09-Aug-2003 -- On August 09, 2003, my wife Corinne and I (Thomas) made two attempts at reaching the confluence 20S 47E. The first attempt brought us within 4.5 km and the second attempt within 2.3 km.
My father-in-law René dropped us off at roughly 3:30 p.m. along the main Antananarivo-to-Antsirabe road, which is of course paved, at a point at which the GPS read about 5.5 km to the Confluence. The village close to the road was Ambatolahy, which is a very small village about 5 minutes (by car) south of Antsirabe. (The paved road I described is National Route 7, or RN 7 for short. It continues through Antsirabe south down to Fianarantsoa. So it's really an Antananarivo-to-Fianarantsoa route.)
The first attempt was on foot, mostly following a narrow, poorly maintained dirt road. The second attempt (later that same day) was much easier since it was a very wide, well-maintained gravel road and since we were in my father-in-law's car (thanks Dada!).
It was somewhat unfortunate that we spent most of our time pursuing the first attempt, since we did not have more than a half hour of daylight to pursue the more promising 2nd route (the one in which we would only have had to walk 2.3 km). However, we did take many photos of beautiful countryside along the first route: beautiful brown rolling hills, with some interesting rock formations at the point we stopped. We could not easily continue due to the hill dropping off into a deep and narrow valley with some narrow rice farms.
Retracing our path back to the main Antananarivo-to-Antsirabe road (along the narrow dirt road), we stopped to talk to a villager. The old woman was very nice (smiled a lot, as the people of Madagascar usually do) and gave us samples of a local vegetable, which we ate as we continued our walk back to the main road. Corinne speaks Malagasy (the native language of Madagascar; along with French) It's very helpful to speak it if you go there (or have a wife that speaks it :-) !!)).
We waited about 40 minutes for Corinne's father René to pick us up. Several villagers walked by, hardly giving us a 2nd look but seeming friendly nonetheless. Resting, we sat down in a dirt ditch along the road, by a small two-story white house and across the road from a small brick structure about 6 feet by 6 feet by 8 feet (height), which Corinne guessed was a small retail venue for selling local products to the villagers. However the shop was shuttered (i.e. closed) and two or three workmen were standing by (waiting for a ride somewhere presumably), using the overhanging roof as shade.
The 2nd route was a very well maintained, very wide gravel and/or dirt road. The entrance to the road was not more than 5 minutes of driving from the start/end of the 1st route we took; probably more like 2 minutes. We noticed it as we drove back north on the main road to Antsirabe, on the left-hand side. It is very visible from the main road, since there are two symmetrically positioned (on both sides of the entrance of the gravel road) signs reading "Holcim" (a company) with a large red-circle logo. The "Holcim" signs are quite large and stand about 10 feet high and 10 feet long and made of wood but with a rock and mortar base, and painted entirely white except for the word "Holcim" and the company logo.
Despite the company logo, there was no gate at all. I don't think that the road was for the company's private use as there was a villager with his cattle at one point along the road. The gravel road leads south-southeast from the entrance and has gentle curves and some gentle uphill climbing. It's quite easy to drive, even in a small non-SUV car. By driving up and down the very nice gravel road a couple of times, we managed to find a spot where the GPS read 2.32 km to the Confluence. Above, on a hill overlooking the gravel road, was a radio tower. Close by there was a dirt road that seemed to point west, toward the Confluence. It was getting dark, so we didn't get out of the car to pursue it.
Good luck to any who visit Madagascar and attempt this Confluence! It is probably the easiest Confluence in Madagascar, due to its proximity to the capital (Antananarivo is the capital; Antsirabe is about a 2 or 3-hour drive south along the very curvy but paved Route 7) and its proximity to National Route 7. Be sure to check out the gravel "Holcim" road first, before travelling any dirt roads.
Additionally, be careful with taking photos of the GPS screen with an auto-focus camera. If you have the GPS to far from the camera, the auto-focus is unlikely to focus on the GPS screen but rather focus on the surrounding environment, thus causing the GPS screen to look blurry and illegible in the final photo. (I committed this mistake!!!)
Thanks to my wife Corinne for accompanying me on the hike and providing me support on this project! Thanks to my father-in-law René for patiently driving us back and forth! Thanks to everyone (especially Alex Jarrett) for the great web site!