Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Capital Goal

Another good night's sleep in a bed for a change, excited to be setting off with the hope that I'd reach my goal of arriving in Yamoussoukro, Cote d'Ivoire's capital city to spend that evening, New Years Eve, with my friends.  I was concerned that the road would be problematic all the way south as I'd heard that it hadn't been upgraded since my last time on this stretch in 2009.  I had 387km to complete today, venturing out of Ouangolodougou the south side of town was a mess with trucks all over.  I soon discovered why, the road to Ferkessedougou was being re-done and had just been completely resurfaced.  Lovely smooth road for 45km to Ferke where I stopped to withdraw some cash and have some breakfast whilst receiving a call from a Moroccan friend Hamza who works in Abengourou and wanted an update on my progress!

Things never change, I'm always too optimistic whilst travelling around Africa in regards to the time it takes to get from one place to the next or the state of the road.  Of course, I left Ferke at 930am with the dream that this smooth road would continue southbound, of course it didn't!  It was a crazy, tiring, zigzag drive all the way to Katiola, 186km of pothole slalom with police and gendarmes stopping me every 15km or so, asking for a chicken to eat, my hand in marriage or just plain paperwork!

Bus from Niamey, Niger - a long tiring drive!

Poor old sheep, sun, exhaust fumes and staying upright with the bumps
Finally I pulled into the southern edge of Katiola, it was about 1pm and I decided I deserved some lunch.  I found a small shaded maquis and parked Franki under a tree.  A young guy was serving a few bits and pieces on the side of the road, ordering some spaghetti with liver I sat in the shade under a mango tree with a drink.

Setting off again, I reached Bouake with a few less potholes, this is where the north/south divide used to be prior to the 2010/2011 crisis.  Initially I came to Bouake in 2008 when the Forces Nouvelles (now the united FRCI) were in charge, getting through 'la corridor' to enter the north on the southern edge of Bouake was always interesting as being white they usually assumed I was French.  Luckily, having an Irish passport made things somewhat easier!  Bouake had grown since my last visit, I was surprised by the change in town and development that had gone on, I drove through fairly quickly, almost able to smell my Yamoussoukro goal now!

The road from Bouake was in a similar condition to the Katiola - Bouake road, in relatively good condition until finding a sizeable pothole that could cause serious damage.  I certainly decided I preferred the roads that really slowed you down with gaping potholes.  Driving along this one was hair-raising as it gave drivers confidence to speed along, and then dodge the potholes.  It wasn't much fun at all.  I pulled up in Tiebissou, a small town I've stopped in before, it's the centre of Baoule cloth weaving where there are many stands with cloth for sale.  The cotton is hand loomed on extremely long looms found throughout the village and surrounding area.  It comes in strips, like Kente cloth in Ghana but then sewn together to make one large piece about a metre wide and 1m70 long.  After a bit of negotiation I bought some more and set off south again.

Ridiculous place to take a photo whilst driving!  Should be ashamed of myself!!!
41 kilometres later I finally entered Yamoussoukro, so happy to be back, I was in very slow moving traffic due to the police stopping vehicles ahead of me.  I got my phone out and took a photo of the 'Orange' telecom sign welcoming me to Yakro!  A bit of a stupid move, doing this in full view of the police who of course watched me take it.  I was STOPPED!  

Police:  "Madame, where have you come from?"
Me:  giggling "ummmm" more giggling ... "today or originally"
Police:  Scratching his head trying to work out what drugs this 'blanche' had been taking
Me: "From The Netherlands"
Police: "Alone?  You can't take photos whilst driving in Cote d'Ivoire"
Me:  Still giggling, "sorry but I'm so happy to be here in time for New Years Eve with friends"
Police:  "I should fine you, just go, but Happy New Year Madame"

My welcome into Yakro, I was so elated!!!

I pulled up a few hundred metres later and called PC to ask where he lived.  I was told to wait exactly where I was and he came to find me in his car.  He was in front of Franki less than 2minutes later, massive smiles, screams of joy to see him again, I followed him back to the house.  I caught up with his three children, the smallest of which I hadn't met before, she's a real little character.  His son who was born just after the 2010/2011 crisis, I welcomed in the early hours of the morning when we were part of a group on Twitter and then his older daughter.  Both his son and older daughter I'd met before, but his son was about 3 years old last time and petrified of me, he hadn't met a 'blanche' before and we had all had a good giggle in their old apartment in Abidjan in 2013!

New Ivorian beer, made from rice, brewed by Heineken
PC - to who I owe a lot over the years, a true friend!
After a decent shower, some clean clothes and my sandals a little cleaner, PC took me out to a maquis nearby.  He bought me an Ivoire, a new beer on the market that seems to be doing remarkably well.  We sat and talked for ages whilst Irene, his wife, was on her way back from shopping.  I was so happy to be back with them all.  Returning to the house, they got ready to go to church, I was left in charge of the house, with the keys.  I curled up on their sofa watching TV, the air conditioning on feeling thoroughly spoilt and promising to be awake when they got back ... I fell asleep.  They returned from church and spent quite some time trying to wake me up, finally PC managed to wake me with a phone call, I was a very embarassed house guest!!!

By 1am we were out again, at PC's maquis Restaurant Alie-Fe near the centre of town with his business partner and other friends.  A long night with too many bottles on the table by 4am, I had a very sound sleep for the rest of the night!

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