Archive for April, 2013

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Window seat with a view

Window seat with a view

My latest, rather uneventful, 48 hour VERY SLOW barge cruise from Mananjary to Manahoro via Nosy Varika, sat ontop a sack or rice! All rather relaxing EXCEPT for the NON-STOP, slow revving thuds of a chinese industrial diesel engine which were un-escapable.

The crew were a great bunch of Malagasy speaking lads (no english or french) who were hard working and polite, although communication was limited to what we could sketch in my note book and social interaction was based on them choosing music to listen to on my ‘magic’ western Samsung Galaxy Note that they were clearly VERY envious of

The Canal des Pangalanes are a collection of natural rivers and artificial lakes that stretch along the east coast of Madagascar for about 450 miles from Toamasina to Farafangana, of which it can be traversed by barge just north of Mananjary to Toamasina.

The scenery does not change a great deal from start to finish and is comparible to that of south east Asia. A procession boats of vary shaing shapes and sizes carrying bananas, timber and rice, fishermen as well as the ODD crazy back packer!

Along the banks are numerous villages, comprising of wood and straw huts, people drying fish in the sun, local coffee factories and fishermen mending their wooden pirogues (canoes) under the shade of the trees.

A trip that I am glad to have made, but not one I am planning to repeat anytime in the future…

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The Fianarantsoa-Côte Est (FCE) railway is a french colonial-built railway in southeast Madagascar that connects the high plateau city of Fianarantsoa to the port-city of Manakara. It is 163 kilometers long and was built by the French between 1926 and 1936 using the forced-labor program SMOTIG. The French used rails and ties taken from Germany as World War I reparations to build the line. Many of the railways still have the date of manufacturing on them dating back to 1893.

The train chugs and clatters along the antiquated line, (no longer really up to any ‘european’ standard) stopping at a total of 18 train stations enroute. The views were, needless to say, idyllic from the onset. The train winding it’s way down through gorges, skirting round the edges of mountains and perched high above the hazy green, mist covered rain forests below.

It is in fact one of the steepest railway lines in the world – apart from Ecuador and Burma. The line runs over 67 bridges and through 48 tunnels! My trip was 14 hours from Finarantsoa to Manakara although I think without break downs and delays it is scheduled to take 10. However from reading other travel blogs journeys of up to 20 hours running through the night are not unheard of!