And another uneventful day. Like yesterday, the weather was rainy and I didn’t take any photos.
I’m staying with Heinz again, but he has a visitor again, another friend from Germany. The guy is not overly likable and so life is not as relaxed there as it was before. Anyway, I’ll be gone soon, my boat leaves on Wednesday.
I don’t think I will do anything spectacular until then, just hang out in Toamasina.
So I left Andasibe today and continued downhill towards the coast and the well-known town of Ampasimanolotra. The ride was quick and uneventful, except for that bad accident I saw. Well, fortunately, I didn’t see it happen.
A taxi-brousse, these minivans that are filled to the brim with people, had crashed into an oncoming truck just a short while before I cycled past. The entire front row of seats was crushed and I don’t think anyone sitting there could have survived. I couldn’t help and didn’t linger, but I made a vow not to use that kind of transport ever again.
I spent the day yesterday in Tana, to get sober and to have another look at the city.
Today, then, I left the city towards Toamasina. But before returning to the coast, the next stop was Andasibe, starting point for excursions into the Andasibe National Park. I spotted a lemur on the road to the village — promising!
In Andasibe, the only(?) hotel was fully booked. However, I was lucky and met an Austrian guy in ‘the lobby’ and he agreed to share his room with me. There is also a Dutch guy staying here and the three of us will share a (compulsory, again) guide tonight and tomorrow to show us around the national park and hopefully find some rare reptiles and lemurs.
The day started without a proper breakfast, I only managed to find some fried dough balls. That basically meant that I won’t be able to cycle as much. And indeed, somewhere between Arivonimamo and Imerintsiatosika I was done for the day and hopped on a bus to Tana.
Back in the capital I looked for a new hotel and then got ready to party. There was a get-together of some Couchsurfers, some locals but mostly foreigners.
Today, then, was one of the greatest and most satisfying days of the trip so far. I continued on RN 43 from Faratsiho. And what a pleasure RN43 is! It is bad, it is bumpy, it is sandy, it is steep, it is eroded to the bones, it is pure chaos; it is an amazing ride for the prepared. And this time I am prepared.
The previous days since arriving in town from Ambalavao I spent in the city, wandering around, completing my collection of Malagasy maps, washing my cloths, eating a lot, etc.
I’m roughly on my way back to Toamasina now, but decided to take a different route. I backtracked a bit on RN7 but then turned off onto RN43 towards Faratsiho. RN43 is not paved and in somewhat bad condition, but is good enough for some exciting cycling.
A bit of a weird day. I set out this morning towards the Andringitra massif, feeling very enthusiastic. I left the paved roads behind and cycled on bad tracks through an amazingly beautiful though exhaustingly hilly countryside.
Unfortunately, my paper maps didn’t have much detail of this area, and there were few settlements and people. I got lost. Those I asked for directions couldn’t help much, partly because I had no clue of village names and couldn’t really name the place I wanted to go to — I didn’t really know myself.
At some point my spirit broke and I decided to cycle back to Ambalavao. Once there, I decided to hop on a bus and returned all the way to Antsirabe! In hindsight I don’t really know what made me do this. Possibly the fact that the boat is going back to Reunion in 2 weeks time, and according to my ticket I should be on it.
Anyway, in hindsight, again, I’m a bit disappointed.
Another short day, I only made it to Ambalavao. The idea is to go to the Andringitra massif from here, which is due south, and to climb Madagascar’s second-highest peak, Imarivolanitra (2658m; aka Pic Boby).
Yesterday was an extremely rainy day and I stayed in the hotel for much of it. I only walked to the train station briefly to find out on which days of the week the train to Fianarantsoa goes. It turned out that I was lucky, the next train would leave tomorrow, i.e. today.
Today I got up a bit later than planned and was at the crowded train station just in time to get a ticket to Fianarantsoa. My bike had to be stored in a fright car, which took up the last minutes before departure.
The train ride itself was awesome. Many of the villages en route have no road connection, the train is the only way to get in and out. People sell delicious food at the stations. In hindsight I wish I’d have gotten off somewhere and stayed there in the middle of nowhere and explored the countryside.
If I remember correctly, the trip took several hours longer than scheduled, around 12 hours in total – or was it even more? I found a cheap and simple hotel in Fiana, and even an Internet café.
Happy with yesterday’s visit to the national park, I set out today to get back to the eastern coast, namely to the city of Manakara. And what a great ride it was.
The descent from the central plateau towards the sea made for a pleasant ride for approximately the first half of the distance. Then the road turned southish and through undulating green grassy hills of spectacular beauty. Unfortunately, this perceived beauty was the result of quite persevering forest clearing — all of the area here and in fact most all of Madagascar used to be forested.
Large parts second half of the road were gravel tracks in the process of being upgraded. Lots of trucks going back and forth at high speed made breathing difficult at times.
A very short day of riding. Soon after leaving Ambohimahasoa I left RN7 and cycled along RN25 towards Ranomafana (“Warm Water”), site of hot springs and also a nearby national park of the same name.
Visiting the latter was my goal for today, so right after I arrived I checked into the dorm of a hostel on site, hired a (compulsory) guide, and went exploring the national park — looking for reptiles and lemurs. I was accompanied by two Malagasy students of Biology (if I remember correctly) from Tana, who were there on a kind of internship to learn about Madagascar’s biodiversity in the field.
We were indeed lucky in spotting some interesting animals, including, later at night, Uroplatus phantasticus.
I’m still continuing south on RN7. There was another police/military checkpoint just outside Ambositra, but it was just a matter of quickly looking at my passport.
At some point I had a break and noticed a tiny chameleon on the ground. Unfortunately, I don’t know its name.
Later, back on the road and seemingly far away from any settlement, a few little girls stood on the tarmac and tried to sell me some physalis while I rode past. At first I wasn’t interested, but after a few meters I changed my mind and stopped. This made the girls scream and run away. Eventually they came out of their hiding place at the escarpment and I managed to buy a bag of physalis fruits.
I made it to Ambohimahasoa, where I noticed a sign for a kind of hotel, and decided to stay. The hotel was located at the edge of the village and seemed fairly new and unfinished in a way, but also somewhat decrepit. I did receive a great dinner, though.
So yesterday I tried to find more Madagascar maps, especially of the area west of Antsirabe, but failed. I made up my mind to continue south, on ‘known’ (mapped) terrain, maybe to Fianarantsoa.
But today I only made it to Ambositra, allegedly the ‘arts-and-crafts capital of Madagascar’. And indeed are there quite some shops that sell carved figurines and tools and other artisans’ products. I bought a few things, too.
I’m staying in a posh and comparatively expensive hotel, for lack of finding something simpler quickly.