Friday, Nov. 21
“Tana,” Madagascar

I doubt that when I first met Anna and Alex, the day we shared a meal at a tiny road-side restaurant during a break from a bush-taxi ride, they had any clue they would spend much of their 15-day vacation with me.

The two French women, having just arrived in the country that morning, were on their way to Antsirabe, the same city where I was headed. The three of us, having bonded over rice, explored the town together, then shared dinner, and finally, a hotel room. They planned to continue south after a second day in Antsirabe. But I had hoped to travel west, so I rose early the next morning, packed my bag and said a quick goodbye.

Once at the bus station, I learned I’d have to take an long, overnight bus trip to arrive at my western destination, which didn’t sound at all appealing. So I picked a new destination on a whim — oh, the glories of traveling solo — based mainly on which bus would leave first. Instead of a long trip west, I would journey just a few hours south to the next town.

Two evenings later, as I peacefully read a book by the window of my hotel restaurant, I noticed two familiar faces on the other side of the glass. Anna and Alex!

We caught up over dinner, the girls chain-smoking like nearly every Frenchie I’ve met, then traveled separately the next morning. But since we were all headed to the same town, we again met up there and shared a room. And so it went for much of the rest of our two weeks in southern Madagascar; sometimes the three of us traveled together, sometimes separately, but Alex, Anna and I almost always met up at the same hotel, sharing drinks and laughs.

Me, Alex and Anna on the streets of Fiana.

Me, Alex and Anna on the streets of Fiana.

Our last few days together — or so we thought — were on the beach in Ifaty, a small village that hosts many tourists, one I blogged about a few days ago. We lounged on the beach, hung out with two other lovely French girls and sipped flavored rum. We said goodbye when I left to return north with another French traveler, Pierre; I had more country to see, but Anna and Alex would fly home from the capital in a few short days.

As per usual, I deviated from my plan, taking a day to check out a national park instead of going directly north. And so, on Anna and Alex’s final night in Madagascar, we met up again for dinner in the capital, picking a place where we knew the prostitutes would provide subtle entertainment.

Smoking their cheap cigarettes as usual, the women joked about the American who had followed them around on their vacation, one who repeated said goodbye and then turned up again.

Although I still had five more weeks to explore Madagascar, I felt a hint of sadness when the girls’ trip came to an end. We parted for the last time while standing in a light rain in Tana (cue the sad music), and I knew there was no chance I would run into them again as I made my way north. They wouldn’t turn up at my hotel tomorrow night to make me laugh, there would be no more frog-leg dinners, mocking of the hookers, teaching me how to pronounce difficult French words.

“The next time you go on holiday,” I told them before climbing into my cab, “call me. I’ll come along.”