted to do – but also to cram in as much as I wanted.
That said, early check out from the hotel and off to do a bit more touring. First stop was Haut-Ville, the part of the city built high in the hills overlooking downtown Tana:
The National Stadium:
After walking around the upper town for a bit, we got back in the car to visit a souvenir/craft market on the way to the airport. Lots of interesting little things, but nothing I liked so much I wanted to haul it around Africa for another couple of weeks. View of the river next to the market:
Some of the market stalls:
Check-in wasn’t open yet when I got to the airport, as it was nearly three hours until the flight. My driver was afraid of traffic jams, so wanted to be sure to leave plenty of time just in case. The queues to get to the check-in counters weren’t marked at all, so I had to ask around which one to get in. “Oh, and is there a business class one?” Nobody seemed to know. Everyone just sort of lined up, and waited. It seemed there were no mid-morning flights at all, but plenty of them around the same time as mine…as there were three different flights waiting to check-in.
As it got more obvious they were about to open check-in I asked a few security guard looking types where Air Madagascar business class line was. They just escorted me to the front, and I was first to the counter when check-in opened. No problems at all, immigration and security were a breeze, and soon it was time to see what the Air Madagascar Business Class Lounge was all about:
There’s no pictures. For a reason. It was so dark in the lounge I’m not sure they would have turned out. It was also incredibly warm, despite the fact it was nice and cool outside. There was a fan…which I commandeered and pointed at my seat. There was plenty of beverages – coffee and espresso made to order, which the lounge attendant happily delivered. The internet kept cutting in and out, and was more or less useless. With an hour to go to flight time, I decided to go people watch in the terminal instead. Soon, my plane arrived:
Boarding was a “here’s the door, go ahead and walk to the plane” and after snapping the pic above I got yelled at….so no hope for a closer pic.
Air Madagascar flight 140
Antananarivo, Madagascar (TNR) to Dzaoudzi, Mayotte, France (DZA)
Depart 12:25, Arrive 13:40, Flight Time 1:15
Boeing 737-300, Registration 5R-MFL, Manufactured 1988, Seat 2A
Of the 12 seats in business (proper US-style first/business with a 2 by 2 config) only six were occupied on this leg. One of those six was an Air Madagascar mechanic, who I gathered travels with the plane unless something breaks down, lol. I say “this leg” because although this flight was billed as a nonstop when I booked it a few weeks before, Expedia notified me about 10 days before the flight that it would now be a one-stop via Mayotte. Hmmm, interesting enough I suppose!
Less than two minutes off the ground, the crew sprang into action and offered a lunch of beef or fish. The beef was surprisingly tasty – probably some of the best beef I’ve actually ever had on a plane, and I ate every bite. Even the wine was relatively drinkable, and frequent refills were offered. The crew was not very personable, but they were good at their jobs, and I suppose on an hour long flight that manages to serve a meal that’s all you can really ask for. Plus, they offered proper European butter!
Just as soon as the meal was done, it was pretty much already time for landing in Mayotte…which had jetbridges! I’d almost forgotten what one looked like!
It was nice, until we’d been sitting there, door open, for nearly 30 minutes and the plane turned into a giant convection oven. Finally, after nearly 45 minutes, the joining passengers (of which there were nearly 100) finally started to stream on. I have no idea how they had 100 joining passengers when this stop was only added less than two weeks out, but it was what it was. Business filled up to 10 of 12 seats, but fortunately the one next to me remained empty.
Air Madagascar flight 141
Dzaoudzi, Mayotte, France (DZA) to Hahaya, Comoros (HAH)
Depart 14:40, Arrive 15:20, Flight Time 40 minutes
Boeing 737-300, Registration 5R-MFL, Manufactured 1988, Seat 2A
Plane go up, plane go down. No beverages offered. It was only a 30 minute flight, but given how hot it had been on the ground in Mayotte it would have been nice to at least offer some water.
