A visit to Liberia (January 2014)

 

Arriving at the Liberian border at dusk we dropped off our passenger and went through loads of different institutions again to be able to leave Sierra Leone. The guys there have been exceptionally friendly and chatty though and we met some truly legendary people like the heavily equipped task force commander with a voice of an 8 year old girl. All the chitchat did not contribute to us arriving anywhere before dark though and so we crossed the bridge over the Mano River to face Liberian officialdom.

Much contrary to our expectations everything went completely smooth, people were kind and professional and no demands were made. The officer checking our passports did not even mention our obviously manipulated visas and we felt terribly comfortable until we stumbled over the large handwritten note stating “NO RIGHT HAND DRIVE VEHICLES ARE ALLOWED TO ENTER AT BO-WATERSIDE”! Having heard about similar troubles from Susi & James and their UK Land Rover we politely ignored the notice and continued through the immigration process. We were relieved once everything was done and ready to speed off when Sam, the boss of the border post approached us and wanted to see the vehicle. So we explained our travel plans and equipment and showed him around the Land Cruiser. To our luck he was either blind or simply did not care about our awkward steering wheel position and was purely interested in and amazed about our travels until we said farewell and sped down yet another beautiful bitumen road towards Robertsport.

Robertsport was the playground of expats and richer locals until the civil war and is now a small village largely in ruins. At the turnoff from the main Bo-Waterside – Monrovia road the bitumen left us again and we were in for some “entertaining” pothole surfing on a dirt road in the pitch dark. Late in the evening we arrived and with the help of some locals found the Nana Lodge which allows camping at a horrendous price. For the first time in ages we stumbled over other overlanders in form of Gerrit & Ria who have travelled the world in a bit more than 9 years in their Land Cruiser. The next days were spent with loads of talking, exploring the ruined villas and houses of Robertsport and coming in contact with the locals. The people here were a bit different from what we had experienced in West Africa so far and mainly kept to themselves without being unfriendly though.

After the weekend it was time to hit the road again and enter the capital Monrovia for some stocking up and acquiring the visas for Côte d’Ivoire. Liberia being the only colony the United States have ever maintained in Africa it feels in some part like its 51st state. Some people we met truly hate the Americans and also the UN personnel in the country but others embrace the American lifestyle. Monrovia’s city centre in some way resembles a small American town and is one of the most orderly capitals we have come across in Africa. There are rubbish bins spread all over the city, modern cars are speeding along the smooth roads and motorbike taxis have to stay in the suburbs. Monrovia stands in stark contrast to the countryside of a country that has suffered from many years of civil war.

With pot luck we found a hotel allowing us to camp for free in their grounds as long as we wanted to in one of Africa’s most expensive cities and got our Côte d’Ivoire visas in 24 hours.

Unfortunately time pressure was slowly making itself felt as our Ghana visa was only valid for entry within one month so we regretfully decided to get there as quick as possible. The drive northeast towards the border near Danane was supposed to be an easy one on bitumen roads. Unfortunately it turned out that the Liberians in cooperation with the Chinese were working on the whole stretch from Monrovia to the border. Perfect bitumen varied with bumpy detours and we ended up spending the night in one of the giant gravel pits used by the construction teams surrounded by the sounds of the dense rainforest around us.

The following day we made more ground and after some rough driving arrived at the relaxed border post where Fabian was confronted with some highly intelligent but unexpected questions about Nazism in Germany to date.

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