Saturday, 15 September 2007

Taxi B or 2CV

The first two days our mode of transport was the Taxi B - or Taxi Brousse if you're wondering what the "B" stands for. It basically operates like a mini-bus and takes you almost everywhere in the city. You just have to know which line you need and accept that the aim is to cram as many people as possible into this vehicle... However, you should be neither claustrophobic, enochlophobic or aphenphosmphobic.


My favourite are still the 2CV or R4 taxis, though admittedly they're not much better in terms of leg space or comfort, but who cares? Tana is full of these small, beige cars - all at least 40 to 50 years old - whining up and down the capital's many hills.

After negotiating a fair price (it's easier with Lea, I have "RIP ME OFF" written all over my forehead), the next stop is almost inevitably the nearest petrol station. Taxi drivers never seem to have more than half a liter of gas in their tank. Why? Are they afraid a full tank might get stolen at night? I'll have to ask next time. Five days of taxi driving in Tana and we've been already stuck twice without gas. Once in a tunnel during rush hour. But "mora, mora" -- slowly, slowly -- everyone stays cool!

Another taxi habit here: turning off the car while driving down hill - or turning it off every other meter while stuck in one of Tana's massive traffic jams. Has anyone thought how much gas it takes to start up an engine 20 times in one single ride?


Finding your way around Tana isn't easy. Street signs are far and few between, and most streets have interchangable French and Malagsy names, neither of which is generally known by locals. So, you better know your landmarks close to your destination!!

I normally have a pretty good sense of orientation, but this city seems beyond me. There're just too many congested, narrow, cobbled streets, similar neighbourhoods clinging to Tana's many hills and little valleys squashed in between. Plus, there never seems to be one way of getting from A to B.



Anyway, I'm always discovering new corners and surprising little spots. My favourite time driving through Tana is at sunset when all the beautiful delapidated brick houses turn golden. And I also love the paddy fields fighting for their space in the midst of the city sprawl - forming endless chequered patterns of green and brown.

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