Madagascar: From Morondava to Tuléar and Anakao
When you visit Madagascar you quickly realize that travelling around is not that simple, especially if you prefer round trips or off the beaten tracks. Distances are long and public transportation in rural areas is poor. Sure, it is quite simple to reach let's say Fianarantsoa from Antananarivo in one day, and the taxi-brousses on these roads, mainly Mercedes Sprinter, are quite comfortable. On the other hand, the trip from Tana to Morondava is an exhausting 17 to 18 hours drive, mainly at night, and sometimes when the car breaks down the trip can even take more than 20 hours. But there is no doubt - the real adventure starts where the public transportation ends!
Madagascar offers many opportunities for off the beaten tracks, particularly along the coast. A good example is the trip from Morondava to Tuléar. True, with your own 4x4 you can do the trip in 3 or 4 days via Manja. The nightly taxi-brousse from Morondava to Tuléar is only advisable if you can catch a seat in the driver's cabin of the truck. The real challenge is to follow the coastal line by a mix of pirogue, taxi-brousse and fishing trucks. However, if you choose this adventurous trip you better bring a lot of time! There is no continuous road along the coast, river crossing often requires a detour and public transportation only exists on certain part of the coastal road. Sailing pirogues strongly depend on the wind and fishing trucks, well, according to Bradt Travel Guide it is quite a "stinky journey", and after the trip in the truck you need an urgent laundry for your clothes as soon as possible :)
A motor pirogue is more expensive than a sailing pirogue. But sailing purists should be aware, that it takes almost double the time to travel by sailing pirogue and there is a risk to get stuck halfway with an involuntary camp night on the beach in the middle of nowhere. Especially for the 90 km distances between Belo sur Mer to Andranopasy and Andranopasy to Morombé a motor pirogue is probably the better choice. Bradt Travel Guide writes that the wind favours going in the Tuléar-to-Morondava direction. That is true, but often the south wind is so strong and lasts a couple of days and you cannot go by pirogue at all.
Morondava to Belo sur Mer
The distance from Morondava to Belo sur Mer is round about 70 km. It is possible to do it by sailing pirogue, but I decided to go all the way from Morondava to Morombé by motor pirogue in 4 days, mainly because of the long distances between Belo sur Mer to Andranopasy and Andranopasy to Morombé. Belo sur Mer is a beautiful small fishing village and offers a basic infrastucture for tourists. There is also a taxi-brousse from Morondava to Belo sur Mer, but in my opinion going by pirogue is the better choice.
Belo sur Mer to Andranopasy
The small fishing village Andranopasy was the next stop. The village is quite untouched from tourism and there is only one basic guesthouse. There is no restaurant but the guesthouse offers excellent home-cooked food, mainly fish or crab dishes. There is no public transportation to Andranopasy, going by pirogue or trying to get a lift by a private vehicle is the only way to reach Andranopasy.
Andranopasy to Morombé
In Morombé ended the 4 days motor pirogue trip. The 90 km distance from Andranopasy can be done in 4 to 5 hours. However, when the south wind is too strong, it can happen that even the trip by motor pirogue sometimes needs a break and an additional night on the beach because of a heavy sea. I was lucky, everything went well, and I had 3 days relaxing time in Morombé. Morombé is a small town and it has a wonderful but at the same time a bizarre vibe. The town was quite important in the colonial era, but lost significance in recent years because of the remote location. Some parts of Morombé look like a ghost town with abandoned colonial buildings. There are surprisingly many prostitutes in town, and you often get a "bonjour mon chéri!" while strolling along the alleys of the town. This is quite weird but also very funny.
Morombé to Andavadoaka
The piroguiers and hotel employees in Morombé always insist that there is no taxi-brousse to Andavadoaka in order to sell another pirogue trip. Don't believe it, every morning a taxi-brousse leaves at around 9:00 to Andavadoaka, and sometimes in the afternoon a second one. The distance between Morombé and Andavadoaka is roughly 50 km and the drive can be done in 2 or 3 hours. Unfortunately my taxi-brousse was an ancient pickup Peugeot from the 1950s without ignition lock so the driver always hot-wired the car. Needless to say, the first breakdown was after 5 km (ignition coil) and after 15 km the trip was over because the car was a total loss. We were lucky that we were stranded in a tiny village so that we got at least some food for lunch. We waited all day in the middle of nowhere for hopefully a second taxi-brousse. Most passengers lost confidence when it was getting dark and I slowly started to accept the idea sleeping in a small traditional hut without mosquito net and without any water (they offered me schnapps instead which I could buy in a tiny shop in the village ...). Luckily the second taxi-brousse finally arrived and we were able to continue the journey to Anadavadoaka the same evening.
Andavadoaka to Antsepoka
There is no public transportation between Andavadoaka and Antsepoka. The only way to proceed is by sailing pirogue or by private vehicle. I decided to go by sailing pirogue, but I had to wait two days because of the strong south wind.
Antsepoka to Salary
Antespoka is tiny, very tiny. And it is wonderful and completely untouched from tourism. Bradt Travel Guide says there is a small "hotel" called "Chez Fidel", but this hotel is closed for many years. There is a small fishing cooperative and if you are lucky they offer you a decent room and food in their private house. Antespoka is a traditional fishing village and except of the two buildings of the school and the fishing cooperative there are only small traditional huts for the fishermen and their families. The fishing cooperative also run 3 fishing trucks to Tuléar, and the next village Salary can be reached in 3 or 4 hours. The fishing trucks runs 2 times per week, usually Thursday and Sunday.
Salary to Tuléar
As I already said, better take the warning of the "stinky journey" in a fishing truck seriously. The trip from Antsepoka is cheap but a bit uncomfortable because you sit/lie on big sacks with dried fish. The smell is ok, but you have to give all the clothes to the laundry the next day. Salary is a nice little town, still 128 km away from Tuléar. But there is a taxi-brousse every second day, usually an old big Mercedes truck, but you can easily make a reservation for a comfortable seat in the driver's cabin. The road is in a very poor condition, and it takes some time to reach Tuléar, in my case it was over 13 hours for 128 km. In Tuléar ended my adventurous trip from Morondava and all in all I needed 15 days.
Tuléar, Sarodrano, St. Augustin, Soalary, Anakao
After managing successfully the trip from Morondava to Tuleár the trip to Anakao is a piece of cake. I decided to go all the way from one small fishing village to the next by sailing pirogue. The distances are quite short, like 10 or 15 km per day. In Sarodrano and St. Augstin you find a basic infrastructure for tourists, Soalary is quite untouched. Anakao is a beautiful and colorful small Vezo fishing village and has a good infrastructure for tourists with many good options for guesthouses and hotels. Luckily, especially in low season, it is very calm and it doesn't feel at all like a typical touristic village. The people in Anakao are very friendly and Anakao still retained its original charm as a traditional fishing village.