Tana > Tuléar via East Coast

Isalo Ranchscan231Tana > Tuléar via East Coast

Extremely varied route through the highlands of the Merina, the land of the Betsileo, passing by primary forests down to the east coast and back again; then further on through the land of the Bara into the dry south, the sandstone ranges of Isalo, and the dry forests of Zombitse, until finally reaching the Tuléar.

14 days, 1904 km (of that, 227 km on piste). Average distance covered per day: 136 km.
 
Day Route km total km Piste Treking
1. Tana > Ambatolampy > Antsirabe 180    
  After we have managed to find the way out of Tana through all that incredibly dense traffic, riding becomes a pleasure, while one curve follows another and will do so for hundreds of kilometers to come. We will visite today: Insect museum, displaying more than 5000 exhibits, local production of cooking vessels, both at Ambatolampy, were we will also have lunch. With timely arrival in Antsirabe, we will go and see precious stone processing in a lapidary. In the evening, we will go out to have dinner on one of those famous Pousse-Pousse, that one finds here more often than elsewhere in Madagascar.
2. Antsirabe > Lac Trivitra > Antsirabe > Ambositra 130 30 1 km
  In the morning, we will venture out on a small piste to visit Lake Tritriva, around 20 km away from Antsirabe. Even though the piste climbs, riding on it isn´t difficult at all, but fun instead. After we have reached the top, we are taking a short trek down to surround the lake, while listening to local tales about its history. On the way back to Antsirabe, we pass by Lake Andraikiba, suited as recreational resort.
After a late lunch in Antsirabe, the 90 km through hill country with lots of curves are plain fun. In Ambositra, we still find time to look at the works of local wood carvers and furniture manufacturers.
3. Ambositra > Antoetra > Ifasina > Antoetra > Ambositra 70 50 3 hrs
  Today, its the day of our tour into an original wood carvers village. We leave our baggage at the hotel and take a piste to the left of the RN 7, around 10 km south of Ambositra, which will bring us, after 25 km, to Antoetra. Before we cross the bridges on the way, we make sure they will support us and our bikes. Arrived in Antoetra, we trek to Ifasina, 4 km away, to see Zafimaniry wood carvers at work. Lunch will be a picnic, dinner and overnight again in Ambositra. We spent the night on the over 100 years old, newly renovated Grand Hotel.
4. Ambositra > Sahambavy 150 1  
 

Passing by the remainder of primary forests, we see how people have lived (and still do so) from the forest and how this has changed the country. We have malgasy lunch in Ambohimahasoa, before we continue onward through magnificent rice fields, giving us the impression beeing closer to Est Asia than to Africa. We arrive in time in Sahambavy, the only tea cultivation area of Madagascar, to explore the vincinity here, possible by bike, by simply starting off towards the east. Or we can´t be bothered any more today to move on and simple relax at the Lakeside hotel.

5. Sahambavy > Ranomafana 85 26  
  Possibility to see tea manufacturing, provided accessible. After this, we set off for Ranomafana, by taking the RN 7 some km back the way we had come from, untill we hit the turn for the east coast. This road is in bad shape, so it´s fun to do it, however it takes time. We leave two villages behind, slowly entering the national parc. After crossing a bridge, we have the river Namorona at our right, the road is better here, and we can watch the river descending by forming waterfalls, with primary forest right behind the opposite bank.
In Ranomafana, we have time for a stroll through the village, to take a hot bath in the natural spring, or to prepare for tomorrows visit to the parc by looking at the Centre d´Environement.
6. Parc National de Ranomafana 12   5 hrs
  We do a trek through the parc on foot, watching animals (lemurs, chameleons) and looking at plant life, incredible just alike. 12 species of lemurs live here, and the golden bambus lemur was only discovered here in 1986. Of the plants, orchids, tree ferns, palms, mooses, a variety of flowering plants as well as stands of giant bamboo (on which three species of lemurs feed). In the late afternoon, possibility for a night tour into the parc.
7. Ranomafana > Manakara 180    
  The road is bad and won´t improve today. We are slowly winding down to the east coast, there are a few villages to cross, but there is little habitation to meet later on, before we finally reach Manakara and, at the same time, the sea. As the sea is very rough here, taking a dip is out of question. Manakara was once the second largest harbour on the east coast, at times, when the railway line into the country was in full use.
8. Manakara > Farafangana 109    
  Through large plantations, growing vanilla, pepper, lyches, coco and coffee mostly for export, we travel on a good road. The village of Vohipeno 30km south of Manakara isn´t only renowned for its hand made baskets, but, more important, it is the center of the Antaimoro culture, the people, immigrated from Arabia, that had brought along their own script, including the know-how of paper manufacturing.
On to Farafangana, were we use our only chance to take a bath in the sea.
9. Farafangana > Manakara 109    
  Back to Manakara using the same route as yesterday.
10. Manakara > Fianarantsoa 265 25  
  Our longest day on the bike, all the way back from Manakara via Ranomafana (late lunch) onto Fianarantsoa.
Instead of taking the road back, up to two bikes can often be loaded onto the train to Fianarantsoa. You should have belts and properly fixe the bikes. The train runs 5 times per week. The trip is a pure adventure.
11. Fianarantsoa > Ambalavao > Ihosy 204    
 

We leave the town by the upper village, for a panoramic view, and then head out, to stop at one of those wine yards, that produce malagasy wine, only to be found in this region. Maybe, we can see the handwashing and handlabeling of the bottles, but surely there will be wine offered to sample, but talking some bottles along to have with our dinner tonight would be the safer option. In Ambalavao, we can see paper making according to the traditional Antaimoro method and buy their artworks as well. Lunch will be available here. A few kilometers away, a silk spinning facility produces silk lambas (blankets), traditionally used in Madagascar to wrap ones deaths. From here, a piste, leads to Tsara Camp in the Andringitra National Parc, ideal setting for trekking. More basic  is Trano Gasy.
In the afternoon, it is getting hot, while we do todays remaining kilometres towards the south, as far as Ihosy.

12. Ihosy > Ranohira 90 40  
  This morning, we are crossing the Plateau d´Horombé. We get into Ranohira for lunch, have time in the afternoon for some excursions in the vincinity, like Ilakaka, Madagascar´s wild-west, where precious stones are found these days and we watch the sunset at la Fenêtre. Just behind Ranohira, the german Martina Breitling manages her Isalo Ranch, a comfortable installation of traditional bungalows, even offering a pool. The whole installation is suplied by solar power.
13. Parc National d´Isalo: Canyon de Makis > Piscine naturelle 30 27 4 hrs
  To visit the Canyon de Makis, we can use the bikes to enter the parc, provided there is place available to take our guide along. Just out of Ranohira, the piste turns off to the left and we have around 15 km to go untill we reach the parking ground. From here, we do a trek into the canyon, which will surprise us with its lush green flora and animal wild life. After lunch in town, we take another chance to enter the parc to see the Piscine naturelle, offering us to take a bath, after the walk in the hot sun.
14. Ranohira > Zombitse > Tuléar 290   2 hrs
  Driving from Ranohira to Tuléar is, dispite the distance, a matter of a half day. Thus we take the chance to enter into the new National Parc Zombitse, featuring dry forest with birds and lemurs. In th afternoon, after more kilometres through bush country with occcasional baobabs, we finally see the costline in the distance and are confronted with city traffic a short while later.