[ Danane, Côte d’Ivoire ]
Early in the morning of September 23rd, I rode eastward out of Ganta, back onto gravel and into happy uncertainty. I hoped to cross into Ivory Coast three days hence, with a day to spare on my Liberian entry stamp. Instead, my rear wheel started popping spokes mid-morning, stranding me roadside, wobbly and defeated, in the path of a sudden, violent lightning storm. Not for the first time I found myself huddled beneath a canopy of trees, under my tarpaulin—waiting for a break in the weather or a lucky ride.
When a filthy, overloaded white pick-up fishtailed its way up the muddy hill a half-hour later, an even filthier, crazed cyclist stepped into the middle of the road and negotiated a ride to the next town.
Somewhat nervous about the state of my rear wheel and the quality of my repairs—and anticipating the likely condition of the roads ahead—I decided a short stretch with public transport was in order. As “public transport” you should imagine two adult males and an entire 70kg cycling rig loaded onto a slight, 125cc motorcycle, careening along a thoroughfare decidedly unsuited to careening. Exhilarating is one word for it; there are others, equally apt.
In this way I made my way across the border and into Danane, my first stop in Côte d’Ivoire—Country Number Nine, after more than nine months on the road and over six thousand kilometers traveled.