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A holiday to remember although not so much the road from hell

By Nina Steele 

View of Abidjan from the hotel Novotel

View of Abidjan from the hotel Novotel

My husband and I have just returned from a holiday to the Ivory Coast, my country of birth (we arrived back this morning). It was quite a homecoming, as the last time we were there was 9 years ago. Sadly, we had to abort a trip we intended to make in 2011 because of political instability following the arrest of the then president Laurent Gbagbo for refusing to relinquish power in the aftermath of the presidential elections held in late 2010. With everything the country has been through of late, Abidjan the capital has not lost much of the charm and glamour that led to the city being known as the Paris of West Africa. Major infrastructure projects such as the building of bridges linking major districts, have made driving around the city much faster than when I was there last.

On a more personal note, I noticed a major change, namely the fact that no one questioned our status as a childless couple. Even when we travelled to the city of Bouake where I grew up and hadn’t been for 20 years, the issue of children was never raised (let’s hope it stays that way). The last time we holidayed in the Ivory Coast, the country had just emerged from a civil war, which had started in 2002 and ended in 2007. As a result of the war, the country was divided in two, with rebel forces controlling the north including some parts of the centre, choosing Bouake as their base. Even though the country was officially reunified by the time we visited in 2008, we chose, with the advice of family members to stay away.

Unfortunately, unlike Abidjan which has long recovered from the war, Bouake is now a shadow of its former self. The wanton destruction that the city suffered during the war is still there for all to see. Getting to Bouake itself from Abidjan was enjoyable until we reached the stretch between Yamoussoukro and Bouake. That was when the journey descended into complete chaos due to poor road conditions, made worse by bad driving, particularly by truck drivers, with overloaded trucks. On the way up we counted three overturned trucks and another three on the way back. To say that driving on that stretch is not for the faint hearted would be an understatement. Thankfully, work will soon begin on a new motorway as a replacement for the ‘road from hell’, and although I welcome it, I believe that this should have happened years ago, considering that Bouake is the second largest city in the Ivory Coast.

In spite of all that, the trip itself was a success overall. I have reconnected with people I hadn’t seen in years, and my husband was able to see more of the country. The road from hell didn’t take away the fact that this was a holiday to remember.

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