The RN5 north out of Tamatave starts off surfaced and in reasonable condition, fringed by magnificent beaches, passing the Parc Ivoloina and then the old settlements of Foulepointe and Fénérive Est. The 240km coastal section between Soanierana-Ivongo and Maroantsetra, however, is one of the toughest roads in the country – a barely drivable earth and rock track that deteriorates in condition as you crawl north, as does the viability of the twelve ad hoc river crossings that have to be negotiated along the way. The worst stretches and the dodgiest makeshift ferries (some of them simple bamboo rafts) tend to vary from year to year depending on the damage inflicted by the most recent cyclones. The 50km stretch between Antanambe and Mananara is usually considered the hardest, and often takes a full day, most of that at walking speed.

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