Escapades in the Ivory Coast

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April 9th 2009
Published: April 9th 2009
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The City of AbidjanThe City of AbidjanThe City of Abidjan

A nice view of the skyline and Ebrie Lagoon in the morning
Hey All!

Got another long one for ya! Grab a snack; you’ll be happy you did…

Okay, the gloves are off, the warm-ups are over, and the time for sand bagging has just expired. I have less than forty days to see as much of West Africa as I possibly can…challenge accepted; let the April rush begin!! My first stop? The infamous ivory coast, Cote D’Ivoire!

So, when building a team for my first out-of-the-country adventure, I felt that it was important to think about what qualities and abilities would best serve the group as a whole - The ability to speak French, the mathematical savvy for currency conversions, and a decisively diligent and well-organized planner. Fortunately, my team had all of that. Alyssa the French speaker, Jen the accountant and currency converter, and Aubrie the planner. What did I bring to the table? Honestly…I’m not really sure…hmmmm…my flexible attitude, cavalier charm and boyish good looks? …Sure…We’ll go with that…man, I am a loser…

At any rate, we left our hostel around nine o’clock Friday morning. Thanks to traffic however, we didn’t actually make it to the bus station until around noon, which, oddly enough worked to our advantage. The bus to Takoradi didn’t leave the station until twelve thirty, so yeah; we got there just in time to buy our tickets, grab a snack and hop right onto the bus! Nothing like starting the trip off on the right foot.

When we arrived in Takoradi we managed to grab a Tro Tro to Axim, where we opted to stay for the night. We figured that crossing the border in the dark wouldn’t be the best idea. So we checked into the Frankfaus Hotel, grabbed our dinner on the street, and went straight to bed.

We started our Saturday with a leisurely breakfast before taking a taxi to the border town of Elubo…And that’s where the real fun began…So while we indeed managed to arrive at the border during the day, we picked a bad day to arrive. Since it was Saturday, all of the banks were closed…and for some reason, all of the money changers decided to take the day off as well…soooooo, we made it through immigration with relatively low hassle… we just didn’t have a lot of money. I mean, we had tons and tons of Ghana Cedis , but we lacked West African Cefas … no worries though, all three of my travelling companions had a few CFAs on them, as well as some American dollars to exchange. Money issues aside, we had made it! We boarded a Tro Tro to the town of Aboisso, and then waited about an hour before taking a bus to our ultimate destination, Abidjan.

My first impressions of Abidjan were all positive; a clean riverfront city, with a beautiful skyline and an extremely noticeable absence of endless car horns, cat calls, and road side vendors. The ride through the city was a taste of home…aside from the whole French speaking…thing. After being in Ghana so long, seeing sky scrapers was a very weird experience. This trip definitely reminded me of just how much I love riverfront cities; it was the cherry on top of the already wonderful experience. We arrived at the bus station in the late afternoon, so we decided our best move was to quickly find accommodations, as sundown was approaching.

After walking around Le Plateau for a good two and half hours we finally managed to find a place
The St. Paul CathedralThe St. Paul CathedralThe St. Paul Cathedral

Extremely massive and very beautiful
to stay, The Grand Hotel. With air conditioned facilities, plush rooms and accommodating staff, it was a welcome change from my usual travel lodgings. They even let us have a double for four people! Unheard of in Ghana, but just right in Cote D’Ivoire.

Well, we had our rooms… but we still lacked currency. I figured that it was time to go search for an ATM, otherwise our short trip, would either become a lot shorter or worse… permanent. So I ventured out, leaving the girls to get settled into the room. I figured it was a lot safer for the black male of the group to walk around the city at night than a bunch of white females…just a hunch…call me crazy.

At any rate, I was aided in my quest by…hmmmmm… it’s funny, the more I tell this story, the more I realize just how sketchy it might just sound…oh well… I was perfectly safe, no worries. So, I was aided in my quest by my new friend Hamidou, a freelance worker who, from what I gathered, dabbles a little bit in this and a little bit in that…yeah…you get that a lot in Africa. Anyhow, he acted as both my guide and my interpreter as we traveled to at least four different ATMs, all of which wouldn’t work. Which, I now realize is because I told my bank I would be in Ghana…not Cote D’Ivoire… good to know my security devices are properly in place and working! Hooray!

I was still poor though…but Hamidou came through once again, he called up one of his friends and we were able to exchange our cedis for CFA. He also told me where not to go in the city, let me borrow his cell phone SIM card so I could communicate with people and told me where cheap places were to eat. It was a taste of true African hospitality. Without his help we wouldn’t have made it very far at all. In the states, you very rarely trust a stranger. Here? Man, listen to strangers; they give you all the good stuff! Or they rob and cheat you…I guess it could go either way…hmmmm…moving on.

