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The about 152km trail sneaks along rivers, through many small villages and cultivated areas, with a short distance through the [[Masoala National Park]].
=== Day 1 ===
'''[[Maroantsetra]] - [[Andranofotsy]] - [[Farankaraina Tropical Park]] - [[Navana]] - [[Anjahana]] - [[Mahalevona]]'''<br>
After a night at Hotel Le Coco Beach in Maroantsetra we walked in the early morning hours through the small town to the river where the pirogues to Andranofotsy leave from. Along the way to the "harbour" we stopped at the market to have some breakfast. For our relatively large pirogue we paid 12,000 Ariary for three people and left around 8.20am. There were also cheaper pirogues available, but we would
had to wait until one is filled with passengers.
For the next 1
hours and 20 minutes it was a very pleasant, relaxing pirogue ride with amazing scenery along the many small river arms of <i>Andranofotsy River</i>. Around 9.40pm we arrived near Andranofotsy.
Around noon we arrived in Navana and had some lunch in one of the small restaurants. 4km later we arrived in Mahavelona, passing Anjahana along the way. Before entering Mahavelona there is a beautifulvalley with rice fields and a mountainous background
, as if out of a movie setting. In Mahavelona we stayed at [[Hotel Malala]]. After we checked in we went for a swim in the river. In the evening we had a very delicious dinner in the restaurant of our hotel.
=== Day 2 ===
'''[[Mahalevona]] - [[Tanambao]] - [[Fizono]] - [[Ankovana]]'''<br>
After breakfast with tea and fried bananas at our hotel we left the village around 6am. As the day before the trail followed the river downstream, sneaking up and down small
hill and through valleys with rice fields. Today was the first time we had to cross the river by foot, which turned out to be no problem with a bit of balancing.
After 1 hour we reached Tanambao, another 1 hour and 20 minutes
later Fizono and from there about 1 hour and 45 minutes later our final destination Ankovana at noon. Ankovana is a very small village with very basic accommodation. After a chat to the woman renting out rooms at [[Hotel Centrale Ankovana]] she invited us to stay at her private house next door for 5,000 Ariary per person. We accepted her invitation and were rewarded with a huge dinner (rice, fried egg, boiled vegetables and cucumber salad). Happy and with a full stomach we fell asleep.
=== Day 3 ===
'''[[Ankovana]] - [[Ambatolaidama]] - [[Ambohimarina]] - [[Ampokafo]]'''<br>To avoid the heat of the day we started our walk as usual around 6am. The scenery is similar to the one the day before. However, the highlight is the short walk through [[Park Ambatolaidama]]. At the park entrance the trail starts at an elevation of 375m and goes up to 542m at the exit. The maximum 90 minutes walk through the Masoala forest is steep, humid and very slippery on wet days. The forest is filled with the sound of numerous birds.
After leaving the park we reached at 11.45am
Ampokafo, where we found a bed for the night at [[Hotel Esperante]]. A short stroll from the village we enjoyed our obligatory refreshing bath in the river. Thereafter we discovered the village and found a shop with a cinema behind. The owner agreed to recharge our camera batteries whilst showing a film in the evening. We just had to pay for the diesel.
=== Day 4 ===
'''[[Ampokafo]] - [[Manakambahiny]] - Tsaratanana - [[Andrakadilana]] - [[Androfary]] - [[Antakotako]] - [[Ambalaharongana]]'''<br>
Heavy rain in the night and early morning hours delayed our departure a bit. We soon realised that the trail had turned into a mud pool, making it quite difficult to walk. Sliding backwards down a hill with the hands stretched out in the hope to hold on something, whilst trying not to completely
loose the balance or searching for a shoe which got stuck in the mud were only some of the challenges we had to solve. But after even our guide once ended up on his buttocks we did not feel too much like clumsy [[vazaha]] anymore.
At around 1.30pm we arrived in Ambalaharongana where we went straight
for the river to clean us and our clothes from the mud of the day. Beside a school and football field there is not much to see in the village, so we went early to bed.
=== Day 5 ===
As it was Sunday, we walked the last few kilometres together with hundreds of kids
which left their villages for a week of school in Antalaha. As the distances are too long to walk back and forth each day, the kids stay throughout the week in the city. After 63,086 steps we finally reached Antalaha just after sunset, exhausted but happy and very proud! It was a great feeling to have been able to answer with "YES" when being asked at the borders of the city if we came from Maroantsetra and to see the admiration in the eyes of askers!
''And without doubt - we will do the walk again!''
