Liberia – onward to Yekepa, camping on the road

I apparently broke an overland record this morning! In the 20 combined years that Jason and Zoe have been leading trips, I am the first person to ever ask for a pee stop within the first 30 minutes. Note to self, one litre of coffee in the morning is not a good idea!

Pumping from the village well

JAfter a leisurely drive for a couple of hours, we found a village where the chief was willing to let us fill up our drinking water tank from the well in exchange for a few dollars. The process takes an hour or so, and is highly entertaining for the village blokes, most of whom haven’t seen women in short shorts and tank tops jumping up and down pumping water before. Within 20 minutes most of the village was out watching and enjoying the spectacle. Eva and I entertained the kids by singing and taking pictures – they love looking at their photos and will grab your phone and swipe through to laugh at themselves. The kids were fascinated with our hair (‘soft soft’) and Eva’s tattoos (‘snake’ and ‘dragon’), and we were liberally stroked. Not having been exposed to many tourists (or perhaps any), the kids didn’t ask for money or sweets, and were entirely content playing games with us.

We made it back onto the main road at Gbanga and enjoyed the tarmac roads for 100km to Ganta. At this point it was 2pm and we were less than 50k from our destination so I excitedly contemplated a leisurely afternoon run, a swim perhaps and a bit of a read. Aaaaahhh, things never go to plan in West Africa. A truck was stuck in the road. The group of locals were amenable and up for a chat, and we waited while the truck was dug out of the road by a digger.  

At the next place where a truck was stuck, a bunch of passengers from a stranded 4wd came up for a chat and demanded food and water. ‘You white people, you must have food and water, give us some’….., they were from a nearby town and not friendly at all. As is standard practice, I told them we were out and suggested they try the village well 200m down the street, as if you give to one, you end up having to give to everyone. We eventually managed to get through at 4pm after a prolonged wait (giving me further credits towards the PHD in waiting I am earning here in Africa).

Waiting in the shade of the truck
Eventually we arrived at Yekepa, described as a ‘Truman show’-esque town in the lonely planet, I guess because it is a mining town that is planned. We left the main road at the mine plant and headed up a little used track into the Mt Nimba forest reserve. It got dark, and the road deteriorated quickly with the forest closing in on what was a 4metre wide concrete road narrowing to a 1m wide gap between the trees at waist level. We eventually got stopped in our tracks by a tree that had half fallen in the road and the truck can’t get under it. Hmmmmmm. This overlanding gig is never boring!. We started reversing and couldn’t go far. So it is pitch black and we are parking up for the night in the road. The jungle is encroaching on all sides, so we are having to pitch on the remnants of the old lorry road which lead up the mine, leaving space for anyone who might pass at some point early on the morning and hopefully they don’t hit us.  
Am amused with the anthropology experiment going on in front of my eyes…., tensions continue to build on the truck, inevitable when we are stuck in a truck for ten hours every day in hot and sweaty conditions. Some people pull their weight more than others, and others do bugger all. It grates those who do more. I am not one of those who do more, I try to do my fair share. One guy actually gets told off regularly as he is unable to stop doing everyone’s jobs in an OCD way and he can’t sit still (my roomie describes him as Forrest Gump meets Rainman). I am beginning to think this trip is 10% about travelling in west Africa and 90% about figuring out how to survive (and ideally thrive) with the other 18 weird personalities on the truck.
Yekepa, November 26, 2016

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