Wednesday 28 February – drive from Antsirabe to Morondava

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February 28th 2018
Published: March 2nd 2018
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Wednesday 28 February – drive from Antsirabe to Morondava

Today was going to be another driving day but longer – around 500kms.

After breakfast and checking out of the Hotel Royal Palace. On the edge of the city, as we drove out, we saw the only beer factory in Madagascar. It was the Three Heads Beer factory which was founded in 1956. Beer is very cheap (in our terms) in Madagascar – just over $1.00 AUD for 650mls. You can buy it from a shop for 1000 Ar ($0.45 AUD for 650 mls).

We then completed our drive through the city then continued along the productive, volcanic valley for about an hour. We saw extensive erosion and mud slides and saw the destruction of a cyclone which hit the Island 6 weeks earlier. Rivers had washed away roads which had been roughly restored. My guess is the temporary will become the ‘long-term’. All road repairs were not mechanised, and we even saw men mixing tar up in 44 gallon barrels which were cut in half.

Several times we saw young boys pretending that they were repairing the road and held their hand out for money in return for their ‘good work’. Very sad.

We drove through many small, villages, some being very busy with their market days. We saw a lot of farmers with their produce on bullock-drawn carts, or carried on their heads, bikes or pull-carts.

Children were going to school. Private schools wore dark blue uniforms while government school children wore light blue uniforms. School is compulsory from 6-13 years.

Soon after leaving the valley, we drove into the very dry, rocky hilly area with very few trees. The weather was very hot and humid with clear skies. Village men walked long distances to bring wood back for cooking fires. We had stopped seeing bags of charcoal as there were few trees. Rivo was telling us that a bag of charcoal cost between 15,000 – 40,000 Ar, depending on the supply-and-demand in the area.

Shortage or no running water to houses was the rule as was the lack/no electricity. The village way of life was simple.

We stopped for lunch along the way after travelling 250kms over 4.25 hours. This will give you an idea on the state of the roads. We had a very light lunch as we had been in the car all morning, then started our afternoon drive - 280kms to Morondavo.

On the way we travelled of a large bridge over the River Tsiribinina. All rivers in the eastern parts of the island are muddy all year round due to the erosion. Later that day, along the western side, we saw sandy rivers.

I had noticed that village men when walking along the road, all carried either spears or axes. Rivo said this was for protection even though there wasn’t a lot of conflict in or between villages.

After 2 ½ hrs of driving west, we could see a large rain cloud with blue sky either side. It was a spectacular site. At this stage of the drive, we had noticed the grass was green and the trees taller, replacing the dry stony landscape. The road was really good also, only with the occasional pothole. We had also switched the air-conditioning on in the car and put the windows up so driving conditions were much improved. Rivo didn’t seem to like a/c!!!

We also saw out first baobab tree another icon of Madagascar. We will be seeing a lot more of these unique trees.

Eventually we drove into the tropical rain cloud and down it came. Although heavy, it lasted for 20 minutes and then was gone. The number of rice fields had increased. Rivo said they had 3 crops of rice in the area compared to 1 crop around Tana, the capital. Our good road continued through little villages until about 50 kms before reaching Morondava.

We arrived in Morondava at around 5.30pm, checked into our Hotel Renalta Sable Dor and made sure the a/c was working. Initially we thought we had to pay extra for a/c but with my negotiations, it was covered in our tour cost. You could never stay in a bungalow with only a fan in February in Morondava!!.

With camera in hand, we walked along the beach and then along the road parallel to the beach. A soccer match was being played on the beach by locals, with official referees as well. We found a bar on the beach which had cold beers …. And was open! Quite a few places were closed due to this time of the year. We then walked back after sunset (absolutely beautiful sunset) and one beer, to get Tom’s diabetes gear and found a restaurant for dinner. We got a recommendation from the French owner of one of the pubs. I had tasty fried chicken and Tom had tender beef, with a cold beer of course.

It was hellishly hot, and we were drenched by the time we got back to our bungalow. The bungalow was beautifully cool as we had switched the a/c on before going out. A storm was brewing and the electrical activity in the approaching clouds was spectacular. We only had a few spots of rain as we walked home but there was a lot of thunder as we went to bed.

The shower was fantastic and after some domestic chores, we flopped into bed.

A bit about Morondava which is a coastal town in the West of Madagascar, connected to the capital by regular plane service run by Air Madagascar or roads that are of varying conditions. It is an ideal place for a relaxing stay, especially compared to the capital, since it is less crowded and (so far) devoid of beggars. It is also cheaper. The white beaches are good and extend far to the north side of town.

In the mornings and evenings the local Malagasy people are out, busy at the markets and eating their meals. At night they cook with very low light but at this time of the year, at least it is cooler in the evenings. At high season, although it is cooler, the town is dusty and extremely busy.

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