I'm in Toamasina now and have spent the last week getting here from Antananarivo, also known as Tana. I had some good fortune and met a French cyclist my first day on the road and we will ride together for much of the trip. So far, the trip has been a bit like Jeckel and Hyde. The main highways are very good but the secondary roads are terrible.
The climb out of the highlands around Tana was pretty brutal but the descent was magnificent. We stopped in the highlands to visit a few NGOs that are trying to promote eco-tourism as a way to save the remaining forest. The forest is fast disappearing as the population of Madagascar continues to expand.
After a few days in the highlands, we took the main road to Brickaville and took a detour off the main highway towards the Pangalanes. This area is very swampy and accessible by boat and the occasional train. There is a path that runs alongside the railroad that is navigable by bike. Unfortunately, it became a path of loose sand and we ended up pushing the bikes for ten km to the next village. There, we learned that the sand path would continue for the next 60 km. The only other ways out were by boat or the occasional train. Fortunately for us, the occasional train passed by and we are now in Toamasina, planning to head north soon.