"Heading East I" Faritanin' i Toamasina Travelogue by Norali
Faritanin' i Toamasina Travel Guide: 108 reviews and 293 photos
This trip is, with Big South journey, the very first one to be done while in Madagascar. I made it often in the past. The tips I give here and Tlogues are those of several trips.
Going to Toamasina is never penible since you will soon be fascinated by landscapes... 372 km to drive through Imerina soil and then lush rainforests, palmtree forest...
If you plan to join Toamasina and have your stay there, 6 hour drive would be enough. If you are staying in nature reserves in Andasibe, Moramanga, it's up to you to stay in hotels and forest lodges in those areas before following your path to Toamasina.
And be prepared to shoot as much as you can (bring extra films). I don't know other means (except your brain) to record feelings during this trip...
This trip can be arranged by tour operators. Rather travel with a guide, be you drive motorbike or be 4WD. For our trip, we rented a sedan car from a relative and hired his chauffeur. This latter used to work as a guide in a travel company.
You will notice that pictures don't have same lightening. This is due to the fact that some were taken while heading to Toamasina and others, while returning from there. And we were 3 to take pictures, I mean three films at same time *LOL*
Tips related to this trip are in my Faritanin'i Toamasina as well as Toamasina city pages.
We had a quite early leaving, at 8 am since we depart from home, that is located in Tana countryside. We had to reach Tana area (45mn) where we took the exit to Toamasina.
Landscape starts with picturesque Tana suburbs packed with houses, some cosy villas, mansions that adjoin with traditional red-brick houses of Highlands (like this my grand-grand father house whom I've never seen inhabited, by the way). A difference though, houses are larger than those seen in urban Tana. And already or always, ricefields in plains.
This is a trip that is convenient to driver tourists since the road uses to be well preserved ... unless it suffered from cyclones disasters and damages in Toamasina region. Then, drivers encounter collapses and landslides. Though within ten days following landslides, everything will be put in place thanks to efforts of public roadworkers and civil engineering.
Maybe a reason for that, it is the main liaison between Tana, most populated and capital city, and Toamasina, first port city. Rice, oil, basic commodities are conveyed through this Route Nationale 2 (RN2). Since Malagasy national rail company has given up serving this destination, like many others, private truck companies make the bulk of goods and commodities transporters.
After village of Carion (28km from Tana), Angavokely forest station is worth a visit. A manmade forest with pinewood and eucalyptus trees with orchids, mushrooms and wild flowers. They were cultivated as part of reforestation program. The aim was to restore a Highlands forest.
In fact, for decades, peasants have used a proceeds that they believe nourishes soil: soil burning. Government began to forbid the proceeds and punish soil burners. Thus, in winter nights, you still see circles of fire and flames that attack hillsides, bushy- grassy areas. In the past, soil burning was also a means of political disagreement towards then regime doings. No doubt that this contributed in worsening environment situation as well. And other reforestation programs have been implemented for years. Two rocky peaks (1755 and 1787 m high) dominate the forest station.
After some 30-km drive, one has to climb Maharidaza area. Once climbing is over, the road is flat again and strangely straight for a curvy road.
Manjakandriana is the next city you would see. For me, not interesting at all. Streets are narrow, edged by houses on one hand and railroad on another road. Not easy to drive since drivers, trucks use to stop everywhere, download and upload tons of goods, commodities. Manjakandriana is a province boarder. We are now entering Faritanin'i Toamasina (Toamasina province).
From Ambatoloana (59 km from Tana), landscape will swift into forests. The latter are home of thousands of medicinal plants orchids, trees, fern, lemurs... and tiny rivers.
A sought-after village is Mantasoa, worth a visit with its lake, industrial area that had been designed by Jean Laborde (see tip on Mantasoa in Faritanin' i Antananarivo page) in Queen Ranavalona I era. But to reach it, you will have to leave main road at Ambatoloana and drive some 12 kms. We hadn't done it this time.
Gradually, in a 10km length, you will descend to reach coastal area. Up to now, you were in the highlands. But soon, you have to descend Falaise de l'Angavo, (Angavo cliff), in Mandraka (some 70km from Tana). The descent from an average altitude of 1400m will lead you to an intermediary altitude of 900m. Combined actions of heat and humidity keep thick forests in good shape. While descending, you will see Mandraka hydraulic barrage.
At the bottom of the cliff, a butterfly farm, Ferme aux papillons de Pereiras, is worth a visit (see another tip for that).
This area is mainly inhabited by workers in Mandraka electric power station. Nice hobbies for them: boar hunting, looking for butterfly species, walking through Eastern virgin forest. By the way, you will notice stalls on roadside. They sell plant species. Forests abonds in those rare species: orchids, camelias, fern trees.
Next city: Moramanga ("where mangoes are cheap"). It is a region between Angavo cliff and boarder of Eastern forest. This used to be the halt for noon lunch (if you left Tana at 9-10 am) after scenic 115 km drive. See my tips on restaurants there.
Moramanga played a key role in Madagascar history. In March 29, 1947 MDRM (Mouvement Démocratique de Rénovation Malgache) executives undertook a strike in order to actually apply an existing text in French Constitution that would give freedom to Malagasy as for their government. Families in the whola island took part in the movement. This led to a 21-month guerilla against France and 100 000 Malagasy citizens died. Those executives were hastily executed. March 29, is a commemoration day in Madagascar history and seen as important as June 26, our independance day.
By driving for some 20 km, it is possible to take an exit that leads to Andasibe rainforest reserve, home to the tallest of all lemurs, Indri. Malagasy people believe that the Indri gave birth to the human race. His call sounds like a whale call. He can be seen close up in the forest in the early morning and evening. Birds, variety of other lemurs and chamilions have their VRPs there as well. We intended to visit this national reserve. Differential pricing (entrance fee is more expensive for tourists) detered us from buying those tickets. Personnally, I don't like such a pricing since I don't see any reason for that. My favour would go for cheaper tickets for students and kids, be they locals or tourists' kids. I don't know whether other possibilities exist nowadays.
It is possible to have a stay at Vakona Forest lodge, an upmarket private reserve, as well. Bungalows and manmade pound are part of landscape there. And its collection of fauna species is valuable. Outdoor activities are organized, from tennis to hiking, swimming. This picture with two lemurs and fern plants was taken from there. The picture of opening that shows a lemur on a tree was taken from Vakona forest lodge as well.
Following your path to Toamasina, you will notice this still lush flora. This time, road is flat with, sometimes, stalls on roadsides. They sell fitsa: dried banana stored and tight wrapped in banana leaves. Green hills alternate with tiny cliffs. Seen from the road, tiny cliffs resembled holes packed with tropical trees... I particularly like flora diversity. See part II for foliages on Tana- Toamasina road".
Another aspect I value in this trip is the possibility to drive next to Indian ocean. From Andevoranto, the road is parallel to Indian Ocean and Lakandranon' Ampanalana. Some 120 km to drive this way till Toamasina.
At last, Toamasina!
Though Big South was the greatest big trip I've ever made, Tana-Toamasina is my favourite trip since it is no too long, not tiring and just... beautiful and bucolic. .
Have a look at my Toamasina (city) page as well.
Tips related to this trip are in my Faritanin'i Toamasina pages.
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