Antananarivo - East Coast
A tour by motorcycle in Madagascar
Motorcycle tours in Madagascar, a blog post by Georg Jaster
Author of Vaovao. I was lucky enough to live in Madagascar for three years from 2013 to 2016 for professional reasons. For old passion and also because it is simply practical, I moved in the years on Madagascar mainly by motorcycle. A few times I undertook with friends smaller or larger motorcycle tour in Madagascar. So also in April 2016.
On a Friday morning we started with about 20 motorcycles from Antananarivo (Tana) towards the east coast. The seaside resort Ambila-Lemaitso was to be our destination. There were about 600 km to cover there and back. Madagascar is a dreamland for motorcyclists. Narrow, winding, little traveled country roads swing through spectacular landscapes. One rides through vast rice fields, rolls through sleepy little towns and crosses fragrant tropical forests. And most importantly, the weather is always beautiful. The sun is always shining.
Well, almost always. Actually, always, except for - yes, except for that Friday. The day began in Tana with a light, harmless drizzle. Unlike, for example, in my native Rhineland, which fortunately never lasts long in Madagascar. Also on Friday the drizzle was over quickly. It became stronger. Considerably stronger. Afterwards still more strongly and later, when we had to take against end of the day still another approximately 25 km long piece mud and sand runway under the wheels, it was torrents. But I will come to that.
Cheerful and exuberant, we drove off. After about an hour, we had left the traffic jams, smog and chaos of Madagascar's capital behind us. Ahead of us now lay the winding, gray asphalt ribbon of Route Nationale 2 to Toamasina/Tamatave. The throng of motorcycles quickly dispersed. Some of us, eager to take the curves with gusto and desire, hurried ahead, others took it easier. The rain was hardly worth mentioning. The rain suits remained in the luggage cart.
The lunch break we made in the "Las Vegas" pardon: "Lasy Ve? Gasy", a kind of trucker pub à la Malagasy of selected shabbiness. My partner, who had acquired impressive language skills during our years in Madagascar, interpreted the pun something like this: "Do you want to set up your Madagascan camp here?" As befits leg-hugging bikers the world over, we had beer and barbecue. Zebu skewers were our vegetables. While we paused, the rain increased. The road was now really wet. Were we worried? Not at all. Immediately would come yes the luggage van at our motorcycle tour in Madagascar, with the rain gear.
A cell phone rang. Worry lines formed on the forehead of Irina, the organizer of the whole trip. Houston, or Lasy Ve? Gasy had a problem! Our luggage cart had overturned and was lying in the ditch. The driver was fortunately unharmed, but now a replacement car had to leave Tana, pick up the damaged car, the driver and our things. That would take time. So we continued without rain gear.
The rain was warm and when it really rains, the road isn't so slippery anymore. Once the smear film of dirt, dust and water is washed off, it's fine again. It drove well. The rain fell, the gout splashed. Life was good. So we rolled to Brickaville, where we were to leave the paved RN 2.
When I descended to the fuel stop on our motorcycle tour in Madagascar, I noticed that I had gained about 10 kilos. My jacket, my pants, my shoes, everything had become saturated with water and lead-heavy. I had never been so wet in my life. It made "Quaatsch" with every step, everything stuck to the body. We, about 25 bikers soaked to the waist, decided to strengthen ourselves a little and entered the small taproom of a bistro on the roadside. The lonely landlady turned pale with shock and worry at the sight of us, because wherever one of us stopped or sat, puddles and small pools would immediately form. We would completely ruin her chairs, floor and tables. We couldn't take away her worry, because it was justified. We chatted and dripped all over everything, thanking her for her brave hospitality after the snack with a tidy bill and a princely tip. After that, we left the restaurant wet but invigorated, while the landlady turned her attention to the renovation work that was now pending.
We had almost made it, we thought. There were only about 25 kilometers left to our destination. However, with the nuance that these 25 kilometers were now no longer on asphalt, but on dirt road to be covered. The horror began. The track was deeply rutted and rutted out. It was difficult to master with a good off-road vehicle. We tackled it with ordinary street motorcycles.
The track consisted at first of the red laterite soil typical for Madagascar. Through narrow zebu cart wheels and erosion gullies, it was deeply rutted on the left and right and woe betide you if you got your front wheel into such a furrow. The heavy rain had turned the track into a muddy slippery slide. Do any of you remember the TV show "Games Without Borders" from the 70s? The ever-present joke in the games on that show was that the contestants had to bring some oversized, silly object down a slippery, soft-soap course. While the contestants struggled through the funniest contortions, they were shot at with water cannons by the opposing team to further complicate matters. I loved this show as a child. Now I was in the middle of it: I had to pick my way through slippery mud on a motorcycle completely unsuited for this purpose, plowing through deep puddles and slithering over glassy bumps. At some point, as we got closer to the sea, the ground changed. The red mud now gave way to sodden sand. This did not make things any better. The advantage of both mud and sand was that those who fell, fell softly. No one got hurt, but when we finally arrived at the small ferry on the Canal des Pangalanes, most of us looked like pigs.
Nevertheless: The mood was excellent. The question we asked ourselves was: Would the replacement luggage van with our dry things still come, or not? Late, very late in the evening it came.
The next day was our rest day by the sea, between the Indian Ocean and the Pangalanes Channel. It is a beautiful spot. The weather was fantastic. We bathed, walked, relaxed. Some of the participants enjoyed themselves on motorcycle tour in Madagascar, with a cross machine brought by the organizer. I took a few photos.
Apart from us, there was only this single bather on the beach far and wide. He did not feel bothered.
In the evening, as the sun set over the Pangalanes Channel, postcard motifs emerged.
I was particularly taken with the pirogue. After another night by the sea, we took the small ferry again on Sunday.
And made our way back from our motorcycle tour in Madagascar to Tana. It was raining again. Sure. But this time we had practice and our rain gear on hand. It was a wonderful trip. Madagascar is a dream country for a motorcycle tour in Madagascar. Especially the all-time beautiful weather on the east coast is to be praised.