Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference- Robert Frost
Recently, I have been reflecting on enjoying the journey. All journeys. Be it a literal trip, working towards goals, or accomplishing simple tasks each day.
Even when the journey takes a turn on a road less traveled by and we are fraught with anxieties about arriving at the destination, we relish the journey.
Back to the story of journeying to Yamousssoukro. Part 1 is here. After several flight cancellations and a same day return trip not budgeted for, funds started to dwindle. I was pinching into my living expenses now and I had not even arrived in Côte D’Ivoire.
At that moment where I had resigned myself to the reality that this trip was not happening, a phone call changed things once again.
Someone had hinted that the road borders were open. No restrictions awaited travelers from countries battling the Ebola virus. I was wary though. How could the road be open when Côte D’Ivoire is bordered by Guinea and Liberia, counties with a growing infected population? I ran a quick check with the French West African embassies in my neighborhood and was given a go ahead..
THE ROAD TO THE JOURNEY
I estimated the journey will take 2 days. My French was okay, but I craved the confidence of a fluent companion. The borders are notorious for crooks and swindlers and I didn’t want to be caught in that web. Who was going to accompany me at least until Togo? I spoke with a friend and within 12 hours, I had a volunteer for the trip.
These friends came through for me in ways I could never have imagined, but I also appreciated the silence of my family. No one questioned my decisions as I strapped my backpack on, pulled my suitcase down the street, and headed towards the bus stop. Perhaps, they realized I was at a point of no return with my mind set on Yakro. In situations like that, letting go is easier than saying don’t go.
The Mile 2 bus park was in itself adventure. I let my companion handle the bargaining, counting out the money for the fare when prompted to. A small vehicle was suggested for the Lagos to Togo part of the journey as the long buses take ages to fill up. Well, it did take an hour to get the 2 other passengers we needed to set off. Munching on some roasted corn and pear, I was happy to simply begin the journey.
Bathroom stops are really tricky on journeys like this. A woman asked me to hold her baby when she had to go and I couldn’t comprehend her level of trust. I mean we were in the middle of nowhere so I was not going to run off, but still…I ate as little as I could as I didn’t want to be that whining girl who is willing to risk peeing in a bottle if the driver can’t stop. My wet wipes and hand sanitizer were in my backpack for road emergencies and that made me feel better.
ITINERARY FOR THE JOURNEY:Lagos to Togo via Bénin. Sleep. Togo to Abidjan via Ghana.
As I crossed borders, my passport had to be stamped twice. Leaving Nigeria. Stamp. Entering Bénin. Stamp. Leaving Bénin. Stamp. Entering Togo. Stamp. The arrival and departure stamps were done by different border officials a few steps away from one another. My slight irritation was as a result of the extra cash some officers tagged on to their services and those occasions were the male ones tried to get fresh with me. My companion is a Togo national so he couldn’t accompany me through every checkpoint. Sigh.
We pulled into the park in Togo at close to midnight and I could barely keep my eyes open. He advised me to change most of my money there as up until then I was still able to spend Nigeria’s Naira. As the taxi parked at the home of our host family, I groggily stumbled out and barely made it to the prepared room for the night.
By morning, my surroundings started to take shape. I was at the outskirts of Togo in a town called Kpalimé. A quick shower in the outdoor style bathroom left me in deep gratitude for the family who had woken up to draw water from the well and boil some, affording me the luxury of a warm bath. Breakfast was also graciously served and we all set out to the next bus park after hugs and goodbyes.
UTB was the bus I boarded for the Togo to Abidjan leg of the journey. My companion was leaving me in Togo and suggested that I use the long bus since they are recognized by border officials and would provide assistance with stamping my passport at the right places. He was right about the former, but the latter was an epic fail as an 60 dollar fine was imposed on me for omitting getting a stamp of arrival in Ghana at the point where I exited Togo. If you are confused, so was I.
The passengers on the bus were wired up and chatty, but all I could do was hope and pray that the 18 hours I had already spent on the road wouldn’t meet a Côte D’Ivoire-is-closed-to-you sign. Something similar to what happened to Tom Hanks character in The Terminal. After a couple of risqué middle of the night, pee on the road stops, I opted for hunger and thirst as opposed to squatting in full glare of travelers and motorists.
At at a point, the driver parked and left the bus unannounced. It took me a while to realize that was all the driving he planned on doing for the night. This was a sleep, eat, or gist through the night stop until the morning. Exhausted from worry, I dozed off on one of the lounge chairs and hoped that a kind passenger would wake me up once it was time.
THE JOURNEY TO HERE
I could sense Côte D’Ivoire before we crossed the border. Conversations became livelier and we were in company of other long buses and smaller vehicles. It was showtime. To enter or not enter, what would the official tell me? When I was asked to wash my hands at the water pump where the soap was conspicuously absent, I obliged and was prepared to shower on the spot if it came to that. And when I was asked to pay a first timer fee in Côte D’Ivoire, I ignored the high price tag and counted my the West African CFA.
I was here. 2 nights and 2 days later, I was here. 2 cancelled flights later, I was here. Scary bathroom spots and squatting on the road stops later, I was here. The road had made the difference and my respect for it grew. The journey was colorful and the destination was well worth it. Sadly, Ebola was still ravaging neighboring countries, but this was a conquest to be treasured for a while.