Thursday, January 9, 2020

Côte d'Ivoire ♡

From The Pillion

The Old Convent from The Nest
Sometimes a traveller just has to rest up and share stories and experiences.

We found our place at the Elephant's Nest in Grand Bassam, run by the life-force that is Chloe Grant.

Celeb Heads in CI
The Nest is conducive to staying a little longer than just a day or two and we fraternised in the company of a bunch of very interesting people. We sat and chatted, shared meals, played cards and introduced the game of 'celebrity heads' to a West African friend of Chloe's - no idea what he made of it!

I hope we'll meet again.

Next to The Nest is an abandoned convent with an overgrown garden. Blanco, Chloe's eight months' old kitten, was seen jumping over the wall to explore and, sadly, was found dead in the compound a few hours later. We think it was a snakebite.

Going, going...
Côte d'Ivoire was once covered in dense rainforest and bush elephants roamed. Outlawed logging continues and the elephants are disappearing fast.

I'm reading about the EU's plans to become climate-neutral by 2050 and am watching the rainforest disappear in front of my very eyes, literally. Can the two ever be reconciled?

Roof with a view
Just when I thought I've seen all that West African traffic can offer, we drove behind a minibus carrying probably twice the allowed passengers. The roof was loaded with suitcases, buckets, boxes and a live goat strapped to the railings, looking rather serene.

Next up was a rider on a small motorbike transporting a tyre for a lorry. Not that unusual you might think, except the rider was sitting in the middle of the tyre!

A lot of the older vehicles are cobbled together from all sorts of spare parts and it's the triumph of perseverance and hope over technology that they are functioning at all. Sometimes the axle is so misaligned, the cars give the impression of moving sideways when travelling forward. I've dubbed them 'crab cars' (or should that be 'crap cars'?).

Unfortunately we also encountered the ubiquitous fallout of the idiosyncratic and dangerous modes of driving. Overturned, overloaded lorries and minibuses in ditches were a regular reminder.

On our various trips into the de facto capital, Abidjan, to sort out visas and to explore, we encountered its challenges. Skyscrapers overlooking the lagoon and in their shadows, abject poverty. The city sprawls, its different districts connected by dual carriageways.

Abidjan hits you with an assault of traffic, pollution, vibrancy and a juxtaposition of wealth and poverty.

All of the above are softened by lush, green vegetation in generous measures.

Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire produce almost 67% of the global supply of cocoa and they want a fairer share of the profits. Let's hope they succeed in obtaining it.

A lot of raw materials from developing countries (DCs) are acquired by large corporations. The DCs are then obliged to import the finished product, seeing very little of the profit.

Ironically, Ivorians aren't even that fond of chocolate!

Market day
Some abiding memories:
• Mangoes and pineapples so sweet, you won't ever want to buy these fruits in Europe again.
• Constant music blasting out everywhere, drowning out the muezzin's call to prayer and computerised churchbells playing Christmas songs.
• Ready smiles, laughter and the verbal expression 'é!', used to denote astonishment (imagine the West Indian 'eh eh').
• Intermittent water and power outages.
• Boulangeries in every town and hamlet - thanks to the former colonial power (which, however, is not held in great esteem).
• Schools and sports arenas financed by the Chinese government, sometimes without the infrastructure of access.
• Pothole galore.
• Geckos on walls.
• Walking slowly (even then you're drenched after a short time!).
• Tasty fish and rice dishes.

The stress-test of the relationship is nearing completion, with early exit polls suggesting that we might be better together by seeing less of each other.

'Small-small' as they say here!

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