Highlights

The beaches on the coast are just spectacular. It is just a shame that you cannot go for a proper swim in the sea.

Abidjan was a delightful excursion back to civilisation, especially because of our host Jean-Francois.

Entry 30th June 1999
Tripometer 12,168 kms
Currency CFA (1000 = £1)
Language French
Time GMT
It's tough in the hammock

Previous "Guinee"

The formalities were quick and easy. We showed the customs man what to do with the Carnet; we had lunch with the police; then chose to ignore the request for money from a gendarme wearing pink socks! The shops in Danane were well stocked - just as well as we had dented our emergency rations quite seriously in southern Guinee where food supplies were surprisingly limited. At last we found tomatoes, onions and even green peppers. We even found loo rolls which was a relief as we were down to our last few squares. Camped in the grounds of the Hotel des Cascades in Man, a town nestled between 18 peaks. The hotel swimming pool was heavenly as we hadn't had a wash in days. We were only allowed to use the pool for free if we bought beers from the bar!!!! Dash. We had intended staying one night but the clothes washing, market trips, tarte au citron and three course hotel dinners meant that we stayed put for three. Spent one evening with Frank from Spain - thanks Frank for the Michelin map of Cote D'Ivoire. The guide book didn't rate the town very highly but we thought it was fantastic. The only hassle suffered was from one boy who wanted to clean my boots. They were already clean - at least for muddy walking boot standard.

If one visits Man one has to go to the Cascade, La Dent (tooth shaped rock) and Mont Tonkoui. These are the local tourist attractions which turned out to be infuriatingly hard work and not much fun at all. The incessant hassle from local boys pretending to be guides was just too much. You cannot walk off because they follow you. If you tell them to go away they get even closer to you. They tell you a bunch of lies - that you need a guide, that something costs etc.... They will even sell you air. The fee they request is so small (1-2) for a few hours that it is easier to pay and get the hassle over and done with. On the other hand you don't want to pay them because you don't need them and the place that you are going to is free anyway. You are trapped between a rock and a hard thing and there isn't a good solution that is easily explainable in French anyway. The view from Mont Tonkoui is spectacular - the Governor has his house here. Sally described the view as being like Narnia. You are almost at cloud height and you can see miles and miles of undulating hills with Mont Timba in Guinee in the distance.

That night we took the road to Tai to visit the National Park which is supposedly the most pristine rainforest in West Africa. The road is actually track and is very very long. Initially the track was quite good because it is used regularly by timber lorries. The timber industry is big in Cote d'Ivoire (trees being cut quicker than they are being replaced). It was rather ironic to drive towards pristine rainforest on a road cutting through land which is being cut down. We reached the Park the next day and it was spectacularly dense. Leaving the track would have been impossible without a giant machete. There were no walking opportunities and the track was interrupted by puddles the size of swimming pools so our trip turned out to be a short one. I am no expert on rainforests but this one certainly did seem to be pristine.

It took a further day and a half to reach the end of the track. To relieve the boredom we made up a few games: "Off Yer Bike" and "How Many Bonks". The Africans are the worst cyclists ever - they have forfeited their sense of balance in favour of rhythm. When you drive past a cyclist they wobble like crazy. Most try to stop before you reach them by lunging themselves with bicycles into the roadside vegetation. The driver scores a point for every cyclist that falls off their bike. If you wave at them and they try to wave back you are on to a winner! The other game relies upon the uneven road surface and the likelihood of you hitting the back or front end of the car on the ground. Each "bonk" is a credit, each call of "bonk" before a bonk is a debit for the passenger or a zero position for the driver, each incorrect call of "bonk" is a credit. The winner has the lowest number of points. Needless to say Andrew is winning both games.

The night sky has been spectacular and for the first time I have watched satellites pass by at immense speed. The "road of hell" eventually reached palm plantations before emerging onto the road and civilisation. It would have been rude not to have helped ourselves to a few of the coconuts that had fallen! At Grand Bereby we found "Le Python" maquis (openair bar/restaurant). This place was heaven after the awful road and we treated ourselves to 1 litre bottles of Bock beer for 60p and had a fabulous fish dinner under the palm trees on the beach.

