Yamassoukro, village near Man, Cote d'ivorie
A very long drive day along some very bad "roads" gets us from Korhogo to Yamoussoukro, or Yakro, the political and administrative capital. Yakro would be the strangest African city I've seen, other than the market area, you wouldn't know you were in Africa with its deserted, streetlight lined boulevards, no noise, no chaos, no sign of the poverty that completely exists in the area. Truly bizarre and all the work of a past president, Felix Houphouet who clearly had some vision that far exceeded any reality.
The main reason for stopping here was to witness the Basillica of Our Lady of peace, a basillica that ole Felix wanted to be a replica of Rome's St Peter Basillica. It's rumoured to have cost around a billion euro and is adorned heavily with gold, marble and stained glass from France, there is even a 1km of marble road leading away from the basillica to a road which really seems to head nowhere, clearly money well spent in a country so poor. The 24 stained glass windows within are incredible, telling traditional stories from the bible with a bit of local anecdotes thrown in as well, there is even a carved statue of Mary draped in Muslim garb, it was apparently carved by someone whilst in jail and the president was so impressed with his work he released him upon completion. It really is as impressive as Rome but it really does make you question the sanity of the man.
Yakro itself could be the home of insanity, a few of us grab dinner at 'la Bella pizza' and whilst we are dining the owners proudly produce a scrap book, they used to provide a home for a couple of baby hippos as well as chimps, the photos appeared to indicate both lots of animals were happy playing and being walked by humans, but apparently they had to transport them to more appropriate lodgings as the locals weren't across how to continue to look,after these animals. It does prove though that my dream of having a pet hippo is not unrealistic!
On we push through Cote d'ivorie passing through Man, which rolls out the traditional African welcome, ear splitting music being pumped through the crazy, chaotic and dusty streets, at least these guys had speakers that they hadn't blown yet, so the sound whilst ear splitting was actually recognisable and not nails down the chalkboard annoying. Man was really just a bit of a passing jaunt to stick up on supplies, about 70km on is Guenimanzo village, who have set up a bit of a gig where they take tourists through, for us we are welcomed in to set up camp for the night.
We arrive late arvo and are greeted overwhelmingly by the village, but once they've had a good look at us they leave us to set ourselves up and wander about the village which is full of goats, cows, pigs as well as all the villagers, definitely not high on the appropriate sanitation list! As I wander the women are knocking off work, they are singing and dancing with gusto to end the day - reckon this could be something worthwhile instigating at work :-), and the local lads making bricks are really excited to show off their muscles and have their pictures taken, whilst the older folk of the village are just curious as to why we are there.
In the evening they invite us to their local music and dancing, this time round it's stilt dancers, masked men dancing on impossibly high stilts, occasionally getting in our face screaming but mostly just walking around with a pot looking for money, money which at the end they count up and announce to the village which ensures more dancing. The older women of the village are the highlight of the evening, some dancing with babies on their back, even the lads of the village are enthralled, yelling out their appreciation as a mark of respect.
And finally to round this one out, being part of the village we are welcome to pee anywhere as the locals do and if number 2s are required, anywhere is fine too...just be mindful of where the pigs are, as they are only too happy to help you out, negating the need for the use of any toilet paper...
Time to push on to Liberia.