[[Ambatolaidama]] (Entrance to [[Masoala National Park]])
[[Ampokafo]] (3rd night at [[Hotel Esperante]])
[[Ambalaharongana]] (4th night
, only one hotel)
== Open Questions ==
'''How many days does it take to trek from Maroantsetra to Antalaha?'''<br>
'''Do I need a guide?'''<br>
Having done the trek already once before in March 2010 we seriously considered the necessity of a guide for our May 2014 trek. We came to the conclusion that a guide is not really a must. After the pirogue ride from Maroantsetra to the "harbour" of Andranofotsi the trail sneaks along the coastline until reaching Navana. From there one follows a river downstream for the next couple of days. Actually it is quite hard getting lost and there are always numerous Malagasy people doing the same trek one could ask for directions.
Regarding the entrance fee for [[Masoala National Park]] - one crosses the park only for maximum 90 minutes, so we did not obtain a ticket for that short time in advance. What could happen? Sending us back to Maroantsetra to buy a ticket? We do agree
obtaining a ticket and a guide if one plans to stay longer in the park or crossing the Masoala Peninsula to [[Cap Est]]!
In the end we decided to take a guide anyway. First of all to have somebody to talk to, and as our French and Malagasy is very limited it is helpful to have an interpreter. The second reason was convenience combined with a bit of selfishness in that we needed an extra person to help us to carry the weights of our cameras and laptop safely across rivers where water level may be too high.
'''What about food and fresh water?'''<br>
We recommend to bring some water purification
tables and an empty bottle in case the shops are out of bottled water. So far we have been lucky, throughout both of our treks [[Eau Vive]] was available in the shops of the villages we stayed in. In case of water shortage the empty bottle can be filled with river water or fresh rain water and cleaned with the tablets if necessary. Of course there is also the option of boiling the water for a couple of minutes. One can also drink <i>ranovola</i> - rice water. Ranovola is usually served at restaurants and is simply water which is added to partly burnt rice in the kettle and boiled for a while to loosen the burnt rice. Ranovola is sterile and completely safe to drink. It can also used for treating diarrhoea.
Regarding food, there will be no risk of starving if one does not expect a 3-course meal each evening. Throughout the hike there are plenty of bananas in all possible sizes available, perfect as a quick stomach filler and energy push. Depending on the season, there might even be pineapples. Furthermore one can buy <i>[[mofo gasy]]</i> (fried sweet rice cake), banana bread, [[banana cake]], <i>[[lasopy akondro]]</i> (banana soup), <i>[[Banana_rice_snack|koba akondro]]</i> (bananas, honey and rice/cornflour steamed in banana leaves) or <i>[[mofo akondro]]</i> (banana fritters). A change in the diet brings cassava and rice. In most of the larger villages one can find at least one restaurant. All hotels where we stayed for the night prepared delicious meals in the evening, usually of the obligatory huge portion of rice, combined with eggs, cucumber or beans. For meat-eaters there might be even some fried chicken.
* base cap
* good quality trekking sandals - We prefer wearing trekking sandals over hiking boots. With sandals it is no problem to walk through the water when crossing rivers or across muddy and very wet rice fields. Boots are just a hassle to be taken on and off.
* rain protection - The Masoala Peninsula is a rain rich region and occasional rain showers should be expected. As special rain clothes steal space in the backpack and
is annoying to be taken on and off we decided to go for umbrellas. So far we might be the only <i>[[vazaha]]</i> which did the trek holding umbrellas over the heads, but we can highly recommend it! The umbrellas are not only useful to stay dry when it is raining, they can be also used as protection against the strong sun or as a walking stick on slippy or steep parts of the trail. Throughout the time we did not need them we simply hanged them on the backpack.
* camera batteries - There is no electricity in the villages. However, keep your eyes open for a "cinema" as such a place has a generator and against some Ariary the owner might recharge your battery whilst showing a film.
* pocket light
* huge plastic bags - To protect the
cloth and technical equipment from the sometimes very heavy rain showers we put everything in huge plastic bags and thereafter in the rucksack.
* toilet paper
* small towel - For drying after the refreshing swims in the river.
* plaster and wound spray
* sun lotion
* mosquito repellent or <i>fumakilla</i> (mosquito spiral) - In June 2014 we did not see a single mosquito, at other times of the year
than can be different.
* small denomination Ariary notes - As the small snacks cost only a couple of hundred Ariary and changing a 10.000 Ariary note can be a problem.
* last but not least - A friendly <i>Manahoana!</i> (hello), <i>Mbola tsara!</i> or <i>Salama!</i> combined with a smile for all the hundreds of greeting kids and villagers!