The beaches of Cote d'Ivoire are meant to be glorious so we decided to spend a few days chilling out on them. The first stop was at Chez Ralph where we stayed for a couple of nights - the storm kept us there for longer than planned. We had been hoping for a good swim but the beaches are steep and consequently the waves enormous. One second you are in the sea up to your ankles, the next it is up to your waist. The storm was fantastic and fortunately happened during the day when we were able to benefit from it. The runoff from the awning filled the jerry cans faster than the bath taps. We all put on our swimmers and jumped into the sea. That night we ate our emergency tin of Heinz baked beans (hurray), chased crabs on the beach and listened to World Service reports of incredible events in Africa - ending of wars in the Democratic Republic of  Congo and Sierra Leone, lifting of sanctions in Libya as well as events in Syria and Israel. Would have liked a day in front of the TV watching CNN today - what a day for Africa.

We have both been suffering from bad botty for a few days and it is getting to be a real drag. The campsite loo is disgusting. It is a cesspit full of crawling maggots. Just at the crucial moment millions of bugs fly up and bite you on your bum. Those mozzies - talk about taking advantage of the vulnerable. Anyway we moved on to a new beach at Poli Plage where we found ourselves at Chez Bernhard. What a beautiful place. We parked up on the beach, strung up the hammocks between the palm trees and helped ourselves to as many coconuts as we could eat before being sick. We had the beach to ourselves. Life doesn't get much better than this! For us that is, not the crabs. Andrew thought it would be quite fun to lob coconuts (with husks) at the crabs to stun them so you could pick them up and inspect them. He was most disappointed when one crab died and spoilt the game!

There is a very friendly flea ridden dog on the campsite, called Beach. I don't know who was scratching more - her from the fleas or us from the biting things in the sand. On the 9th for the first time in three months we ate toast. What a treat. This is the first country where we have been able to find decent sized bread that fits onto the camp toaster. At the campsite restaurant (the camping is free if you eat at the cafe) we ordered our chicken for the evening. Bernhard approached Noel with two live chickens held up by their feet and asked if they would be suitable for tea!!! I suppose a warm chicken doesn't take that long to cook.

The next day Andrew and Noel decided to go fishing. In true African style they were promised a pirogue and none were available to hire. They returned from a very long walk to the lagoon empty handed. That night we munched our way through a plate of "langous" - caught by the fisherman with the pirogue, no doubt.

After the beach we headed for the city of Abidjan. We had been looking forward to "stepping back into Europe" for a few days to sort out visas, etc. We camped at Camping Coppa Cabana (no Barry in sight) on the beach towards the old colonial town of Grand Bassam. It's about 15 km out of town past the shanty towns which are getting to be a familiar sight. Andrew regularly comments on how "Africans manage to turn such beautiful places into shit-holes". It is absolutely incredible - construction is rough and minimal, maintenance is non-existent and rubbish just accumulates. Meanwhile, the Africans are very busy either with their feet up or making babies. In Abidjan we were delighted to find proper "cafe au lait", lovely ice creams and a supermarket selling Heinz baked beans. We even found a chawarma bar where the options were: chicken meat, beef, cow brain, cow liver, cow heart or cow bollocks! That night we watched our first TV programme in over three months - Spiderman, in French. Can't say our French is up to cartoon standard yet.

On the 14th we had an epic visa day - collected the Mali visas, arranged the Benin visas and left the passports at the Burkina embassy. All in six hours - normally unheard of in Africa I think. Then we made a massive visa transaction without a passport for identification. Get rich quick by robbing a visa card! One of the best aspects of numerous countries sharing a currency is that the time spent at banks is minimal. Also transactions demand a transaction fee only rather than a percentage of the amount obtained. Back at the supermarket we treated ourselves to more ice cream but avoided the cheese at 18 per kilo. Visited the "best Land Rover garage in W. Africa" to be told they had NONE of the parts we wanted (wheel bearings, alternator belt & grease). How any Landy driver here survives is a mystery to us.

We had been trying to find our mate Jean-Francois for a couple of days and at last we made contact. He is actually a work colleague of my friend Kate and we met him last year when we all shared an evening of fireworks and festivities on bonfire night. Suddenly we were removed from our basic existence and dropped into luxury in J-F's home. We had a bath for the first time in 3.5 months. Not only that, but running hot water too (last seen in Morocco)! What a treat after our usual experiences of a quick plunge into cold water in wooden cubicles whilst being attacked by the mozzies who have been relishing the thought of nudie bodies to munch on. Jean-Francois took us out for a delicious Vietnamese dinner and after that we slept in a proper bed.

