Tuesday 17 May 2011

Madagascar Honeymoon, Post #3: 14 April 2011

14 April

Today, we take the train from Fianarantsoa to Manakara. This is really the only functioning passenger train in all of Madagascar. Even though the distance from town to town is only just over 160 km, it is going to take us over 10 hours to get to our destination. This train is the lifeline for many small villages along the track, and much time will be spent loading and unloading goods at the stations.

We have seats booked in 1st Class, and Eric drops us off at the station at 6:45 in the morning. Like the girly girl that I am, I need the toilet, and Eric organizes the key for the staff loos for me. Even though these are on the platform, and, I take it, somewhat cleaner than the public ones in the station building, it is very smelly and dark inside, and there is no toilet bowl, just another hole in the ground. I am somewhat irritated that our guide and the station staff felt that I probably would not want to use the toilet that everybody else needs to use, but am secretly quite grateful. I promise myself not to drink too much, so I won't have to go go at any of the places en route. Men, though, eh?! They've got it so easy!

We leave almost on time at 7:15, the car contains almost exclusively French tourists, us, and a few well-off Malagasy. The one-way ticket costs 25,000 Ariary, which is about £7.80. Oh, and some chickens in a basket travel with us too, presumably for free.

Bike Shop

Billboard for Malagasy Wine

It is not long before we stop at the first station, and there's a big crowd gathered to welcome the train. This will be the case at every place on the whole journey. There are kids hoping for sweets, fruit & yogurt vendors, you can buy samosas, peanuts, banana fritters, hard boiled eggs, fried chicken, crayfish, flowers, cakes, sausages, anything.

Also, good are taken on board or left on the platform. The train is the only way of providing supplies for some villages, as there are no roads in some places.

 Marco looking quizzically at the camera.

But these two girls were more than happy to pose when they saw I was taking photos.

This train ride was a really good opportunity for me to overcome my shyness and to just ask people if I could take their picture. None of the kids we met even had to be asked, they took tons of joy out of having their pictures taken and then looking at the result on the display. But the adults were fine with my camera, too.

A shot of the scenery, everything was lush and green. There were banana plantations everywhere and we saw rivers and waterfalls.  A lot of the times, we were passing so near the greenery, that showers of leaves and plant bits rained through the open train windows.

Some of the goods on offer at a station.

The train stopped at one station for almost an hour, and we were not told why at all. This would have driven me crazy at home, but in Madagascar I just went with the flow. "Mora mora" means "slowly slowly", and that's the credo by which people and things function.

Marco having some peanut brittle. It actually tasted really nice, the face is just because I was taking yet ANOTHER photo.

The kids at this station were the bestest subjects! They loved the camera and were posing, making silly faces and throwing shapes. Except for this one beautiful boy, who was stoically watching everything.

Me in the midst of it.

Apart from the wildlife, I enjoyed this day on the train best. We finally got in touch with real, rural Malagasy life and real Malagasy people.

Most people we encountered were very poor and we saw many children with protruding bellies or untreated skin diseases; or adults with their clothes held together only by a thread. We were surprised when children asked for things that were trash in our eyes, like empty water bottles. I guess they wanted them to carry water, or collect honey, or earn some extra Ariary when selling them on in a market. Not all requests were as modest, though, the bolder kids frequently enquired if they could have our watches, sunglasses, my blouse or even Marco's camcorder...

Despite their poverty, people were very friendly, outgoing and helpful, loved to laugh and joke and were very curious about us. To be continued...

For more of our Madagascar trip, you can go here:

Earlier Photos:

Post #1

Later Photos:

© Annika - All The Live Long Day (unless otherwise stated)


  1. Hi Annika!
    These pictures are absolutely gorgeous! Madagascar, Wow! What an exciting adventure!

  2. That pitcure of you looking out of the train window is lovely. The scenery is just breath taking!

  3. Hi Annika! I'm Martin and I'm an old friend of Marco's from our days in Canada. I've known him for 27 years. Anyway, he's sent me this link and I've been looking at all these wonderful pictures you've posted. Just amazing! Like you said, despite their poverty, make the most out of life and live. I've seen it myself elsewhere. Thank you for sharing and my dear friend is lucky to share this with you.

  4. Ohh, my goodness! This is so amazing! I love these!! It makes me want to travel so badly! I hope some day!

  5. love love love! Especially Marco's "Patrick Swayze moment" photo - very strong resemblance there - and I mean this in a good way :-))

  6. What beautiful photos! I especially love the portraits of the children. I can't believe how lush and green the terrain looks. Just beautiful!

  7. @bigbirdbaroness

    Okay, you gotta help us out here? Is it the hair?


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