After two nights in an Antananarivo hotel, it was time to move to the base that the Moscow-based hitchhiking club Academy of Free Travel was setting up here for the winter. The Academy of Free Travel organizes twice or three times a year houses in various cities around the world where any traveller can stay for free (making a donation of his choice) and slowly explore the surrounding country. When I stayed at the Academy’s house in Cairo five years ago, the club’s founder and hitchhiking guru Anton Krotov had just announced his plan to set up a house in Madagascar. I thought that if I didn’t take advantage of this project, I’d probably never visit the island nation, and now here I am.
Although I knew the house would be in the north of Antananarivo, finding it took some doing. Krotov arranged to meet us at a supermarket called Shoprite in the Waterfront Tana shopping centre. It turns out that this is inside a gated community for wealthy Malagasy and expats. As we turned off the dusty, potholed road onto perfect asphalt surrounded by landscaped lawns, I expected that this would be the most luxurious house that the Academy had organized yet. After Krotov met us, however, we walked a couple of hundred metres out of the gated community, back into the bustle and commotion of Antananarivo’s poorer districts.
The house itself is a three-storey structure of which the ground floor and top floor are ours. The top floor is designated as a sleeping area, and food is forbidden there because otherwise ants and a whole host of tropical roaches etc. would descend upon it. The bottom floor has the kitchen, whose functionality so far is limited to a sink with running water and an electric heater for boiling water. Those who have tents have put them up inside the house to act as mosquito nets (as mosquitos assail us after each heavy rainfall of this wet season). The house is completely unfurnished, but within a couple of days we discovered that the jerrycans in which cooking oil is sold here make surprisingly comfortable chairs.
I suspect that most of the travelers who have already arrived here from Russia or will arrive in the coming weeks, have already spent most of their money on the airfare. So, when the group goes out to eat, they want to eat at the most basic (
most proletarian, as Krotov puts it) establishments around us. This afternoon we found a place that offers a bowl of beef noodle soup (roughly comparable to pho) for 500 aviary, about 0.16€.