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Published: November 8th 2010
the end of a long drive tracing the African continent
Ask yourself what it means to be able to travel so peacefully and happily through a country that, up to only a few years ago, was rated as one of the two most dangerous countries in the world (along with Somalia). Cote D’Ivoire has been doing their best to keep the peace since an agreement was signed between the government and the Force-Nouvelle “rebels” of the north, but the memories of the civil war are still fresh; civilians from both sides recount stories of the day the war showed up on their doorsteps, and many lost friends and family members. However none of their rough history comes into the picture of Ivorian hospitality and kindness. Even in the tiniest villages, the cocoa, coffee, rubber, plantain, and cassava farmers are as welcoming as ever.
Leaving Burkina, got a ride with businessmen who drove through all the checkpoints with enough savvy contempt to not even be asked for bribes. After a few days touring villages and learning to farm chocolate (but not getting to eat any, the raw cocoa is exported and the finished product is returned to Africa at twice the price it sells for in Europe), I ended up in
kitty cat & bob
this cats name is 'black cat' in Japanese
the beautiful 18-mountain, “rebel-held” town of Man, which gave a good opportunity to hear about Ivorian politics from all three sides - government, Force-Nouvelle, and UN - with a general consensus that everyone is tired of the unrest. Having a beer with the commander of the Force-Nouvelle army, he invited some government soldiers to sit with us and explained, with a hint of desperation, that the people of Cote D’Ivoire are tired of the fighting, and that regardless of political intervention they wont let the war start up again. My prayers are with them to follow through on that.
The allure of visiting the deep jungle was strong, so I found myself walking down the muddy, potholed road towards Tai National Park, the biggest of its kind in West Africa. It’s a long road, rarely traveled in the rainy season by personal vehicles, but I got a very lucky ride with a Lebanese cocoa exporter based in Tai, and so after all the mud and heat of the bush I found myself with three days of air conditioning, fast internet, and delicious shwarma, not to mention a break from African politics with a lot of discussion of the Middle
East. Got my rainforest hike in on a grown-over trail through a reserve along the Liberian border, didn’t see chimpanzees but apparently heard a few. The black market sells baby chimps, monkeys, parrots, etc for next to nothing.
After a few days along the beautiful coast and in big city Abidjan, I figured it would be better to leave the country before the October 31st elections, although I read they went well (thankfully). Now in Ghana, hitched around the jungle a bit, with lots of hospitality from the Ashanti, and now couchsurfing in a boarding school in the southern town of Cape Coast. Greetings from the Atlantic beach!
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I love, love, LOVE the photos!!!
Ha, ha. "Bitch, give me banana." Love that. Sounds quite interesting, I used to work with a whole bunch of refugees from Cote D'Ivoire, we were called "the french boys" at that job, and they used to tell me quite a bit about the war back home. It was really irritating for them, but like you said, hopefully the peace treaty lasts. Like Oriana said, awesome pics! I love the milipede and milking of the rubber trees especially, never knew what that would look like- white sap eh?!. Sad how it works with free trade that the farmers can't really compete in global markets and that due to subsidies and whatnot that their own product is sold back to them at double the price. It's quite unnerving. Have any of the farmers/co-ops indicated any solution to this? I know "fair trade" isnt always fair, but how do people truly feel about the economic stranglehold that they are in? Or is it similar to the cocoa farmers having to destroy thousands of year old rainforest, not because they want to, but simply because they have to feed their family. Would be interesting to know. So happy to hear that the hospitality isn't wavering at all in any new place that you explore! And I actually sponsor a small community in ghana - ask about me! lol, I write them all the time.! Anyways love you, stay safe, have fun! -Cooper Ps. we just got our first snowfall! C'mon, you know you miss it! hehe