Travel article: Fianarantsoa & Manakara

Travel blogger: Christelle & Cedric

Trip story: 100 days in Africa!

Image for blog article: Fianarantsoa & Manakara

Manakara, Madagascar

Madagascar 4 days - June 2019






We get to test the Taxi-brousse again to travel 250 kilometers and go from Antsirabe to Fianarantsoa.

Can you guess how long it will take us?

9 hours counting the two hours waiting at the station ... (and many lies on the van in which we were going to go, departure time etc)

Whether waiting for departure or en route, incredible life scenes unfolded under our eyes.

Chickens tied on the roof as luggage - besides it is not clear to us why locals take their chicken in taxi-brousse, you can buy some everywhere! A turkey in the trunk, a woman who walks with a turkey in her hand, her baby in the other, a man who ties his pig on the bicycle rack. And what about public toilets? (when there is some) As toilet paper we get sheets of school notebooks used ...


We share our seat with a man who carry with his spear, some will have machetes, saws 3 meters long and a man rides with his rifle, everything is fine.

About 10% of the inhabitants wear an orange tee-shirt bearing the image of the current president. Big marketing campaign that offered him re-election against goodies gifted to locals ...

On the roof, our bags that we hope are well tied, bags of cement, chickens, bicycles, boards. We carry everything in the taxi-brousse (and even a cow apparently we were told!)

For musical programming, Marc Lavoine, Goldman, Johnny, all this cut with religious songs. Each passenger singing!


It's adventure!


We do not know yet what awaits us the next day however ...

Wake up at 5am, arrive at the train station at 6am, buy the first class tickets (the Vazaha are obliged to travel in first class), a departure announced at 7am for 8 hours of travel to Manakara, 170 km away.

At 3pm we had done only 30 kilometers! The cause, brake problem (it's reassuring!). As a result, the locomotive drops four cars (full) and continues. An hour later, we are asked to move in a cattle car and it is packed that we continue. The rest of the train is stopped. IThe night is here, a man goes up armed to protect us in case of attacks of zebu robbers. We suffer for 5 hours, shaken, we spend time with our companions of misfortune and it is at 10pm under pouring rain that our car enters the station under the laughter of passers-by who do not understand where the rest of the train!

It will arrive the next day at 1.30pm!

Thirty years ago this train made the return trip on the same day... We are bluffed by how the economy and its level infrastructures are just stepping back in time (1000 kms of road disappear every year for lack of maintenance) or education, access to basic amenities such as running water ...


This trip still allowed us to see beautiful landscapes, first rice fields and a rainforest, the park Ranomafana. 1200 meters of difference in height to reach the tropical east coast. All along there are villages whose life revolves around the arrival at the station of the train, twice a week. No other means of transport can reach them, they are totally cut off from the rest of the world without running water or electricity. At each stop we are offered bananas, cassava, rice. That's all they have ...


Well when the landscapes became really incredible the night came but it was still a sacred adventure!






Manakara is a small town on the east coast whose economy revolves around pirogue fishing. Fishing more and more difficult because of the Chinese trawlers that are close to the coast and pick up everything. It will be very difficult for us to find a good itable fish for the lunchtime BBQ.

It's sporty considering the current. Some people row more than 50 kilometers a day. We leave with three fishermen for a small cruise on the canal Pangalanes. Prince will be our guide for the day. We will also meet Chance, Princess, Felice, Joy, Hoping (English translation). Our names are very boring next to it!


The villages on the banks are only accessible by canoe or Boat-brousse since the bridge collapsed and was never rebuilt despite the funds allocated. Even the kids paddled for fishing, having fun or going to school. The canal serves as washing machine, restaurant, refrigerator, means of transport, all the life of the villages revolve around this bit of water of 650 kms long.


On the banks there are many trees of the traveler, this strange palm tree that offers water from its branches to any traveler lost. It is the emblem of Madagascar and its leaves are used in the construction of traditional huts.


We also learn to paddle under the songs of Prince "we paddle we paddle but where you put the paddle"! (French song!)


We reach a village and eat on the secluded beach a freshly grilled fish and crab. A feast on this beautiful sunny day.


The different markets brighten up the little town and Cédric will enjoy a few quiet moments to face children in a wild football game, they all wear jerseys with Neymar, Mbappe, we do not feel homesick. Do not forget that Madagascar is currently playing the African Cup, there is level! (or not...)





A nice step that we would have preferred with easier access;)

We are ready to return to Fianarantsoa and the Highlands!


Some recommendations:

# for the Fianarantsoa-Manakara train ride, be patient! This is worth it if the train arrives in the same day which is apparently rarely the case ... 70,000 ariary per person first class (mandatory for white tourists ...)

# in Manakara we stayed at H1 Hotel, perfect for 100,000 ariary per night.

# the tuna steak of "the rendez-vous" is amazing. 14000 ariary.

# the day trip on the canal cost us 80,000ariary per person with an amazing meal. Apparently we should have negotiated however the fatigue of the train made us capitulate quickly;)

# there is also taxi-brousse that goes to Manakara from Fianarantsoa. We took it back, 17000 Ariary, 6h minimum ride.


Leave a comment

Jul 9, 2019 - 09:09 PM

Environ 16h de train en ayant de la chance, ça vous a évidemment laissé un peu de temps pour faire de si belles photos des paysages et des habitants. 😉


Jul 10, 2019 - 12:39 AM

La pagaie, la pagaie. Mais où t'as mis la pagaie ? Là bas sous les cocotiers ! Mais les croco ils l'ont mangée !


Christelle & Cedric
Jul 12, 2019 - 01:51 PM

C'est Prince qui l'a cachée? ;)


Jul 12, 2019 - 07:32 AM

coucou, quelle aventure ! Vazaha = français étrangers et Karana = indiens de Madagascar foot Madagagascar, hélas, éliminé. Mora mora = doucement, mot de passe de Madagascar, lol


Christelle & Cedric
Jul 12, 2019 - 01:53 PM

Ah ca on a vite compris ce que Vazaha voulait dire! Un mot passe dans le vocabulaire courant apres l'avoir entendu et utilise 7 fois ? En 30 secondes c'était fait ! À Madagascar "on avance 'Mora Mora' (doucement) mais on ne recule jamais"