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Most tourists use Fort Dauphin (Taolagnaro) as the gateway to Berenty and then connect in via road. When you're planning your trip, an 89km journey doesn't seem too gruelling, but that's before you experience the 'road' to Berenty! 4 hours later (yes, you read right!), you will probably have a different perspective on the relationship between time and distance!
The best thing that I can say about the road is that it is 'character building' and will exercise reserves of patience, tolerance and physical resilience that you may never have known that you possessed! The road is officially tarred, but this former state is but a distant memory along virtually the entire length of this route, and it is better described as a random series of consecutive potholes of varying dimensions, interspersed by occasional patches of tar.
I have travelled through remote areas of Africa for over 20 years, but I have seldom encountered a worse road to a major tourist destination. We were lucky enough to be travelling in Berenty's minibus, which is a fairly reasonable vehicle, but even with good suspension, the road was an ordeal, and we emerged feeling battered and bruised. At the time of our visit (December 2008) we were told that this road is scheduled for upgrade, but others we spoke to expressed the opinion that this wasn't likely to happen any time soon, so I would suggest that you check before you depart (and update this posting for future tourists). I apologise that the attached photos are out of focus, but with that sort of vibration, your camera doesn't have a chance!
It may sound alarmist, but if you are a traveller with compromised bone strength (an older person, for example) or someone whose medical condition is exacerbated by vibration (such as pregnant women), I would suggest that you reconsider whether this journey is really for you.
Updated Feb 13, 2012
Waiting in airport departure lounges in the developing world can be a lengthy business, and sometimes you run short of reading material. Such was my experience in Fort Dauphin (aka Taolagnaro), and to pass the time, I was reduced to reading the customs posters displayed on the walls.
What an eye opener! I can honestly say that in all my travels I have never before come across a restriction on the export of onions, yet here before me in glowing technicolour was a clear directive that no traveller leaving Madagascar is permitted to export more than 10kg of onions! OK, by this time I was very bored, but my imagination was fired by the image of international onion smuggling rings operating clandestinely out of Fort Dauphin .... which got me to thinking that although I had no particularly unpleasant recollection of Malagasy onions, neither did I recall they being so outstanding that their export would be strictly regulated like endangered wildlife and precious stones ... and anyway, even with a business class allowance, what sane person would even consider travelling with more than 10kg of onions in tow ...
Unless it is a snide dig at the French ...
Travelling is sometimes a surreal experience ....
Update July 2010: for those bored enough to follow this self-indulgent travel trivia, Madagascar has apparently revised the export limits for certain vital commodities since our last visit in December 2008. Sacre bleu, travellers are only allowed to export 1kg of onions! Equally amusingly, there is now an export limit of 5kg on beans, lentils and peas ... enough to set the pulse(s) racing (excuse the pun!)???
Updated Sep 26, 2011