After leaving Masoala and taking the boat back to the mainland, the plane back to Antananarivo, and spending the night in the capital, I flew to Tulear. Tulear is on the west coast of Madagascar, so I left the eastern rainforests to head to the dry, spiny forests down south. This was a complete change of not only habitats, but living conditions.
In the eastern part of Madagascar, there were very good roads, and the people for the most part seemed to have the basics - food, clothing, water, housing, etc. In the south, that is not the case. The high plateau people of the east are considered the most well off in Madagascar, and the roads in that area are good as the political leaders live and come from that area. In the south, there are no real roads - there are areas used as roads by zebu carts (like ox carts), but they are in terrible conditions. Having traveled in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda I have seen some bad roads before, but the roads in southern Madagascar are the worst I have ever seen.
In some places, the sand forms drifts so you have to plow your way through. There are big rocks, washouts, and the terrain is so uneven you often think the car will flip over. As there is only room for one to pass, zebu carts pull over for cars and cars pull over for trucks. There is no semblance of pavement whatsoever, and the roads are dry, dusty and constantly reshaped in the wet season.
The people are also not as well off in the south. There is very little precipitation and therefore no crops to speak of. The people have goats and sheep, which I never saw in the east, and rely heavily on zebu for transportation as well as food. Many on the coast are fishermen. Accommodations for tourists in this area are few and far between, so we did a lot of camping.
The first night here I stayed on the coast in Ifaty at Le Paradisier Hotel. For some reason, I got the honeymoon suite, which was on the coast 4 feet from the ocean. There was a huge windstorm that day, and it was hard to even walk around, but I explored the hotel grounds marveling at the baobab trees and the weird vegetation. Pictured above are spiny trees - not cacti - and a tree that is like a succulent. All the plants look totally dead except or a few green leaves here and there; they are in fact not dead but sort of dormant until it rains. It's like visiting another planet - nothing at all was familiar.