I feel no guilt over my decision to take a Cotisse (express van service that doesn’t stop at every little grass hut) back across the highlands to Antsirabe. It only cost 45,000AR, plus 10,000AR for the bike, and took about 8 hours of driving. The vans even have wifi and stop for a lunch break at a hoteley.
A quick layover for the night in Antsirabe then an easy ride down to Ambositra. The first half of that was a long flat stretch through a river valley past endless rice patties and hillsides carved into usable agricultural space. Who knows how many generations it took to carve that all out? It’s not like it was some specific project to complete like Machu Picchu.
The second half was hills. Compared to highway N 34 to Morondava these hills were easy. Most of the climbs on N 34 had me in granny gear and/or pushing my bike, compared to on the N 7 where I rarely dropped into my lowest chain ring. And in general the biking on N 7 is much nicer than N 34: less strenuous hills, prettier scenery, and more towns & services along the way. I even saw a group of bicyclists that were out for recreation and sport! Helmets, spandex, on road bikes, the whole shebang! You’d think that the locals would be getting used to seeing people on bikes because they choose to?
Staying the night at Le Artisan was a good break away from the crowds, and they gave me a low-season discount for the bungalow. And thankfully the pig in the neighbor’s back yard stopped screaming before bed time.
From Ambositra I had a relatively short ride to Lemur Forest Camp Lalatsara just before Ambohimahasoa. It is all hills and I made it there before dark, even though I had to sit out a massive thunderstorm for about an hour hunkered under my tarp. It was a good opportunity for collecting fresh water. I saw the storm coming this time and was able to get prepared for it, but was left wondering about other ways I might die, such as the lightning that was hitting so close my ears were ringing! A word about the Lemur Forest Camp: it doesn’t exist. Rather, it did and now there isn’t a trace of it but some pieces of trash being reclaimed by the jungle. It did make a good spot to wild camp out of view from the road, although even still people were passing by on footpaths between fields and homes. In the middle of the night I thought I was going to get lucky and see some nocturnal lemurs, but as the animal sounds got closer to my tent it was just a pig 🙁
Passing through Ambohimahasoa the next morning I saw several hoteleys and three of them looked like they might offer rooms for rent above their restaurants.
I took the N 25 through the Ranomafana National Park towards the village of Ranomafana. The first 12 miles of this is unpaved road with large pieces of rock for a road surface. Instead of cobble stones it looks like they just used a grater to spread big rocks and a roller to push them into the ground. It makes for a bumpy but still passable ride. The rest, in the park, is paved and in great maintenance. The intersection of N 25 and N 45 at Vohiparara head down to Ranomafana. This route along N 25 has been one of my favorite segments because the people, who are very rural folks, are much friendlier than the usual village shitheads. Plus the paved part is in actual for reals honest to goodness true forest and jungle that hasn’t been slashed and burned into agricultural space like every other part of the island. N 45 is paved all the way between N 7 and Ranomafana, with the majority of that being in untouched forest. Good views of the 8 km of waterfalls that the road follows.