Landed in Comoros, had our temperatures taken by nurses before we were allowed to enter the terminal, and then it was fill out lots of forms and do lots of pushing to get the visa on arrival, which was 30 euros as opposed to the 60 euros I’d been led to believe. Winning! Plus, it was a proper colourful sticker with photo on it, so at least I got something for my contribution to the Government coffers!
Just past immigration there was a guy holding a sign with the name of my hotel, so in his car I went and it was off to my hotel…the Hotel Retaj. As we drove he was a great guide, pointing out places of interest to me, etc. Turned out he wasn’t with the hotel, just offering rides there. Clever…I’ve never fallen for that one. He was charging the same price as the official hotel transfer (20 euros) so I couldn’t complain too much.
When we arrived at the hotel, he launched into his sales pitch. It’s a pity you’re here so short, I know what time you’re leaving tomorrow, let me show you as much of the island as possible. I was feeling a bit tired and run-down, but agreed that I should see as much as possible…and since he said we could start at 9am and still see a lot, I was sold. Now, the negotiation. His opening price was 80 euros – 20 each way to the airport plus 40 for driving me around for 2-3 hours. Sounded pretty fair…but I tried to go lower, but he just wouldn’t budge…so I agreed.
Room at the Retaj was ok….though I had to kill three big crawly things and one cockroach within minutes of entering the room. At least the AC was nice and cold, and they provided bug killer, so meh. I was trying to be in the proper mindset of “it’s cleanish, comfortable, and safe and this is a developing country” so it was fine. Except for the fact the hotel was owned by Qataris and completely alcohol-free! GASP!
But, hey, nice sunset from their “beach”:
Went back to my room between sunset and dinner, only to see it was a good idea I hadn’t laid down earlier….the painting on the wall was clearly out to kill me:
Dinner in the hotel restaurant was buffet or a la carte, and I opted for a la carte. Only table free was a round table for eight, but the staff insisted I sit there. Felt a bit awkward, so I decided to order a Fanta. I never drink sugary sodas, but I figured with no alcohol calories it wasn’t the end of the world. The seafood soup, with huge chunks of lobster and lots of curry:
Which I followed up with the lobster pizza, which was also super tasty:
The cost for two courses with a fanta and water? $19. Bargain for all that lobster!
Passed out around 10pm, and slept a solid 9 hours. Maybe there’s something to be said for not enjoying drinks with dinner 😉
Breakfast was included with the room and a buffet…including wrapped cheese slices! There was, however, fresh baguette and nutella as well, so I’m certainly not complaining!
Glancing over at the TV in the breakfast room, what was on but not only a hockey game, but a Washington Capitals game! If I didn’t know better I’d think someone knew I was there and trying to send a message…
My driver picked me up right on time, and it was off to do a bit of exploring before heading to the airport. The new mosque:
Street market scenes:
Scenery driving along the coast. This is the biggest “highway” in the country:
Our main stop was Lac Salé, or the salt lake. This was a volcanic crater which had been filled with salt water a long time ago. Nobody’s actually sure how deep the lake is, and a few years back several American scuba divers went down to explore…and never came back. The lake also features in lots of local legends, so it’s hard to know just how little is known about this lake and how much of the stories are legends. Given how hard it was prior to the trip to find information about Comoros online, however, I’m not surprised that there was just as little info about the lake.
After the lake we stopped in a village on the way where my driver picked up what he called “ma copine” for a ride back to town with him. He made it very clear he was going to get lucky after dropping me off. Not exactly the classiest thing to do when you have a paying customer in your car, but hey, who am I to get in the way of a Comoran booty call! She was quiet and respectful, and we stopped by a beach on the way to the airport, mainly for photos…and because there were trinket sellers:
The volcanic rock that made up much of the shoreline on the island:
Nice white sand beach:
After the beach it was straight to the airport, where we ended up arriving about two hours before the flight. My driver was sure to see me through to check-in, and despite the company waiting in his car was in no rush to get rid of me so I can’t complain about his service. Soon I was checked in, and…next stop: Mombasa!