The following day we went to Treichville (commonly known as Trashville) to get some sewing done. Rue 12 is an area the guide books warn you about - don't go there or you won't come out alive, they say. Well we went, stayed for ten hours and had a fantastic time. Once the initial interest in us had died down we became part of the general goings on. The locals fed and watered us and we were able to get a glimpse of true African street life including an impromptu street party with local music. We parked next to a mosque unaware of the rare treat that was to follow. The chaps doing the sewing said they had to stop for a break - it turned out to be a prayer break. From the back of the car whilst eating our sangers we watched the street stop as the muezzin called out. Those that couldn't fit into the mosque took positions on their prayer mats along the pavement. Not an inch of pavement was visible on both sides. To the prayer call everyone moved in unison doing their usual bowing ritual. What an incredible sight - to see the whole street praying was quite something. When the prayers stopped the street returned to life within seconds as if there had never been an interruption.

Peter, at Coppa Cabana had apparently had a few panic attacks thinking that we had done a runner from the campsite. Without telephones we were unable to let him know that we had found our mate,  were staying out for the night and then would be occupied for the whole of the next day. Spent a few hours having drinks and tuck at the site with Noel and Sally before saying "au revoir - for now" to them. It was really strange leaving them as we had become a little family. We were off to spend the weekend in luxury followed by a visit to Burkina then Mali. Noel and Sally were not going on to Mali and were contemplating having their chassis replaced.

Visited the Parc National du Banco which is a protected rainforest area just outside of town. Our guide (small boy) showed us the "tree of changing colours" which happened to be green today, the "oldest tree" and the "second oldest tree" which was the same as the oldest one but from a different angle. He also showed us the "piscine" (swimming pool) which turned out to be dry because they didn't have any grease to get the dam mechanism working! A most incredible sight just outside the park is that of the local washermen known as "banco washers" or "fanicos". They wash thousands of clothes in the river then place them over the surrounding flat areas to dry. Their washboards are tyres containing large boulders against which they bash the clothes. Chinese laundrettes have nothing on them.

Jean-Francois invited us to a nightclub. When, at 7pm, he said we were going out at 11pm I took myself to bed quick for a three hour snooze. We are now used to going to bed at 8pm when it's dark - what a pair of lightweights. The club was unexpectedly upmarket and had live music until 2am followed by a disco. A lot of the tunes were familiar  but the English was regularly incorrect and sounded funny from African singers. "Give me hope, Joanna" sounded like "Give me hot chawarma". There is a high Lebanese population in Abidjan and the Lebanese music was fantastic. It is very similar to Greek and to dance you have to put your arms up in the air whilst seductively wiggling your hips. Andrew wasn't very amused at me wearing walking boots with my sarong. He couldn't talk - he was wearing flip flops! We got to bed at the same time as the cockrel started its familiar howl.

In a desperate attempt to try to repay some of the excellent hospitality we decided to cook a Sunday lunch as a British treat for a Frenchman. In fact, the taste of roast potatoes was probably more of a treat for us. The supermarket beforehand was a bit of a challenge - no cooking apples or gravy granules. Pork with golden delicious apples wasn't quite the same. However, the supermarket did have "Chester" cheese which made me feel quite at home. Spent a very pleasant evening with Enica and Han who fed us delicious Gouda cheese and the first proper pizza in ages. (Thank you for your hospitality and your tips on Tortiya and Dogon country).

Monday 18th saw us back to business and reality. We had the clonk fixed (Guinee injury) which resulted in the car wobbling all over the road and steering to the left. That is African workmanship for you. It is necessary to watch them closely so they don't remove your engine to fix your track rod end. We said goodbye to Jean-Francois with the hope of seeing him again in England where we can repay some hospitality. (J-F: thank you so much, we had a smashing time). Back on the highway we headed north. Our camp spot for the night was Lac Taabo where we had dinner next to the lake at sunset with a view of the silhouettes of a few fishermen out in their pirogues - one of those beautiful evenings.

