Manakara ? Fianar; a 20 hour Malagasy experience
On Sunday I had to stand up very early, the train was “leaving” at 6:45 so I was up to see sunrise, which was very nice ! Then I took a pousse-pousse to the train station, the train had arrived yesterday and was already waiting. It was an old diesel train, quite a thing. It was so old and used that the seats were hard and falling apart, doors didn’t close anymore and it made a lot of noise ! The train runs every day, one day Fianar to Manakara (163km ) and the next day does the way back. It normally takes around 8 or 10 hours, well it took us 20.
The train stops at almost every village on the way, the villages have made their whole economy around it. They sell all their products to the passengers of the train. Each village has its specialty, one has the banana monopole the other an orange kind of fruit (which tasted very good), beignets (yes, they are everywhere ! ) or coffee, you could get lots of different stuff ! I tried most of them, and every time it was surprising and always good !
Because the exchanges between local and train passenger was so important we stayed at least 30 min in each station. But this wasn’t the reason why we were so late.
In the train I was with 4 Malagasy women and their girls, they were so nice to me; made sure I tried the local products, translated me when I needed it, we also had a good time exchanging cultural differences, etc..
This was the first time that I really was in the Malagasy culture. And could really see how locals live their daily life, they really do eat rice at every time of the day! When the train stopped for lunch, all the families took their pan of rice and began to eat and same thing at dinner.
I noticed that they are so generous to each other even when they don’t know the other( well that is what is think I had seen, it can be wrong) they share everything; food, blankets,… and even with me ! I also had the feeling that they talk to each other like they know each other for a long time, well maybe it was just an impression because I couldn’t understand a word of what they were saying but it looked like it. And they always want to help, that is so great when you are travelling.
The train was like every public transport in the country, overloaded; each family had at least 10 bags with them and the train was so old that I sometimes wondered how it was still working. Fianar is located a little higher than Manakara, this makes this trip very hard for the train and that is why it often get stuck or breaks down for a few hours, the other way around is less risky for breakdowns ( I learned that the next day, a little late maybe… ) At around 16:30 the train begun to stop for ten minutes here and there nothing very serious. But there it came in one station at sunset we didn’t restart and were stuck for about 5-6 hours. We had dinner on the train and it became dark very quickly in the train so I took my torch out of my bag. This made quite an attraction in the train. It is a torch with an incorporated dynamo (very handy but quite annoying after a while) they never had seen such torch before so everyone had to try it out. It took us occupied for the first 30 minutes and then we just got to sleep.
At a moment I even thought that we would spend the whole night on the train, not very comfi but very convivial. At midnight the train left the station ( youhoo !! ). And about 3 hours later we arrived in Fianar, the day before I had called the place where I had planned to spend the night in Fianar to tell them that I was coming by train and had therefore no idea when I would arrive. I felt so bad when I called the lady at 3 in the morning to tell her that I finally got in Fianar, I was first quite surprised that she was still awake! She was so nice; she welcomed me with a smile and even saved me something to eat.
I told her that I had to take the taxi-brousse the next day for Tana, and she said that It would be good to get up at 6 ( OMG ! ) to be there at 7 to get a chance to arrive at a reasonable time in Tana. But this left us 1h30 sleep, the time I arrived and eat a bit it was already 4:30, and she wanted to serve me breakfast before I left so she had to be up at 6 too. I really felt so bad for her, she was adorable!! I am so thankful to her !