Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cote d'Ivoire

Cote d'Ivoire (CdI) turned out to be nothing like I'd expected and actually better and easier in a lot of ways which was a very nice surprise since it's currently having the most problems in West Africa with it's ongoing civil war crisis. We did have a significant amount of CFA currency left over from Senegal so as soon as we crossed the border being out of money was no longer an issue. We stayed a night in Tabou, just across the border and right on the beach. It was tempting to stay and get delayed again but Sky kept us "on schedule".
The biggest city in CdI is Abidjan and it has a horrible reputation for crime and expense, even in the best of times, and we wanted to avoid it as much as possible but knew we'd have to change buses there at least. There is no overnight transport in CdI at all, which gives an indication of how bad the security concerns are there. Almost everywhere has overnight transport. So we made our way to Abidjan slowly in order to avoid a late arrival and ended up stopping in Sassandra, another quiet beach town once very popular with tourists. We were the only ones there I think and people were surprised and happy to see someone again. A lot of stuff had been shut down and the little market was mostly empty. Oddly enough, CdI felt a little like paradise to us. Sierra Leone is an ex-sketchy country, Liberia is still sketchy and has nothing, but CdI is an ex-successful country so all the old infrastructure is still there. Sort of. For the first time in a couple months and several countries, we had 24hr power, plumbing (non-bucket showers and flushing toilets) and mostly smooth roads. The countryside showed us all the signs of mass deforestation for the creation of plantations as we passed seemingly endless rows of rubber, oil palm and coconut palm trees. During our long walk into Sassandra we were given a lift by an old Dutch plantation owner. Strange guy but he refused to leave when war broke out, calling CdI his home, as it has been for the past several decades, hanging out with locals and blaming most of the troubles on the US and France.
But rolling through the bigger towns and cities it was easy to see the shantytown shacks all crammed together on the edge of town. It looked like the usual market squalor until you realized that it wasn't the location of the market but families were living in the little "shops". We'd worried about corrupt police and the many check posts along the way but they never did more than glance at our passports, smile and wave us on. There were a lot of stops though. Dad counted 16 just on the 5 hour ride between Sassandra and Abidjan.
Abidjan was the hell we expected, especially around the market area where the main bus "station" is. It was noon and yet the drivers were afraid to drop us off and wander around to find our next ride. Each company has a couple vehicles and operates from little stalls scattered around the huge market area so there is no way to know where to look for the one you want. The market was teeming with people, ankle-deep mud, foul smells and unfriendlies. We'd been told to sit tight while others checked things out but that turned out to be useless as only the most ridiculously expensive options were considered on our behalf (as always). It wasn't until I started running around (with a handful of "helpers" following) that things started working out. That didn't prevent others from making very rude, unwelcoming comments, demanding money or shaking sticks at us. But then the Adjame market has always had a bad reputation. Needless to say, we were happy to leave on the first ride heading further east. Without further problems we made it to the border and were the last people across as they closed up at sunset. The Ghanaians were welcoming but again afraid for our safety. We were told that many Ivoirians come across the border to rob the otwn and the border guards were involved in the occasional shootout. So, in order to ensure our safety from the thieves and riff-raff now that it was dark, we were escorted to the hotel by two now off-duty border guards. Even with them watching, the moneychangers on the street were the only ones to ever (that's all time ever, ever) try to short-change me by using a rigged calculator and a huge wad of bills that were not accurate. Good thing I always check carefully. Overall I'm glad we made the decision to cross the country via the coastal road and I have no interest in seeing more. Oddly enough, we spent almost exactly the same number of hours crossing Afghanistan. It's just sad to see yet another country that had so much self-destruct so quickly.


At 8:02 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi guys I'm still reading the blogg and trying to read historys of where you are and are going, I seem to have killed your email address please email me so I can resave it.

At 12:37 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. It's a shame you didn't spent more time in Abidjan. It's a lovely city - possible Africa's best. The crime situation is totally exaggerated. Get out of Adjame and explore the commercial district during the day and the lagoon side restaurants (maquis) at night. Take a ride on the public boat-buses that speed across the lagoon. You'll never find the good life if you just stay in transport hubs and never get to know a place, people and culture a bit more.

At 9:40 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Gang, and Ammon in particular!

Sorry I have been negligent in my replies, but it was the usual set of excuses going here, fillin which ever you want. We were in Vernon for St Patricks day, and I had the priveledge of ordaining Daad and Elder. He is planning on the temple for the May long weekend. Never thought to see it happen did we Maggie.
Brondon got your email, Tish is taking it up with the relief society and possible stake relief society. She is emailing the ladies to get more information. One of the problems will of course acyually getting anything past all the Customs, Border, Mail, and general thievery that occurs with care packages to third world countries.
Ammon, loved the blogs, but I'm a fan of your writing. It was interesting to see the anonymous blog from someone from the city. Home is always homee and we get used to the place and somehow find good I guess. Did you have to keep a leash on Sky when the locals started getting aggressive in the market? LOL I really found the difference between yours' and Savannahs' blogs amazing. Such different shadings on the language.
Hey when you get to the tip of Africa then what ? Backtrack for the Olympics? The World Cup Soccer in S.A.?

Anyways, still reading and dreamin'
Big Bear Hugs To ALL
The Bear


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