Monday, May 4, 2015

Madagascar!

Stunning photo of a Malagasy child walking down the famed Alley of Baobabs in Mondorova.
The photo was taken by Ken Thorne and was a Merit Winner in the 2012 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest.

I've always wanted to go to Madagascar - ever since seeing images of the lemurs, baobab trees and strange rock formations that call this island nation home.  As I grew older and my desire to explore the more remote corners of the earth, Madagascar held a solid spot on my travel bucket list.  But for whatever reason, each year would go by and some other country would be put on that year's travel itinerary, dropping Madagascar off the list.  That is until the 2015 travel year.


Lemurs.  (Photo by SparrangelicaG)
A few months back, seemingly out of the blue, my friend George brought up the topic of going to Madagascar. It was something he wanted to do and he wanted to know if I was interested.  Hello??  He obviously didn't know about my yearning to go there but he does know of my love to travel to remote lands.  I didn't even hesitate a second before saying, Yes!

That was a few months back and as things often go, I would not have been surprised if George dropped the idea but he didn't.  Surprisingly, he kept bringing it up and in fact, took the lead to start looking for flights.  I still wasn't convinced he wanted to go until he deliberately arranged for us to have breakfast today to go over plans.

As planned by George, I had brekkie with him this morning.  Before we even looked at the menu, we agreed.  We are going to Madagascar in 2015!  Woohoo!!  Another travel dream will soon come true!

So who is George?  Well, we met as colleagues back in 1999.  Yikes! That sounds like a lifetime ago.  Over the years, we've become good friends.  Sometimes, I feel like he's my brother from a different mother - we've shared laughs and we've also had our fights but our friendship has endured through whatever ups and downs we've had.

And....we have in fact traveled together.  That was back in 2003 when we, and two of our colleagues, spent a couple of days in London as a layover from Dubai to DC.  We had a great time on that trip.  We even shared a meal with George's uncle who has since passed away.

Tsingy de Bermaraha (Photo by Moq)
For Madagascar, George is going to take 10 calendar days off.  Factoring in travel time to/from DC and Antananarivo, that leaves us about 7-8 days.  That's all the time he has so we're going to make the best of it.  I am pretty much planning the trip - going to cram in all the activities that I can to maximize our time there :-)

George and I are usually on different travel comfort levels - he's more upscale than I am but for this trip, he's willing to drop his requirements.  He's even volunteered to fly in coach so we can sit side by side - he's normally a business/first class kind of guy.  So far, all he's asked for is that the bed come with a mosquito net and that we don't do anything involving witchdoctors.  I can understand the  mosquito net but you'll have to ask him why on the witchdoctor thing.  Foodwise, I know George will at least try something once which is all that you can ever ask of anybody.  I'm the same though I'm a bit more adventurous of an eater than he is simply because I've been to more far flung places.

I will be handling the planning duties.  Happy to be doing it as he's busy with work and I have the time.  Not to mention the fact that I've planned so many trips in recent years that I've developed some good skills for trip planning.

We've decided to go with a tour - easier for someone to take you around when you're short on time.  Plus, it's cheap to do in countries like Madagascar.  The starting plan is to do a couple days on the east coast and then fly to the west coast and cover a few places there.  Given our tight schedule, we're just focusing on must-see places.  George and I are on the same page in terms of no shopping/visits to factories, etc.

At the moment,  I waiting for George to get his leave request approved.  Once we have that info, we'll finalize our flight arrangements and I'll reach out to the tour company to get started on putting together a custom tour for us.  In the meantime, I've already done some preliminary research which George is reviewing.

Very excited!

Note:  This post was originally published on November 23, 2014.