Ivory Coast

19th of July 2019 – 14th of August 2019:    

After crossing the border river with a ferry, we realized immediately that the standard of living in Ivory Coast was higher and therefore the officials on the border worked more professionally. Finally, the well-built men asked for our Facebook contacts anyway and this reminded us that we were still in Africa. 

Instead of “hello”, the locals greeted us now with “bonjour” and we had to get used to the French language once more. 

Our friend Nico, whom we have not seen since Monrovia, recommended a beach behind a small village. Typical for Africa, we already met Anthony, the owner of the beach side, in the city before. He escorted us to the beautiful, sandy beach with lots of palm trees, showed us the village and cooked a delicious dinner for us. 

The men of the village took care of us as if we were guests in a luxury resort and asked us what we want to eat for each meal. For all this effort, they did not even want money and even said thank you for our visit. The highlights of Prince cooking skills were fresh fish, snails from the bush and the hearth of a palm tree with a delicious sauce and of course rice by the ton. 

During the European winter, the men with Adonis-like bodies dive down to 15m equipped with fins and harpoons to hunt lobsters and other sea dwellers. Now, the fishermen relax in the village and drink lots of rum. 

One afternoon, we walked along the beach to find a luxury accommodation owned by an Italian. The long conversation with the African expert was very interesting and it was pleasant to watch an Italian use his hands to speak as a change. 

When exploring the village, we saw a woman full of tattoos and asked if they were permanent. The women said that the pattern on her body was a tradition of her tribe and after two weeks, it would be gone. On the same day, we both got such a tattoo. Adrian wanted the contours of Africa and Fabian our Cape2Cape logo. 

We decided to leave the paradise beach to continue our trip to Abidjan. For a national road and a main connection between west and east, the road was in a miserable condition. Especially after San Pedro, which is home of the second largest port of the country, there were potholes of the size of trenches. The road led us through many cacao-, rubber- and rice plantations. Many people greeted us with a huge smile on their face. Surprisingly, since we entered this country, we encountered hundreds of people on bicycles. Sometimes we saw men on a bicycle loaded with a lot of wood or women with a baby on their back and another child in the front on the bicycle pole. 

The first phase of the rainy season in Ivory Coast was almost finished, before the rain starts again in September. Since a couple of days, the sun was out more and more and our tan was getting darker again. 

Ivory Coast is famous for its extensive cacao plantations. By far, they are the number one producer of cacao and provide 30% of the worldwide total cacao. Two thirds of the trading revenue result from the export of the popular beans. Due to insufficient security of investment, they process the cacao beans only until they are dry. In front of many houses, we saw thousands of the brown-black beans spread out on huge tarps. The farmers sell the kilogram for less than 2 Euros. 

Twittering of birds and loud chirping of crickets were present while we fell asleep. Around midnight, the alarm rang, since we wanted to update our blog. The abonnement of the local provider offered us 1 GB of internet as a bonus from midnight until 6 AM and certainly, we used this opportunity. 

We passed by many small villages with small booths and women in colorful dresses selling their products in a good mood. However, bananas and non-fried snacks we only found after 50 km. In Ivory Coast, many people are enthusiastic about our trip and we have the feeling that for the first time in a while they understand the magnitude of our undertaking. In contrast to Liberia, there are less police roadblocks and we only had to show our passports two times so far. On the other hand, the uniformed police officers are equipped with pistols and rifles. 

Unfortunately, we had to add another accident into our statistics. Adrian had to break quickly, because of a huge pothole and Fabian was not ready, fell sideways and slid around two meters on the pebbly ground. Luckily, he carried away only a few abrasions from the accident. 

For a change, not the early birds form the village, nor the animals woke us up and we awoke cozy and left the immense palm oil plantation in the direction of Abidjan. The production of palm oil in Ivory Coast is in comparison with the big players Malaysia and Indonesia not even mentionable, but nonetheless belongs to the top ten producing countries in the World. Many orange-colored lizards ran across the road with incredible speed and were probably happy to survive the crossing. 

During a meal in a well-equipped restaurant, we were surprised how many women with children and single women visited the place. Sadly, they hardly touched their food and left the restaurant. The rest of the food sometimes ended up in the trash. In the previous countries, we have never seen such a situation and it triggered a reciprocal culture shock. 

By reaching Abidjan, we accomplished our next milestone on our journey. Shortly before reaching the city, we saw dozens of men with huge piles of clothes. They washed them in the brown water of a small river. 

We were glad that we reached the big city with Adrian’s bicycle and Nicola, our host, welcomed us. The Frenchman with Ethiopian origin lives here since more than a year and cycled in Ghana himself in the past month. Since around a month we could not take a shower without a basket and were happy to wash our bodies with hot water again. 

Since we reached West Africa, we realized that nobody has change and one has to pay always with the smallest bill possible. Sometimes, we had 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, businesspersons 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’s 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 we thought it fulfilled its purpose anyway. 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 mechanics who 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. In addition, we both got new brake pads and paid 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 was 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 bothered us since a long time, since it was very difficult to get. We tried our luck at the Plateau, the business district of the city. Quickly, we realized that we had no chance and must try online or in another country. In Abidjan, it is only possible with a residency card. To get such a card one must live in the country for a minimum of twelve months. 

Nicolas’s 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 African 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 must be refreshed after a year, we searched a vaccination center to get our fourth and last rabies shot. Security personal 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 jerseys 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 design 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 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. 

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 over acidification 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 Fabian’s 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 we even heard 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 sweated 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 was different. Modern wells were seldom and the old draw wells were 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 was 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. 

–>Continue with Ghana

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