NOTE­BOOK

NZ Life & Leisure - - Destination/Madagascar -

Air New Zealand has a di­rect flight to Perth. From there, fly South African Air­lines to Johannesburg and on to An­tana­narivo, the cap­i­tal of Mada­gas­car.

For cur­rency take eu­ros. Al­though it’s widely stated that United States dol­lars can be used, this is far from ac­cu­rate. Make sure you ex­change plenty of eu­ros at the air­port for lots of small ari­ary change. You’ll be part­ing with plenty of it in the form of tips and bribes. It’s a way of life – best get used to it.

French is the most widely spo­ken lan­guage. A smat­ter­ing of English can be used in some parts and sign lan­guage goes a long way.

Im­mu­ni­sa­tions – there are plenty of jabs you can get ( I did) al­though noth­ing in par­tic­u­lar is re­quired. Travel doc­tors will con­sult their guide­books, which show that Mada­gas­car is a high- risk area for malaria. I barely saw a mos­quito but I did take tablets.

Drink only bot­tled wa­ter. Food at restau­rants is fairly safe. Risk a case of food poi­son­ing if you eat at road­side stalls.

Try a cy­cle trip with Crooked Com­pass (crooked- com­pass. com), which spe­cial­izes in offthe- beaten- track travel, well run by lo­cal guides. Al­low sev­eral months of train­ing, in­clud­ing some off- road cy­cle prac­tice. There are some quite tech­ni­cal as­pects on the ride. The long­est day cov­ers 95 kilo­me­tres at one go. The to­tal dis­tance is 516 kilo­me­tres, with ap­prox­i­mately 60 kilo­me­tres of hikes. The trail, from east to west, ends in the coastal town­ship of To­liara. Ac­com­mo­da­tion and food are all ar­ranged as part of the tour. Crooked Com­pass takes care of ev­ery­thing – in­clud­ing bikes. Some peo­ple, how­ever, pre­fer to take their own sad­dle.

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