Week 24, 25 & 26 Man down, relying on the goodness of others & stuck behind enemy lines in Ivory Coast TOTAL 10926 km
A complicated few weeks that refused the opportunity to get online and publish the blog, my belated apologies to those of you living vicariously through the publication.
The town of Nzerekore in Guinea would play host to a very sick cyclist, taking refuge in the Catholic mission for two days and nights trying to recover from a bout of food poising that had me delusional and drained my body of all its remaining energy. After having my toiletry bag stolen in Senegal, rectifying the situation was more complicated than it needed to be, a huge thanks to the guys at Herbalife, Mozambique for the donation of supplements that helped to get me back on track.
In a strange twist of fate my getting ill forced me to take a couple days rest, resulting in me not crossing over the border into Ivory Coast in the region of Danane, turns out to be an extremely lucky twist in the Global Wheeling saga as there was intense gun fire in the region between opposing forces as the complications in the country continue to unfold as two presidents battle for the helm of Cote Devoire.
After chatting to local Guinean traders that all refused to cross into Ivory Coast losing money in the process, news of Liberian mercenaries running riot in the region and thousands of refugees pouring over the border, I decided to give the Danane crossing a miss and head north to Mali and onwards to Burkina Faso to try and go around the conflict.
Unfortunately, curiosity got the better of me after notching up only 130 km north in the direction of Beylah, the thought of thousands of extra km just didn’t sit well with this tired cyclist. I made the call to cross into Ivory Coast in the northern rebel held region of Odienne’ and try my luck just north of the line of fire.
Entering the country in the northern rebel secured region was far from an official matter as I was met by a small faction of the rebel Force Nouval on entry, no stamps here, I was given a handwritten letter and instructed to take it to the first military check point in Odienne’25 km away and explain myself to the commander and plead my case for access into the country which was by no means guaranteed.
Sitting down with the commander of Odienne’ who had by this stage contacted the head of UN security for the region letting them know there was some South African fellow attempting to cross Ivory Coast on a bicycle. Not the best nationality to be parading around the north of Ivory Coast as Gbagbo and Zuma make no secret of their alliance and pro Ouattarra supporters not looking favourably upon South African Jacob Zuma and his relationship with the opposing Gbagbo.
I was given a strict itinerary and allotted time frame in which I had to cross the country, coupled with a letter for rite of passage which would be obtained for a small fee. (Libre Circulation).After two nights in the sanctuary of the UN compound I would roll out of Odienne’ with my letter intact and a pocket full of hope as I attempted to cross this intensely militarised region in a country on the verge of civil war solo on a bicycle.
Gravel roads, military check points, power cuts and humidity would be the order of the day as I navigated my way through Bundiali, Korhogo and Ferke making my way towards Bouna and in the direction of the Ghanaian border crossing of Chache.I would be taken in by Cattle farmers from Burkina Faso that had migrated with their herd south to graze from the fertile fields south of the border waiting for the rains to come during the wet season so they could return to their families with their cattle to feed of the new shoots that would sprout after the rains.
Reaching the border in Ghana would require navigating the river crossing, one I would achieve by hitch hiking a lift with cocoa traders on a small wooden boat to arrive on the shores of Ghana, country number 14, 6 months on the road and just shy of 11 000 km, Very pleased to be speaking English again and out of harm’s way for a bit as I enter a very friendly and safe feeling Ghana.
This publication goes out to the boys at the UN compound of Odienne’ in Ivory Coast and in particular the big man from Canada JM, who went above and beyond the call of duty to make my crossing of Ivory Coast as safe and feasible as possible, the man stands testament to good old school values of hospitality and helping a man in need, thank you brother.