We left Ranomafana in the white car we had come to know so well with Ritza at the wheel, dressed to the nines for the trip to the second largest city in Madagascar, Fianarostoa (Fianar for short). The city was bustling but not the horrid traffic nightmare that is Tana, as Fianar is a city of only 120,000 or so.
We had a relaxing day focused on enjoying the culinary delights of Madagascar; Caramel Duck Confit, Duck in a Vanilla Sauce, etc. We went to Fianar in order to take the train down to the coast, a journey we were told by Lonely Planet would be 7-12 hours. So the next morning we arrived at 6:30 for our 7am train to find a station packed with people. By 7:40 we were finally being allowed onto the train, the only problem was that we did not have an engine. By 9:30 we were on our way.
We quickly left the behind any roads and passed though remote hills and towns. We were given a lot of time to enjoy the towns as each stop to load and unload cargo took 1 hour; stops tended to be about 10-50 minutes apart. The scenery was beautiful, but the seats were cramped. and often all we could see was trees or rock passing by a few feet from the window. As the sun set as we approached the halfway mark we realized the journey would be more than the 12 hours we prepared ourselves for.