Saturday, 22 September 2007

Speeding up the Pangalanes

The "Canal des Pangalanes" is a collection of natural rivers and artificial lakes that stretches approximately 600 km along the East coast from Toamasina to Farafangana, although it's only navigable from just North of Mananjary.

On board a speed boat of the Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (German Agro Action) we make our way up the Pangalanes Canal -- past a procession of boats of all shapes and sizes, endless rice paddies, kids of all ages waving, laughing and racing with us on shore.

Our boat is time and again an attraction.

No wonder, it's three times faster than the bigger boats used for tourism or local transport -- and ten times faster than the traditional flat-bottomed canal boats that the farmers use...

The beautiful little villages on the banks of the Pangalanes evoke a picture postcard paradise... but it's only when you get off and speak to the locals that you realize how harsh reality really is -- with cyclones, heavy rains and floods hitting and flattening the region every single year.


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