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Explore the rich culture and picturesque landscapes of East Antananarivo - Island of Madagascar

Exploring the Rich Culture and Scenic Landscapes of Eastern Antananarivo – Madagascar Island

The RN2, a road connecting Antananarivo to Toamasina on the east coast, passes through beautiful places like the lush forest near Moramanga and the Andasibe Mantadia reserve. Aside from being a busy weekend route, the valleys around this road also hide villages with rich histories waiting to be explored during a leisurely stroll.

MAROZEVO

– The “farm” located 72 km from the capital raises butterflies, frogs, snakes, giant bats, and chameleons.
– It focuses on breeding species like Furcifer lateralis.

IVOVOKA Valley

– This secluded valley has the authentic charm of the Highlands.
– It includes Ambohimalaza with its large aristocratic graveyard and Anjeva with a tannery.
– The area around Ambohimangakely and Ambohimanambola was where fierce battles between the Merina and Vazimba took place.

IMERINKASININA

At the 16.8 km mark of RN2, turn right towards Ambohimalaza and drive 6 km south to find a 3 km trail up the wooded hill.

Amidst natural beauty, Imerinkasinina village sits at an elevation of 1,491 m, preserving ancient traditions. The well-preserved southern gate welcomes vehicles, while the northern gate is accessible only by foot or bike due to deep ditches.

Shaded by century-old fig trees, houses in Imerinkasinina stand on two terraces. Apart from a couple of recent structures, the village maintains its harmonious appearance.

From the hilltop with a small Protestant temple and remnants of an old rova, one can admire views reaching Antananarivo and Antongona to the west, Ambohimanga to the north, Angavokely to the east, and Ankaratra to the south.

Legend tells of Andrianafovaratra ruling over Imerinkasinina in the 15th century as a vazimba lord who could wield lightning for woodcutting. Despite his supernatural powers, he was defeated by Ralambo through cunning and royal talismans, leading to the destruction of Imerinkasinina.

Today’s population of around fifty people are descendants of Rafotsinivahoaka, representative of King Andrianampoimerina.

MANTASOA and the lake

The Mantasoa Lake is a popular getaway for the people of Antananarivo, located around 60 km to the east of the city. It’s about a two-hour drive via Manjakandriana or Ambatoloana. Back in the 1800s, a Frenchman named Laborde built an industrial center and a leisure palace with a zoo for Queen Ranavalona Ière in this hilly, green area.

Today, only a few remnants of the old complex remain, such as the blast furnace, lime kiln, and the main building which now houses a technical school. These are found alongside Laborde’s house and tomb in the former village of Andrangoloaka. The rest of the structures were either destroyed in the 1850s or submerged under water when a dam was constructed in 1937.

Le LAC

This 2,000-hectare reservoir was created to control the flow of the Ikopa River. It is closed off by a dam with a capacity of over 100 million cubic meters, supplying power to the Antelomita and Mandraka hydroelectric plants.

Beautiful villas are nestled among the pine and eucalyptus trees around this expansive body of water, perfect for swimming, various water sports, and fishing for tilapia, carp, golden cyprinid, and black bass.

Near Andranomanadala, a left turn leads to a viewpoint, a chapel, and the former state residence. Visitors can cross the lake by canoe or motorboat to reach the Eastern Forest along paths used by traditional alcohol distillers.

The pleasant climate of Mantasoa makes walking through the moorland and pine forests especially enjoyable. If you need to rent a canoe or hire a guide, you can contact the caretakers of the nearby villas.

Madagascar’s first industrial site

Laborde decided to move his workshops from Ilafy to Mantasoa as the old armory wasn’t suitable for his industrial expansion plans. In 1837, he designed the layout of the new center and completed the blast furnace in 1841 to supply the arsenal.

The complex at Mantasoa manufactured a range of products including cannons, rifles, swords, and gunpowder. It also produced everyday items like soap, paper, glassware, bricks, tiles, paint, and tableware. Laborde’s vision for industrial development led to a diverse range of goods being made at the site.

Jean LABORDE (1806-1878)

A Gascon mechanic and former saddle maker from Auch, found himself stranded on the east coast of Madagascar in 1831 after a shipwreck. Introduced to Ranavalona I by a French planter, he earned her trust by forging the first Malagasy cannons, muskets, and mortars.

Teaming up with the British James Cameron, he established industries and constructed impressive buildings such as the Manjakadiana Palace and Indian-inspired tombs. He managed to build friendships at court and exerted influence over the heir apparent Rakoto.

After being expelled following a coup attempt in 1857, he returned to Madagascar in 1861 as France’s first consul. His lavish funeral was held by Ranavalona II in 1878.

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