My first time in Diego !

I visited the city of Diego for the first time! I’m going to tell you in details my first visit to that city, also called Antsiranana, in Madagascar! You’ll see everything from the 1000 kilometers trip by the “taxi-brousse”, to the visit of the Emerald Sea! As a bonus, a portfolio of the city and a video of the road to Ramena!

*This article was translated from the French version that I wrote on my other blog, a French-speaking one.

30 hours of road Tana-Diego !

A selfie I took on the beach of Ramena. ©Tiasy

One of the particularities of this experience, I think, is already the journey. Indeed, for most of the Malagasy tourists, to visit the city of Diego which is in the extreme North of the Big Island, it is already necessary to undergo the more than 24 hours of road! Not that the plane does not exist in Madagascar – although it almost does not exist, lol – but because the expenses in “taxi-brousse” are more accessible to the purchasing power of the Malagasy. The travel costs are indeed 70,000 Ariary, or about 20 Euros.

And believe me, this is already very expensive for a population whose majority lives below 2 Euros per day. To be sure to have a comfortable seat – well comfortable is too strong a word, let’s say a seat that won’t hurt your buttocks for a week – you have to book in advance(1). Which is a very difficult exercise! Then, on the day of departure, you’ll have to arrive an hour before the scheduled time to have all your luggage installed, but again, you’ll have to wait at least two hours before boarding for real. This is called the “fotoan-gasy”(2)! Once gone, you can enjoy the landscape(3), which is very pleasant!

On the other hand, you will have to hold on to your seats because the roads are quite dangerous and the driver does not necessarily respect the speed limit. For our part, we had the second slowest taxi-brousse of the cooperative we chose. At least, that’s what the “regular” travelers of this cooperative told us. It was going about 40 kilometers per hour on a straight road and when it stopped, the driver took at least a half hour break. He was probably tired, but even though! All the taxi-brousses were overtaking us. If in normal circumstances, the Tana-Diego travel takes about 24 hours, we took 30 hours to arrive in Diego.

We left Tana at 5 pm if the departure was planned for 2 pm, and we arrived at midnight the next day! It was horrible, especially on the Ambilobe-Diego stretch of road, which is over 100 kilometers long but in very bad shape. It took us 5 hours to do this mini-trip, and my travelling companion was literally jumping from one place to another at every pothole. The result was a week-long pain in the butt!

I was waiting for the departure inside the taxi-brousse, from my seat, I could see that! xD ©Tiasy

Diego: a quiet, peaceful, clean city, with some drawbacks

What seriously shocked my companion and me – apart from the 30 hours of travel – was the calm in the city. And I think that “calm” is not even the word! It’s more than that, it’s a city where, in case of a couple’s break-up, you can gather yourself and make a “recollection”, as the religious say. Between noon and 2 pm, the city is asleep. Almost all the restaurants are closed, the streets are empty. Everyone is sleeping or praying, as the majority of the inhabitants of Diego are Muslims.

The same thing happens after 6 pm when it is very quiet. It is almost scary! Otherwise, the city is very clean, much more than Antananarivo, the capital. However, the people are less friendly. Indeed, if you don’t speak their dialect – because there are different dialects for different regions in Madagascar – they simply don’t talk to you. They answer you with a “valy boraingina” (4). On the other hand, they speak very good French and they appreciate foreigners very much – not us, but those from other countries, xD!

I experienced it, because we had been accompanied by a foreign friend with us there. They were very nice to us when we were with him but when we were only two Tananarivians hanging out, people were less welcoming. Otherwise, the administration there is dead. There’s nothing, they don’t do anything. One official said that it was mainly because the government was less concerned about the provinces and focused on the Capital. Moreover, in this respect, civil servants and ordinary citizens alike felt “abandoned”.

Ramena, my paradise!

My stay in Diego was enlightened by my visit to the beach of Ramena. It is a small paradise that you absolutely have to visit. That is, if you are willing to walk the 15 kilometers that separate the city from the beach, and if you are willing to spend 12,000 Ariary on a single dish, with the sun burning you, almost literally. As for me, I don’t mind this little adventure because I am a fanatic of long distance and sun.

I could have sunbathed for hours without necessarily “tanning”, lol, and without feeling overwhelmed by that hot flash that everyone hates. Besides, I feel sad every time I leave the sea. Especially this one, the Emerald Sea, which has an “emerald” color that would inspire me to write about anything just by looking at it, and which looks like a little paradise thanks to the view of the “Pain de Sucre”.

The “Pain de Sucre” of Diego Suarez, seen from the Ramena road. I took this picture in the taxi-brousse, hence the bad quality… The beach of Ramena. ©Tiasy
The beach of Ramena. ©Tiasy

Once I’ve learned the Diego dialect, I’d love to move there. Anyway, I shared this experience with you, firstly because I am passionate about it. Secondly, because I wanted to change a bit from my pessimistic texts about the realities in Madagascar, and to show that there are also very beautiful things in my dear and tender island. Finally, it’s for a little advertisement for the tourists! See you soon for a new editorial of Tiasy! 

Bonus: the video of the road to Ramena!

I enjoyed taking a video of a portion of the road that leads to the beach of Ramena. Experience the ambiance of the taxi-brousse with its tropical music and the unique sound of the chairs and the engine! 

(1) You have to go to the National Carriers’ Bus Station in Ambodivona and find a “good” cooperative that will guarantee that you will be seated quite comfortably in a row of 4 people – not 5 or 6 – in a Sprinter that would be regularly maintained, mechanically speaking. They will reimburse you if you decide not to leave at the last minute. They will also guarantee that the taxi-brousse will leave on time – but that almost never happens!
(2) “fotoan-gasy”: Malagasy people have a bad habit of always being late, and that by at least half an hour. It is known, it is almost a custom, and it is highly unpleasant.
(3) Madagascar is known for its unparalleled landscape, it is the best tourist destination in the Indian Ocean!
(4) “valy boraingina”: Malagasy expression to describe an answer that is short, unclear, said with a sharp and angry tone.

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