After having spent time driving around the south and west of Madagascar we have to make it back to the highlands so we can get to the next stop of the trip the north. Unfortunately there is no road along the west coast – not even a crappy bum by track like the one we did from Ifaty to Morondava. So we go back on towards the capital of Madagascar.
It is a long drive so we get another early start. I can’t help noting I am getting up much earlier on this holiday than I would ever do at home. I guess part of the reason is the lack of stuff to do at night time. No nightlife, no television and no books to read so you do end up heading to bed fairly early and are already rested when you get up in the morning.
Unfortunately not everything opens early in the morning. We had talked to the hotel last night if it was possible to organize a breakfast at 6 in the morning and they said yes. When we get down for breakfast at 6 in the morning it turns out there is a catch. They have to go shopping first – and actually the one running the breakfast need to arrive at work so she can go shopping. It takes a long time for her to do shopping and after half an hour we give up on the breakfast and decide that our leftover snacks from the last trip. We just start driving as the sun is rising and we head on the long drive towards the highlands.
The road is pretty good and fully sealed with only a limited number of potholes. So we make pretty good progress. As we drive along the road we pass many zebu carts which share the highway with the cars and along the side of the road is the traditional clay huts of the Sakalava tribe which occupies the western part of the island – actually they take up the greatest area of any tribe – but due to the dry conditions of their land their number is relatively limited and the highland tribes are more numerous.
We continue driving through the lowland and the temperature rise as the sun gets higher. After half a day of driving we finally arrive at a fairly big town at the river. It is where people can join a boat ride to the west coast – but since we are coming from the west coast we are not going to join the boats. We stop in the city for lunch and it is getting pretty hot by now since we are still in the lowlands.
After lunch we continue the journey. And soon the road start heading up hill. We are going back into the mountains. As we go along the road the temperature is dropping significantly and the heat disappears. The buildings along the road also change as we leave the Sakalava land and go into the Merina land of the mountains. The Merina tribe used to be the most powerful tribe in Madagascar and the king of the united island came from this tribe. Even today the people from this region is on average better educated and takes up many high places in society – the look of the people also change a bit since the Sakalava tribe mainly originates from people crossing over from the African continent. The Merina tribe is descending from a mix of people coming from Africa but also of the people arriving on boats from Asia mainly around Indonesia and Malaysia but also from Arabia and India.
The houses along the road change as well – there is a clear difference in the building style – there are no more clay huts. The huts has been replaced by better looking houses made of bricks – it makes the area look slightly more affluent – though I am not sure affluent is an appropriate designation when more than 90 percent of the population of the country has to survive on less than two dollars a day.
We continue the drive until we reach the cross section with the RN7 we took going down to the south of the island. The intersection is home to a pretty big town where we will spend the night. We stay at a small hotel at the edge of town – the hotel seems to be a bit of a one man show. There is only one man running the place and it appears we are the only guest. I think he is also responsible for the cooking he definitely is the one arriving with the food – which is consist of the food of the day. The food isn’t the best but it fills us up so we can just relax for the evening.