The further north we travelled the more signs we saw of the war. The number of checkpoints increased. Whether these were government or rebel controlled was unknown to us.
Charlie Curtis : 7th May

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Starting from their departure in London on 14th March 2009.
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25th March
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Senegal again!
8th April
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DIARY : Côte d’Ivoire Imagery: ©2009 Terrametrics
Map data: ©2009 Europa Technologies

3rd May : Côte d’Ivoire Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

The crossing from Liberia to Cote d’Ivoire involved a river, a ferry and a barrage of pecuniary requests. Luckily, by this stage in our journey our patter was top notch and we batted away the initial attempts with ease. That is until we reached customs.

At this point we were hit with the news that our ‘Carnet’ was not valid and we should have a tourist import form for the car. Unfortunately with no computers at the border we would have to go to St Pedro, 200km away, and it would cost CFA100,000 (£170). We would have to be escorted through the numerous military checkpoints lest our car was impounded. We were less than pleased and put up a strong fight; until a soldier with an AK47 hopped into the car to escort us. We decided at this point that a silent protest en route would be more advisable.
Arriving at the customs office we waited several hours until the customs chief could be found. Then the protests began in earnest. We flatly refused to pay the price we had been given. It was clearly too high. For over an hour I argued with the chief in French. Finally we agreed a price of CFA25,000.

I would like to think that my wit and argument construction won the day but I am fairly sure he just wanted to get rid of the foreigner shouting in almost incomprehensible French. The day got progressively more bizarre as later in the day we were adopted by a one of Cote d’Ivoire’s Internal Affairs officers. Previously DEA, he insisted on carrying a gun everywhere, but seemed friendly enough. At one point he observed that he was unable to leave Cote D’Ivoire because he would not be allowed to take his gun. He invited us out for some beers to see the town. But first, back to his place where he casually threw his gun and handcuffs on the bed while he took a shower. Then donning his gun again we went out on the town to some bars and a club; strange feeling going clubbing with someone carrying a Beretta; stranger still was seeing every girl in the club standing in line in front of a mirror dancing in perfectly synchronised steps to a song that lasted well over 20 minutes.

4th May : Côte d’Ivoire

Nursing serious hangovers the next morning we made tracks for the capital, Abidjan. It was the most advanced city we had seen in Africa, with towering offices and hotels, and grand promenades. All of which were now dated, and suffering from the ravages of time.

We were there to meet with our contact in the city research hospital. Unfortunately we learned that he had been dead for two years. Not a great start when. Pressing on we met with the Head of Paediatrics and discussed his work in the city and most importantly the difficulties they were facing.

The facilities were not what we would have expected from a hospital in a major city; tiny babies lying in adult beds with scant covering, and their mothers sleeping on floors at their side. The heat was oppressive throughout the wards necessitating that all doors and windows be left open. Not ideal conditions for the treatment of infants and children. However as we had witnessed many times before the doctors and staff made do with what little resources they had available. They desperately need more space to offer diagnosis, treatment and counselling to mothers and children, many of whom are left waiting for hours in corridors as there is simply not the space to tend to the numbers.

We left with pages of notes and a commitment from the Director to get become more involved with the PATA network of clinics.

6th May : Abidjan

One memorable experience in Cote d’Ivoire was surely to watch Chelsea play Barcelona with Didier Drogba (more God than man here). If you think it’s hard getting through Fulham when the blues are playing, you would have no chance over here. Watching the game in a local bar was exhilarating. But seeing Chelsea knocked out was terrifying.

Our other focus in Abidjan had been to secure visas for Ghana. Our original plan was to head up through Ghana into Burkina Faso as the reports indicated that Northern Cote d’Ivoire is still held by rebels. However our friend in Internal Affairs informed us that the government had taken back control in the last few weeks and so it was now possible to drive north and cross directly, saving time and money. With some trepidation we made our way north into unknown territory.

7th May : Côte d’Ivoire Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

The further north we travelled the more signs we saw of the war. The number of checkpoints increased. Whether these were government or rebel controlled was unknown to us. The north also showed more scars. Both in the people we saw with injuries and the buildings bearing pockmarked walls. Other than the usual financial requests at the armed check points, we encountered no serious problems.

Of course by now we were due some car problems since we hadn’t visited a garage in Cote d’Ivoire. Lola was happy to oblige sending the suspension cone and shocks up through the wheel arch and into the bonnet; a nice little reminder of our time bouncing along the tracks in Liberia. Luckily, after 2 months on the road our mechanical skills had developed exponentially and we were well equipped to deal with what might seem a catastrophic problem. The bolts had all sheered, so taking an old piece of tyre from the side of the road, we wedged it in between the spring and the wheel arch. We then used cable ties to fix the cone back in place attaching it to the mounting for the air filter. Finally we used duct tape to ‘firmly’ hold the shock central. A repair job that any Land Rover dealer I’m sure would be proud of!

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