Liberia is a country with an incredible and tumultuous history. The small coastal, predominantly Christian and English speaking West African nation was formed in the 1840’s by over 18,000 freed American and Caribbean slaves who returned to Africa.
Their flag is modelled on the US flag and the nation was the first African state to declare its independence. It is also Africa’s first and oldest modern republic and was a founding member of the United Nations.
Unfortunately in recent times it’s people have had to endure milatary coups, two civil wars and an Ebola outbreak.
From the border crossing we drove only a few kilometres before turning down a jungle track which after twenty minutes ended at a long disused quarry which is locally known as Blue Lake.
The water was fresh and clear and a perfect temperature for swimming. I set up my tent on the waters edge and spent the afternoon relaxing.
The area near the border is dominated by Mt Nimba and a huge area of rainforest. We explored the rainforest and then began the trip towards the capital Monrovia. With poor roads and lots of delays from roadworks we stopped halfway at Kpatawe Waterfalls where I climbed up the cascade and spent an hour laying in the current and sprawled out on the rocks. Very refreshing in the humidity.
The area was at one stage a RAMSAR site but unfortunately the wetlands have all been replaced with rice fields and rubber plantations.
My next stop was a couple of days at the beach and Libassa Eco Lodge, which is about 30km east of Monrovia.
There isn’t much to say about Libassa except, ‘swim, eat, swim, drink, swim, sleep X 3’
Before long I arrived on `planet Monrovia`the capital of Liberia.
I caught a taxi up to the Ducor Hotel, which a few years ago was one of Africa’s few five star hotels and where numerous dignitaries stayed from African despots to UN staff. Amongst those was Idi Amin who famously swam in the hotel pool and refused to take his gun off because he didn’t trust everyone around him.
The Ducor, is just one of hundreds of old ‘colonial type’ buildings throughout the country that were destroyed by worlord Charles Taylor and his murdering band of rebels and child soldiers that terrorised the region causing three civil wars in two countries. When his war crimes trial concluded in The Hague in 2012, the judge in summing up stated, “The accused has been found responsible for……… some of the most heinous and brutal crimes in recorded human history.”
I travelled around parts of Monrovia by motorbike taxi and chattered to locals, all of whom seemed optimistic about their nation’s road to recovery from wars and Ebola.
Nestled on a remote part of the Liberian west coast, near the Sierra Leone border is one of Africa’s gems. The quiet town of Robertsport, which is well known today as one of Africa’s best surfing spots.
The main surfing season is during the wet season and the waves were only small when I visited but the occasional larger set came through and the local village kids were out there carving up the left hand point break on donated boards.
The beaches are clean, the water clear, the locals are friendly and there are no crowds or beach boys or venders to be seen anywhere. Idyllic, pretty much sums it up. It’s certainly one of the three nicest beach locations I’ve visited in Africa.
I went for a walk along the coast to a shipwreck that mysteriously appeared one night during a storm two years ago.
I met the local fisherman on the beach one morning and bought a large fish off him. I took it to the beach cafe near where I was staying and they smothered it in limes and spices, wrapped it in foil and three hours later we had a sensational lunchtime feast.
From Robertsport it was only a couple of hours drive to the Sierra Leone border on the Mano River at Bo Waterside.
I was stamped out of Liberia relatively smoothly and pointed in the direction of the bridge and river below. On the other side of that river is Sierra Leone.
Bye for now….