The next morning we set off for the capital after freezing our verrucas (acquired in a Moroccan shower) with a home DIY kit which probably would be banned in the UK. It was that or tablets and I couldn't quite get used to the idea of taking tablets to cure a verruca. At Yamoussoukro we planned to visit the basilic (cathedral) which is supposedly a replica of St Peters in Rome but slightly taller. Having visited the Vatican in January we were in a good position to make a comparison and they are completely different except for the shape of the exterior. Opened in 1990 it is a very modern place and is set out of town on a raised area within immaculately tended gardens. There were very few people - in fact, us and the employees. It was built for thousands but very few come. Outside it is empty, it's barren, it's bland but it has an atmosphere of anticipation. Walking to the main doors through the courtyard area, surrounded by bare pillars, was like playing a game of "unreal" on the computer. It was baking hot, silent and there wasn't a sole about. We half expected monsters to await us inside or to have nasties dive bomb us from above the pillars. Our imaginary number 6 guns were at the ready! Once inside it was amazing - a complete contrast. Pews in concentric circles surrounded the central pulpit with its large overhanging chandelier (monstrous). Elevators within pillars take you upstairs to the walkway around the base of the dome. The incredible sights here though are the stained glass windows. The sides of the cathedral is a series of pillars separated by windows of enormous dimensions depicting scenes from the bible, but within a Cote d'Ivoirian setting, ie. the last supper under a palm tree. There was even an elephant on one of the windows. We sat and stared in amazement for ages. This is a truly amazing cathedral and vastly underrated by the guide books. It is a shame there aren't many Catholics around to appreciate it.

After a chawarma (I love them) we visited the sacred crocodiles for an expected frenzy at feeding time. The live chick fodder turned out to be a few bony lumps of meat of some sort. 33 monsters clambered over each other and gawped at us with their mouths open in anticipation. Yuk - disgusting creatures, but it made for interesting viewing.

Tuesday 21st was not a good day! We had camped at Cote d'Ivoires largest man-made lake by Kossou Dam and had had a restless night fearing the doors would shut on the dam and we would be swamped by the rising level of the lake. The drive along the scenic route had only just started when the bad state of the road informed us that the clonk had not been fixed at all. A little further on a large rock jumped out of the side of the road and took a chunk out of one of the tyres. Thank goodness I wasn't driving! A quick change of plan followed which resulted in us being ripped off by a French tyre fixer who charged 15 quid for vulcanising the side wall (normally about 3 quid) and 15 quid to tell us that the tracking was fine. Fortunately the layer of white in the tyre, for the writing, probably saved the tyre. Thanks to Gary at Nene 4x4 for that tip.  Bouake did have a chawarma bar though - to satisfy the daily craving. That night we camped in a teak forest before setting off in the morning in search of diamonds. The mines in Tortiya made a pleasant excursion although we weren't able to go underground because of the rains. The locals were surface mining and what an awful job that was. One group of people dug up the mud, another group transported it on carts to the river and another group sifted it. No diamonds were found during our visit.  After stocking up with fruit and veg at Ferkes Thursday market we bush camped for the night then visited a 17th century mosque in the morning. It is a typical Sudanese (Sahelian) type with mud walls and branches for infrastructure. It looked like a giant termite mound. Being the wrong religion we weren't allowed in but it was interesting enough to have a nosey from the exterior. Within a few minutes of driving we reached the border and said goodbye to Cote d'Ivoire. This has been a delight of a country to travel in. Top marks for easy formalities. We were on our way to Burkina Faso.

Next "Burkina 1"

Click on a picture to see it full size

bananat.jpg (7233 bytes) bridget.jpg (6378 bytes) stickyt.jpg (6888 bytes) gviewt.jpg (5672 bytes) bugt.jpg (7919 bytes)
The bananas took 8 days to go yellow Resting on the bridge just over the border What's green and sticky ? The view of Man from the Goveners mansion Big bug that fell off the radio mast
mudt.jpg (7159 bytes) groves1t.jpg (6364 bytes) treet.jpg (8520 bytes) polit.jpg (6780 bytes) hamviewt.jpg (5864 bytes)
Noel loves mud. The road from Tai Lots of palm oil and coconut groves Have to cut our way through to the beach Poli Plage - just amazing The view from the hammock
uptreet.jpg (6400 bytes) lwasht.jpg (6833 bytes) jfmealt.jpg (7506 bytes) taabot.jpg (5389 bytes) basilict.jpg (6215 bytes)
Noel tries to imitate Koffi (already in the tree) to get coconuts Locals in Abidjan drying their clothes JF gets a traditional English Sunday lunch The tranquil Lake Taabo The Basilica at Yamoussoukro
basaltrt.jpg (8456 bytes) baselept.jpg (12014 bytes) basceilt.jpg (5606 bytes) crocst.jpg (6987 bytes)  
The altar inside - stupendous Elephants on the stained glass Stunning domed ceiling Sacred crocodiles- big mean mothers  

 

A busy day at the office for Jac

cocot.jpg (7930 bytes) hard2t.jpg (6984 bytes) washint.jpg (7194 bytes) cookt.jpg (7774 bytes) hammockt.jpg (6851 bytes)
Coconut for breakfast Update the web site Monitoring the staff Do lunch Plan the next day
  desiret.jpg (6952 bytes)   chickent.jpg (7380 bytes)  
  Bring in a consultant   Chicken for tea, then?  

