From Liberia to Ivory Coast

The concept of time and distance
When you ask three Africans how long it will take from Monrovia to Gbanga (in Liberia), you get three different answers. Hour and a half, two hours, four hours, “it depends on how fast you drive; if you drive 50 km p/h it will take you 1 hour”. But it’s 200 km. The same goes for the quality of the road. “The road is sealed all the way, it’s a good road.” Yes, but it’s full of potholes. “With your car, no problem!” No of course not, and I’ll get there in the end. It takes me 4 hours to drive the 200 km., and the road is new, reasonable, badly potholed, and 2nd gear bush track. All of that.
The Hill Top Hotel in Gbanga is like a fort. Heavily guarded, barbed wire fences, CCTV camera’s. It’s the sort of place where NGO and UN staff stay. I talk to dr. Sander Zwart, who works for AfricaRice and is stationed in Cotonou, Benin. He invites me to stay with him when I get there, and I gladly accept the invitation.

A sort of narrow escape
After Ganta the road gets really bad. Lots of Chinese roadworks in progress, so this will be much improved in a year or so. And let’s face it: for me it’s a once in a lifetime inconvenience, but for the people who live here these roads are impassable in the rainy season when complete villages are practically isolated for months.
After an hour there’s a traffic jam. Some 30 trucks and other cars are waiting on a sandy and muddy track for a turned over truck to be removed. I get out and walk the 100 meters to the truck when I see that two taxis try to pass the truck. They are pushed and helped by onlookers and when they finally manage to pass, there’s lots of cheers. “If they can, then I certainly can with the Land Rover” is what I think. Peace of cake. So I walk back and drive past the waiting vehicles to the overturned truck. I stop the car, get out for a last inspection of the situation, still think it can be done, and very, very slowly start the 10 meters to pass the truck. After 17 years I know every inch of this car, I think. A loud noise of metal against metal brings me to a stop. The jerrycan holder at the side of the car is a recent addition, and clearly not part of my knowledge of the car in a critical situation like this. It’s completely ripped off. I get out, pick up the jerrycan and the pieces of the holder, throw them in the back of the car. When I get back into the car, one of the onlookers shouts at me through the window: “You have to turn back, you can’t pass, it’s completely blocked.”  I’m not going to, and slowly drive the last couple of meters past the truck which is on my right. On my left there’s a huge pit of several meters deep. I look at my left front wheel and see that there’s barely a few centimeters space left. On the right the outside mirror hits the truck and collapses. There must be at least 20 people watching the scene: some of them directing me to the right, others to the left. I realize that If  the left front wheel loses traction and gets into the pit, it will be the end of the journey.  When the wheel is past the pit I accelerate and the car is free. Lots of cheers from the men on the scene when I drive off. There’s no problem further down the track.
It’s at moments such as this that I miss someone to film all of this. I was too concentrated to even think of it, so no images and no video unfortunately. I can’t help but think of Winnie the Poeh’s motto: “Be happy and remain calm in every situation.” Yes, I remained calm, I did not panic, made my own decisions. But I was not really happy!
After a tiring day for me and Thimba we arrive at Hotel Cascades in Man, Ivory Coast. Thimba is not allowed in the room, but since it’s 18.00 and she can go to sleep in the car at 20.00, I take the room anyway. So I leave Thimba in the car, guarded by 5 armed security guys and 3 UN Bengladeshi soldiers with automatic weapons in their Toyota’s. I give all these guys a Dutch biscuit (stroopwafel). She’ll be safe, that’s for sure!
Right in front of the car people are weaving in a very special way. In long throngs of perhaps 50 meters, they work all day, from 7.00 to 19.00. And of course they also get a stroopwafeltje while I talk to them.

weaving, Man Ivory Coast

weaving, Man Ivory Coast

Weaving, Man Ivory Coast

Weaving, Man Ivory Coast

 

 

2 thoughts on “From Liberia to Ivory Coast

  1. Ronald und Gaby

    Hallo Gee!
    Wir verfolgen mit größtem Interesse deine interessanten Berichte und freuen uns immer, wenn eine neue Mail von dir hier ankommt. Nun warten wir schon ziemlich lange und sind ein bisschen beunruhigt. Erreichen uns deine Nachrichten vielleicht aus irgendeinem technischen Grund nicht mehr???
    Wir hoffen, dass es dir gut geht und wünschen dir weiterhin eine spannende tolle Reise. Liebe Grüße
    Ronald und Gaby ( aus Boujdour)

    Reply
    1. Gee Post author

      Hi Ronald and Gaby,

      Good to hear from you!
      Nothing to worry about, just a very relaxed couple of beach weeks, no or bad internet, and nothing much to report.
      I am in Lomé, Togo now, getting visa for Benin, DRC and Cameroon.

      Hope you are well!

      Cheers from Togo,

      Gee

      Reply

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