Monday 14th April, 2013
Odienne to Korhogo, Cote d’Ivoire
This morning we were in Odienne in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) finally after our adventures yesterday trying to get across the border from Guinea. We were told that the roads were not bad here so we set off. Shortly after we left, we reached a police checkpoint and were told that we had to return to the town to check in, this time with the military, so we went back with a military person in the truck to accompany us and show us the way. After our leaders met with the brass at the military post and exchanged pleasantries (this took an hour) we were allowed to continue east towards our destination which at this stage was the capital Yamoussoukro about 500+km away. We thought at the time that this was quite an ask considering the poor state of the roads on the previous few days, but hey, maybe the roads were better here in Cote d'Ivoire…..sadly, this was not to be and the road deteriorated shortly after we started and we took about 6-7 hours to travel about 100km and the truck’s clutch was leaking fluid so it was not an ideal situation. All the pounding of the previous few days were starting to take their toll. At lunch we stopped to try and fix the clutch and after lunch set off again. The road was very poor with large ruts, potholes and huge puddles of water, almost as bad as the final few kms of the roads in Guinea, so it took ages to travel the distance. We finally reached the tar road and were able to speed off at 85km/hr for the last 100km until we reached the town of Korhogo, famous for its cotton cloth and painting on fabric. Its again very hot during the afternoon. So tonight we were some 320km short of our original destination, but the hotel was very nice even though we were in the last row of rooms about half a kilometre from reception (literally). Interestingly the hotel had a mini zoo in the grounds with antelope, turtles, many chickens and, in a separate enclosure, a couple of crocodiles. We had dinner in the restaurant and farewelled one of the group (Kirsty) who was leaving in the morning as she had to return to work. It will be very sad to lose our first friend. To bed, perchance to dream…..of better roads tomorrow.
Tuesday 15th April, 2013
Korhogo to Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire
This morning after breakfast we farewelled Kirsty who had to get a car to drive her the 300odd km to Yamoussoukro to pick up the next vehicle which was taking her to Abidjan to get her flight to Saudi Arabia where she works as a nurse. Virtually the only place you can fly out of this country is Abidjan, the largest city, down on the coast. We then went to see the cotton weavers and the other artisans in this famous town. The displays were very impressive and there were many items for sale, all handmade and quite reasonably priced. After everyone had done their shopping, we drove south towards Yamoussoukro, the capital city of Cote d’Ivoire. Apparently, the first president of this country after independence made this town (originally a village of 400 people) the capital instead of Abidjan which is the largest city and still the business centre of the country. Interesting what you can do when you are a dictator. He also built the largest basilica outside of Rome that cost the country over $300million – when asked how he got the money, it was reported that he said it was a “gift from God” –hmmm! Amazing when you see how poverty stricken this country is. Anyway, today the road was better today, at least for part of the way. We stopped in a town for lunch and went off the truck to buy some local food. David had a baguette and Lynn had fish and rice and we sat and ate them in a basic little local restaurant with a straw roof with many wasp nests in the straw. We noticed that some people changed their seat position so they could watch us. After lunch we drove on, but with a ‘guest’. A young German girl (Karina) had approached the driver to see if she could get a lift – she is working as a volunteer for a year in a small village and was returning after visiting a fellow volunteer. She was very interesting to talk to. She said that the more wealthy villagers have televisions and the villagers watch american soaps - this makes them want the western way of life. She has told them it has disadvantages. Also they thought she would know Barack Obama and also that he was in charge of all white people in the world. The village has a water purifier paid by UNICEF but they omitted to explain the reasons people should use it so they just use the well. Many of them have parasites which can cause malnutrition - they don't know about hygiene and also cook on the ground thus causing more liklehood of picking up parasites from animal droppings. It was a 7½ hour drive today and we reached Yamoussoukro at about 6.15pm just as the sun was setting. We saw the basilica in the distance and it is huge. After checking into the very nice hotel we had a drink before dinner and ate in the hotel restaurant with the other members of the group before going to bed around 11.30pm.