It’s a very old adage that you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone, and planning the trip to Madagascar has reinforced that dictum as most of the internet planning tools we now take for granted are of no use, making things significantly more challenging. I’ve instead found myself working with middlemen, wiring money via Western Union, navigating various bank transfers, and doing my best to email in French, despite twenty years having passed since I last used it during high school language classes (note: those classes ended with my teacher taking me aside to tell me that I was an embarrassment as a language student, and she was not incorrect).
Luckily most of the places we want to visit in Madagascar at least have a web site or a mention on Tripadvisor, so while it sometimes takes several days of contacting the hotel owner and a variety of travel agencies in order to get someone to finally respond with information about price and availability, after countless hours of research, emails, phone calls, etc, we’ve managed to ensure that we have transportation and lodging for most of our time in Madagascar. “Ensure” is of course a relative term – in several cases I’ve wired not-insignificant sums of money to a person I’ve never met, and while I’m not too worried, it’s still an act of faith that they’ll be there with a car, boat, or hotel room at the place and time we’ve arranged. Travel is always an adventure, and this one may be far more unpredictable than most. In addition, I’ve quickly learned that any time you try to send money to someone in Madagascar, whether via bank transfer, credit card, or Western Union, alarm bells and flashing red lights go off in the fraud departments, so I’ve now become quite well-versed in talking to the bank and credit card folks when they follow-up to alert me to all of the dubious activities taking place on my accounts.
With most of the planning now complete, the final itinerary looks like it will be Turkey for two weeks, Tanzania and Kenya for almost four weeks (with the Cheesemans, so at least for that part of the trip there won’t be any worries about travel arrangements), a week in Kruger National Park in South Africa (Etosha National Park in Namibia didn’t work out, unfortunately), ten days in Cape Town with Audrey, then we’ll be spending four weeks in Madagascar. All told I’ll be gone for just shy of three months, so this will be the longest adventure I’ve ever been fortunate enough to undertake. In six months I will no longer be able to say that I haven’t seen the Blue Mosque, a wild lion, the sunset over the Serengeti, or a dancing lemur, and life will definitely be better as a result.