Indian Ocean - Back to Tana

We had very little sleep after our long train ride, having booked for a 7am taxi-brousse trip to Antsirabe. In the event we finally left at 8:30. The taxi-brousse drivers are skilled, but they tend to be risk-takers, so the long drive was interesting and slightly stressful. We had the front seats, next to the driver, and it afforded excellent views and an opportunity for us to note the deforestation that is a major feature of the Madagascan countryside. When we first flew over Madagascar we could see the rivers running red with eroded clay, and now we could see close-up the effect that cutting down all the trees has had. The major reason for the deforestation is charcoal burning. From one end of the country to the other people burn charcoal for sale. All along the road you can see the smoke from fires slowly smoldering, and thousands of bags of charcoal, their ends stuffed with grass, are heaped up alongside the road for sale to passers-by.

Lunch was in a small village with little to offer someone who just wanted a sandwich or a piece of fruit, but it did have an enormous grinding wheel outside of the shop, and a beautifully set-up well inside its own little house across the road.

In Antsirabe our hotel was right on the northern edge of town, and we had arrived fairly late in the day, so we only wandered around a limited area, found somewhere to eat, and went back to what promised to be a quiet book-reading night. Not so. Our room overlooked a rather well set-out garden, and a video clip was being filmed for a singer - he was dancing to his own music under floodlights. We had an excellent view from out window, so we how have a bootleg copy of a video clip of an unknown Madagascan singer. U-Tube here we come!

In the morning we had another musical treat - the gendarmes marched up the street singing as they went to work.

We were in the Hotel Ankary, a rather decrepit pile opposite the taxi-brousse station, since we were just passing through and were booked (we thought) to leave at 9am the next morning. We had made the booking in Fianar, and had a mobile number to call to arrange to be picked up at our hotel, but the number wasn't correct and when we went to the controller at the taxi-brousse station and showed him our ticket he told us we had been duped. Maybe, maybe not. this is the only time we had problems pre-booking and paying for a taxi-brousse seat, and we had dealt very happily with the same guys in Fianar for all our other trips. Whatever the reason for the problem, we simply bought a new ticket for later in the morning and went with them.

This taxi-brousse had a totally manic driver, and took only two-and-a-half hours to get to Tana. Along the way there were loads of things to see - toy markets, souvenir markets, villages, rivers - we saw them all at speed!

Back in Tana we tried to book into Hotel Sakamanga, but ended up back at their sister hotel (Isoraka). However, the Saka did have a guide for us; they introduced us to Gaps, who had us organised in no time - tickets to Morondava and a signed contract for a five-day tour in Western Madagascar.

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