The wheels creak down, the plane rushes to a halt. One more security check. Sweaty, cramped, disheveled… we arrive in Antananarivo. I feel like a giantess in my glittered heels, towering above the Malagasy. Midnight somewhere just south of the equator. 6000 miles from home.
I awake to a familiar smell. A moment later I place it. The aromatic fumes of burning trash.
We make our way out of the city. One paved road. Route 2. People walking everywhere. Selling goods. Pulling carts. Working in rice fields. Making bricks. Zebu grazing in the rice fields. Rangy chickens crossing the road. Laundry drying on the grass and bushes. I am the privileged Vasa (white foreigner) that views humanity passing by from the window of a nice silver car in the competent hands of Misa, my parents driver, as he weaves around big trucks and carts. I feel as if I have stepped into someone else’s life. The life of the very wealthy.
Our first stop is at a Chameleon park. On a hillside on the edge of some forest. we make friends with chameleons, tenrec (hedgehog/guinea pig like creatures), boas, green geckos and leaf tail geckos, a tomato frog and a millipede.
It’s cold in the highlands. Winter in Madagascar, rain and cool air. Our journey ends down a few kilometers of dirt road next to preserves and national forests. In the middle of the forest is the resort Vakona Lodge. The sounds of the jungle greet us (and a fancy lodge with a fire place, French cuisine, and lychee flavored rum).