I was sad to pack up and leave tranquil Libassa this morning. My nose was even sadder to be reacquainted with the truck, the bins smell (while emptied they haven’t been cleaned), there is damp laundry hanging all over the place and worse, some of our companions don’t seem to have fully availed themselves of the laundry services and showers that were on offer. If their pits smell this bad now, I fear for my nostrils in five days time after four nights of ‘bush camping’ (a glamourous term for a patch of dirt where we park with no running water, no electricity and not even a stream). After deliberations with my tent mate, we have decided that attempts to clean our truck mates and the truck will ultimately be futile! Instead we are planning to invest in some tiger balm to liberally apply beneath our nostrils to deaden our sense of smell.
We headed into and then out of Monrovia after stocking up on food, passing through the ‘red light’ market. As is the usual overlanding way, there has been at least two hours of waiting around doing bugger all – waiting after breakfast for everyone to pack and load the truck, waiting for a couple of hours while cook groups did their grocery shop and Zoe went to get our visas. I am getting a masters degree in waiting.
As usual, our cookgroup was harmonious and organised and did our shop on budget and in record time. Amusingly other groups provide a wonderful display of cross cultural breakdowns – the most amusing being a passive aggressive refusal of one chap to even go into the supermarket ‘well, you don’t need me as you have already decided what you want to do…..’. Highly amusing!
Liberian locals are markedly more grumpy and less welcoming than the Sierra Leonians. We were asked not to take photos as we headed out through town as the crowd has been known to turn violent on passers by. It was crowded and manic but not unbearably so. We weren’t really noticing in any case as we had found cheese, ham, donuts and bread at the supermarket, so most of us were stuffing our faces and trading choice morsels around the truck in preparation for a few days without much food.
A relatively short drive of five hours from the capital and we arrived in Kpatwee at the waterfall just before nightfall. Honestly I would not have driven five minutes off the main road in NZ to see a similar waterfall, and in this case we drove an hour from the highway over bumpy dirt roads.
After a charming negotiation with the locals, Zoe secured us access to camp for the night and they even dug us a pit toilet. I went for a swim in the river and then used a bucket of water to have a quick wash. We had an attentive audience of locals who stood in a silent line in the dark and pouring rain and watched us cook dinner, do the dishes and pack up the truck. Am heading to bed now under their watchful eyes which appear every now and then when the lightening flashes.
Kpatwee Falls is the main tourist site in northern Liberia. It is amusing how few tourist sites there are in west Africa, and how far you have to go to get from one to the other. I did know this before coming so had managed my expectations down. For a couple of others on the truck, west Africa is their first trip in Africa, which is an unusual choice given the great infrastructure and sights in all the other regions of Africa. One of my truckmates did say she wasn’t expecting sites or wildlife but wanted to come as her first trip to Africa in any case for the people and the culture. Frankly am not sure how much engagement you have with people and culture if you are spending 10 hours a day on a truck of smelly westerners but I guess I will find out.
Kpatwee, November 25, 2016