Places of Madagascar

Many contrasts. It's not called 'The Island Continent' for nothing.

The East

Travelling the road east from Tana to Tamatave (also called Toamasina) you immediately notice greater prosperity, until the road drops from the Hauts Plateaux and life again starts to become difficult.

Tamatave is Madagascar's main port, and the road between it and the capital is the best and busiest in the land, though by Western standards the traffic is still light. For most of its length the road winds through the ceaselessly rolling hills of the eastern range. The travel is continuous but it is not fast, with the 400 kilometres between Tana and Tamatave taking about eight hours to negotiate.

The closer you get to Tamatave's city centre the slower the going gets as the number and depth of potholes starts to become serious. Tamatave itself must qualify as one of the top 10 pothole capitals of the world. With gaping pits sometimes stretching right across a two to three lane road, it becomes not so much a matter of avoiding potholes as negotiating them, along with the hundreds of others in cars and pousse-pousse (rickshaws), on cycles and bikes, and on foot, all trying to do the same.

Mahambo sunset

North of Tamatave the road flattens out along the narrow coastal plain, with stretches of the long eastern beaches often coming into view. After Mahavelona (also called Foulpointe) however the coastline starts to become broken with points and bays. Mahambo (pronounced Ma-ham-b) is a resort village popular with both Malagasy and foreign tourists.

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