Abidjan – Border Ghana

9th of August – 13th of August 2019:

When we left the large city, we as non-smokers compensated the non-inhaled pollutants of a year in a heartbeat. The old transporters exhale an unbelievably large and black smoke cloud each time when they set off. Therefore, we sometimes could hardly see where we go.

During the first break after more than 70 kilometers, we already felt the overacidification of all muscles on our legs. Maybe it would have been better, if we started a bit gentler after a break of almost two weeks…

A boy, who sold grilled corncobs and self-manufactured coal with his father not far from our camp spot, woke us in a rude manner in the early morning. He shook Fabians leg and said: “les vieux, les vieux”. In our mentality, this behavior is extremely impolite, but in Africa, it is normal and consideration for others is non-existent.

We continued cycling through secondary rainforest and there were more cars and trucks on the road than we expected. Repeatedly, trucks full of huge logs made of tropical timber came towards us and we asked ourselves where there are such mighty trees left in this country.

Suddenly, an off-road vehicle stopped and a man eagerly signalized us that he wanted to talk to us. He introduced himself as Jean-Claude and the president of a bicycle club in Abidjan. Extremely interested, he asked us many questions about our journey and took a couple of pictures with us.

Despite the roads getting steeper, dozens of men and kids came towards us on a bicycle. Most of the time, the old, rusty bicycles were loaded as high as possible with firewood. In addition, we saw cyclists transporting bananas or palm leaves the same way. On the side of the road, we saw how a group of boys grilled entire animals. There were rats, pangolins and different larger rodents. For lunch, we randomly ate “Fufu” with a piece of meat from a gazelle.

The roads were almost empty, since it was the most important Muslim holiday, called Tabaski and we enjoyed the nice tarred road for ourselves. Already the day before, we saw that men slaughtered cows and sheep everywhere for the holiday. In every small village, we heard music played in many houses and sometimes there even very loud music emerging from the bush, as if there was a disco. All people, Muslims or not, were in a good mood and greeted us even more enthusiastic than other days.

In a small village, we asked for a restaurant, since we could not find one and a family promptly invited us for food. A woman served us, as the tradition determines, fresh sheep liver on a delicious onion sauce and rice. The owner of a nearby shop even offered us soft drinks and we felt like special guests.

It is touching to see how Muslims and Christians in West Africa celebrate religious holidays together and living in the same community seems to be no problem at all. Sadly, in Europe we are far from this mutual respect and acceptance.

We said goodbye to the nice family, after we demolished the already prepared breakfast and left them to their party. The many climbs and downhills stayed with us and the sweat came out of all our pores. Generally, we had the feeling that the humidity increased again in the last few days. Even with a dark sky, we sweat like being in a sauna.

After the countries Liberia and Sierra Leone, where aid projects were omnipresent and almost every small village had a well with a pump, the situation in Ivory Coast is different. Modern wells are seldom and the old draw wells are mostly uncovered when not in use.

Birds’ twittering and rustling small animals woke us up in our hiding place relatively deep in the forest. In a nice, authentic restaurant, the mother of a beautiful, young woman asked us in a direct way if one of us is interested in marrying her daughter. Finally, we found out that we as non-Muslims were not the right candidates anyway.

During the last few weeks in Ivory Coast, we had many nice encounters and the hospitality overwhelmed us once more. Unfortunately, the landscapes on our route were dominated by many plantations and therefore rather monotonous. Ghana, the next country is waiting for us and we are already excited what kind of surprises this even more developed country offers to us.

Abidjan

29th of July 2019 – 8th of August 2019:

Since we reached West Africa, we realized that nobody has change and one has to pay always with the smallest bill possible. Sometimes, we have to wait up to half an hour to get our change. The women in the markets usually send one of their children who run from one shop to the next to get small coins or bills. In Ivory Coast, this money phenomenon got even worse and we found out that there is a reason for it. Up to this point, we thought the reason is that people spend the money as soon as they earn it. In Ivory Coast, the currency CFA-Franc is used. Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin and Niger use the same currency. The problem here is that there are not enough coins available and therefore the market value of the hard cash exceeds the real value. Therefore, businessmen import coins illegally from other countries to change them in Ivory Coast. Because of that, the locals do not like to give away the valuable coins and this is the reason of the change problem.

Abidjan the largest city of the country with almost four million citizens and lays in the gulf of Guinea. Since a long time, we could finally find products like yoghurt, muesli or fresh bread for a reasonable price again. In the richer quarters, there is a “boulangerie” (bakery) or «pâtisserie» (pastry shop) in every corner with delicious bread and pastry. Nicolas apartment lays in the quarter Cocody and belongs to the fancy neighborhoods of Abidjan. There is running water, hot water, electricity and internet. All things we have not seen since almost a month.