 

Cote d'Ivoire has many of its own local dishes. Of course there is a great variety of fresh fish around the coast and dried fish is common inland.

The main source of carbohydrates are rice and attieke which is a made from a vegetable called manioc (also cassava). The manioc is grated and steamed and the output tastes similar to couscous. In fact, I prefer it.

Kedjenou is another favourite made with fish or chicken. It is basically a casserole with tomatoes and onions.

Plantain is commonly pounded, divided into balls and deep fried. Absolutely delicious. You can buy them on the street freshly cooked - 2 for a penny.

The local eateries are called "maquis" which are open-air restaurants serving very little but have a smashing atmosphere. Here is the most likely place where you can buy 1 litre bottles of Bock beer for 60p. The hotels tend not to serve it because they make more profit on a 33cl bottle of Flag for 70p. Although the latter is a more superior beer the long term traveller favours the former for obvious reasons.

 
from Guinee
 

Danane

Our first contact with Ivoirian civilisation

 

Man

Excursions to La Dent, Cascade & Mont Tonkoui

 

Stayed at La Cascades Hotel on the old tennis court at the back.  Got to use the pool.  No charge for camping, just ate in the restaurant and drank a bit in the bar

 

Tai

via Duekoue & Guigio

 
Bush camp after Tai.  Pulled off in gap up slight incline, then went left again up steepish incline to top.  Pretty well secluded at top. N 05.10.908 W 007.21.602

Tabou

288 km from Guigio along a very slow going piste

 

Grand Bereby

Beaches along coastline

 

Sassandra

 

Chez Ralph - nice spot on the beach, basic facilities, restaurant, bad mosie ridden toilet - go au naturel.  Chez Christian next door

N 04.53.528 W006.11.248 just out of Sassandra on the Poli Plage track - signposted.

Chez Bernard - beautiful spot, basic facilities, restaurant, very friendly.  Can arrange various pirogue and fishing trips.   Langous was good

N 04.56.258 W006.05.853 follow signs to Poli Plage.

Abidjan

Camping Coppa Cabana.  A bit basic but very friendly, right on the beach.  Next door is Camping Cocotiers with possibly more facilities. N 05.14.452:W 003.54.540 on the Grand Bassam road.
Yamoussoukro Lac Taabo bush camping on a jetty N 06.15.154: W05.04.070
Bouake Bush camp at Kossou Dam N 07.01.601: W 05.28.169
Ferkessedougou via Tortiya diamond mines. Pleasant bush camp N 09.46.075:W 05.08.961 (road side)
 
to Burkina 1
 

The only problem has been the guides at Man. The only way of dealing with them is to "beat them off with a shitty stick".

This country is familiar with tourists and at roadblocks you just get moved along. It is similar to Morocco in that tourists are given priority.

Coffee and cocoa are produced in mass quantities here (apparently being the worlds largest exporter). However with the drop in the price of coffee some decade ago Cote d'Ivoire was forced to diversify and now exports a great deal of pineapple, cotton, palm oil & timber.

The sea is dangerous and the undertows are been responsible for a number of deaths each year.

The capital of Cote d'Ivoire was formerly Grand Bassam (until a yellow fever outbreak) then Abidjan and now Yamoussoukro. Felix Houphouet Boigny was president for 30 years and saw to it that the capital moved to his birthplace. Here, the huge basilica was built, masses of street lights erected, an airport built with a runway long enough to take Concorde. Also a motorway (W. Africas only one) links Abidjan to Yam - almost.

The Benin Embassy was not well signposted and can be found at N 05.22.228 W: 03.59.411.

Land Rover garage (with cheap spares) can be found in Treichville at N 05.18.114 W: 03.57.249.

If you have any sewing that needs doing, or canvas covers made the chap to see is Dadua at UFOS, Lot 192, Ave 6, Rue 15, Treichville at co-ordinates N: 05.18.476 W: 04.00.679.