With money in hand we treated ourselves to the Grand Hotel restaurant. The great thing about French influenced countries? The food is spectacular and comes in three courses! The remainder of the evening was fairly uneventful as we were all stuffed from dinner and exhausted from all of the walking and traveling. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for us to fall asleep.

The next morning we attended the Palm Sunday service at the St. Paul Cathedral. . Designed by Italian Aldo Spiritom, the church is so impressively massive that it can easily be seen almost anywhere in the city. It boasts a huge stylized figure of St Paul, and a tableau of beautiful stain-glassed windows. And while the service was in French, it was still a wonderful experience, as the music had a distinct African flavor to it, and there’s no one language to praise God in. Following the service, we headed back to the hotel to make our next plan, eventually deciding to head for the beach!

We checked out of the hotel and grabbed a taxi to the borough across the bridge, Treichville. From there we took a bush taxi to our next destination, Grand Bassam. Some forty five kilometers east of Abidjan, Grand Bassam is a narrow stretch of land found
Park in the CityPark in the CityPark in the City

It was just too beautiful not to take a picture!
between the Ebrie Lagoon and the Gulf of Guinea. The area is unique in that it is characterized by both the past and present. As we walked along the streets we could see many old colonial buildings intermixed with the never ending stretch of beach resorts. Despite the high number of tourists and merchants around, it was still a very nice place.

Since our money was small, we decided to stay at relatively low budget hotel. Basically, it was a concrete room with a bed, bath, and plastic table…but hey, what more do you need? Besides, you couldn’t beat the beach front locale that we snagged, so it was totally worth having to take a bucket shower. We whittled away our Sunday afternoon catching surf and sun and mingling with the locals, before calling it a night.

The arrival of Monday morning marked the start of our departure. We checked out of our hotel and made our way back home. We grabbed a bush taxi back to Aboisso , followed by a tro tro back to Elubo , and then proceeded through immigration . It was almost shocking how uneventful and simple the whole process was…and then we
The Ruins of ColonialismThe Ruins of ColonialismThe Ruins of Colonialism

An awesome building we came across while exploring Grand Bassam
got to Ghana… … We hopped into a fifteen passenger van that was going straight from Elubo to Accra…we just had to wait for it to fill up….grrrrrrrrrrrrr… Thankfully we only had to wait two and a half hours before we were on our way! Good times. We eventually made it back our hostel around nine o’clock that evening. Not too bad.

Well, I have less than forty days until I’m stateside once again, and only a couple of weeks before finals start…man, I better get moving! So much to see, so little time… it’s a rough life I live ya’ll, a rough life indeed!

Thanks for all of the thoughts, prayers, comments, and messages. It always makes my day better when I hear from home. I miss you all so much!

Stay…oh, you know ^_^


Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14


Beach Front Resort...kindaBeach Front Resort...kinda
Beach Front Resort...kinda

The outside of our humble concrete bunker...but hey, it was a place to sleep!
The Cote d'Ivoire CrewThe Cote d'Ivoire Crew
The Cote d'Ivoire Crew

Aubrie, Jen, Alyssa and myself heading home... nice work team!

10th April 2009

Counting the days
Hi John, The trip to the I coast sounds great, a little less adventurous than some of the others. I look forward to your adventures. I'm so glad that you are having fun but I will be glad when you return. Your writtings of your accounts are great but I know they will be greater when you get home and tell them in person. Love you and God bless you. Ps, Ive sent you some snail mail again, hope you get it, let me know. Grama Gerry
12th April 2009

AHHH!! 5 Weeks!
Brother! Hey, I just got back this morning from a week long journey in central Mexico. I'm just about to start updating my blog again from being backlogged, So much to write! Yikes! Anyways it's good to hear that your trips are all so amazing and wonderful!. I get done here in 5 weeks! Isn't that nuts! But it doesn't come easy, I have tests this week, and finals the week i go back. But thankfully we have a long weekend the week or two before finals, well i always have long weekends with only having classes Tuesday and Thursday, but now everyone has one so I can travel with friends! Anyways can't wait to see you, exchange stories, and just be home! Take care and good luck on your West Afrika (the spanish spelling) adventures! Live life to the fullest and without regrets my brother. Until next time, B-Ro (Brother Rob)(idk what's up with it i just let my fingers type whatever and then i read it later to figure out what i wrote..haha)
12th April 2009

Hey bro! Sounds like things are going really well. It's tough to believe that the semester is almost over. I must say it has been a real treat reading your entries. Once i start traveling the world with Q, i'll have to make arrangements for to you to come with and record our adventures, lol, but seriously your messages are a great escape from the norm. Ya never know when you've get back to Ghana, live it up & be safe! Love ya-lee P.S. "If I wanted something easy I would have gone to Australia…" about that comment: I'll have you know i took a neuroanatomy and biomechanics course while in Oz mate! It's ok Jon. I'll let it slide b/c i understand that you're still too young to understand what challenging courses are like...ooooh burn!

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