The Ghana Visa had the highest priority on our to-do list. After we organized all necessary documents (2 passport pictures, 2 application forms and 2 colored copies of our last visas), we cycled to the embassy. After the detailed security check, the unfriendly woman at the counter told us that we had to fill out the application forms again, since the quality of ours was not sufficient. Agreed, our printout in bright green was not very beautiful, but it fulfilled its purpose we thought. Luckily, she accepted everything and did not ask us for the residency card, which is normally necessary for the application of the visa. After three days, we could pick up the passport with the new visa.

Sport 3 is a bicycle shop with European spare parts and mechanic that know what they do. With the help of Nicolas we explained all our problems and they said that the repair of Adrian’s bicycle should not be a problem. Finally, they cleaned the muddy bikes, exchanged Adrian’s chain, cassette, the two small wheels in the back and the bottom bracket. In addition, we both got new brake pads and payed not even 20 Euros for everything. After one week, we picked up our beloved two-wheelers and thanked the motivated and interested mechanics.

We met Nico for a beer at his last evening in Africa for a while and discussed about our experiences in West Africa. It is rather interesting how we mostly shared the same views, despite we did not travel together that long.

We finally washed all our clothes using a washing machine instead our hands and cold water. We even washed our dirty and bloody mosquito net for the first time.

The Nigerian visa bothers us since a long time, it is very difficult to get this specific visa. We tried our luck at the Plateau, the business district of the city. Quickly, we realized that we had no chance and have to try online or in another country again. In Abidjan, it is only possible with a residency card. To get such a card one has to live in the country for minimum twelve months.

Nicolas cleaner and friend cooked a local dish called Gouagouassou for us with her friend and we ate with our hands out of the same plate to the surprise of the shy Ivoirians. The dish contained a spicy sauce, grilled fish and a lot of rice.

During most evenings, we used the luxury of the beamer of Nicolas and watched some movies, which addressed Africa or had actors with Africans origins in it.

Before we left for this trip, we did all possible vaccinations like yellow fever, hepatitis, meningitis, tetanus, rabies etc. Since some vaccinations have to be refreshed after a year, we searched a vaccination center to get our fourth and last rabies shot. Security person at the entrance said it was not possible on this day because of the upcoming holiday. We did not believe him and found the responsible doctor shortly afterwards and in about 15 minutes, we got our vaccination. In Africa, everything is somehow possible!

Finally, we could say we were malaria free for the first time. We both did another quick test and the result was negative. Therefore, we were glad to continue our drug free phase.

On the seventh of august 1960, Ivory Coast gained independence from France. Since the maintenance of the bicycles took more time than expected, we were still in town and wanted to see the parade. However, all the people we asked, they said they have no clue where and when that would happen. Apparently, people are not interested. Finally, we decided to cycle into town to see the parade. To be sure that we would not cycle all the way for nothing, we asked some locals in a bar. A group of men with colorful football jersey explained us that the parade was already finished and most people like themselves celebrate in small groups in a bar. When they saw our disappointed faces, they said we should celebrate with them and ordered immediately a beer for us. The middle-aged men meet regularly to play football and visit some bars afterwards until the motivation is gone. Already after a couple of minutes, one of the men gave Adrian his traditional head covering as a present and he proudly wore it the rest of the day. Dancing started already in the second bar and they taught us how to dance to different kinds of music. We enjoyed the uncomplicated ambiance and even with the language barrier, we had interesting conversations. In the third bar, we all were quite drunk and the bottles emptied themselves slower as before. Shortly before dusk, we said goodbye to the funny bunch. Hermann gave us a jersey of the football national team as a present. We were very happy about this gift, since we loved the colors from the first time we saw it.

Some weeks ago, we wrote a message into a Facebook group specifically for Western Africa that we search for somebody to bring a few things from Europe to Abidjan. Indeed, Gian, a Swiss traveler who planned to fly to Abidjan replied and brought a few things for us.

Since a couple of weeks, we had problems with the zippers on our tent. Both entrances were only possible to close after several attempts and therefore we replaced them and searched for a tailor. Practically, one can find everything in an African city in a radius of 500 meters. Just after we entered the road, we heard the sound of a clinking scissor and we knew what that meant. The young man from Niger walks every day of the week through the streets of the quarter and fixes clothes. In no time, he repaired the whole that resulted in changing the zippers and even had a fitting strand available.