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How you live your life is up to you. You have to go out and grab the world by the horns. Rope it before it ties you down and decides for you. - Sarah Reijonen

28 November 2019, Danane, IVORY COAST to Kpantiaplay, LIBERIA, 33.4km
No-name Hotel 2,000L$ (R154)


WhatsApp: A short ride to the border, less than 30km, but not particularly easy. Some rough patches; ungraded hills where the bikes weighed heavily on our arms. But pretty enough and very rural. Our bags were searched on the Liberian side of the border, where we are spending our first night, a third search since we started this trip, the others being a baggage search entering Angola and a drug search at the Benin airport. We have bought MTN SIMs, but will have to go and sit under the only tree in town where they are usable to send this WhatsApp. We have been assured MTN works well once we leave town and elsewhere in Liberia. We exchanged two days’ Central African Francs for a huge wadge of Liberian Dollars only to find that data and hotel rooms are quoted in US Dollars. Confusing. The electricity is off and the shutters on our window are nailed shut so we are fumbling around in the dark.

Having cycled through Danane (Ivory Coast) and across the river, we turned left at an unsignposted dirt road, checking first with a policeman sitting at the intersection that it was the correct road to Liberia. A dirt road in pretty rough condition winding through a very rural Ivory Coast. Some bad potholes, water-filled, and many very steep short inclines, the road being entirely ungraded. Here the weight of the bikes pressed heavily on our hands and arms and shoulders. On one short incline, we met some people walking. Seeing me struggle, the young woman, a baby strapped to her back, handed her bucket to the man and offered to push my bike. I declined, but as usual was struck by the generosity and kindness, and extraordinary physical strength, of those we encounter.
The villages in this part of Ivory Coast are poor, huts constructed of framing and mud with palm-thatch roofs. It is quiet and tranquil in these hamlets, many residents we assume having gone to town for the day. We were pleased to be able to purchase drinks at a couple of places, though not cold, and dough balls from outside a shop for a breakfast snack.
So essentially we pottered to the border, where we were recorded and stamped out without any problems, near a blue plastic tent labelled “Stop Ebola” and a green umbrella with Chinese text thereon. Goodbye Ivory Coast. Hello Liberia.
On the Liberian side of the border, we were searched for the third time since leaving South Africa. Our luggage had been half-heartedly searched entering Angola, and my luggage had been searched for drugs when flying into Cotonou, Benin. As usual we had to visit two or three different offices and complete two or three different forms. When done, we stepped from the border post area immediately into the small town of Kpantiaplay. A dirt road lined with mud and thatch roof huts, and wooden huts, and some brick and mortar buildings, including our guest house.
As usual in a new country, our first order of business is cash and a SIM card. We were taken by a border post official to a round man in a small square wooden kiosk from whom we obtained both MTN SIMs and Liberian Dollars. Our salesman, English-speaking in this English-speaking country, explained that we could only use the SIM card under the large tree through and beyond the border post area, but assured us that elsewhere in Liberia, coverage would be good. [This proved to be the case…]
We exchanged two days’ Central African Francs for a huge wadge of Liberian Dollars with our rotund salesman, only to find that data and hotel rooms are quoted in US Dollars. Confusing.
We had a little trouble finding a guest house, the first saying they could not accommodate us and the second more expensive than we wanted. The first helped us negotiate down the price to something more in line with what we were getting for our money at the second. I think the first host was the mother of the second. The electricity was off when we checked in and the shutters on our window nailed shut so we fumbled around in the semi-dark getting unpacked and bathed.
We found our way, once clean, back through the border post area, unchecked by the officials there, to the “MTN tree”, joining several other frustrated townsfolk also unable to connect to the outside world.
We lolled on our tiled balcony and had a drink in our host’s bar, whiling away the time until dinner. On the street was little on offer except some popcorn until we were pointed in the direction of a breakfast bar still open and serving omlettes and condensed milk coffee.
Walking away from where we had eaten our omlette dinner, suddenly a couple of locals started yelling at us to stand still. We realised only then that we were the only two people in motion in the entire town. Everyone else had come to a standstill while the flag was being lowered. Like an art house film where all but the main characters are frozen for a moment... We'll keep an ear open for the whistle in future.

For today's route see below photos
For overview route, click on ROUTE tab above…


Entering Liberia
Entering Liberia
Kpantiaplay
Kpantiaplay
Kpantiaplay - MTN (Lonestar) tree
Kpantiaplay - MTN (Lonestar) tree
Kpantiaplay
Kpantiaplay
No-name Hotel, Kpantiaplay
No-name Hotel, Kpantiaplay
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