Ivory Coast Begins

I move South, hugging the West Coast of Ivory Coast, first bordering Guinea, and later Liberia. These borders have only recently re-opened after the Ebola outbreak from about six months prior.

At Odiénné I buy gas and food supplies, and am shocked to find myself on and excellent paved road. Even more shocking is the complete lack of cars, motorbikes and trucks. I have the road all to myself, and make excellent time down to the city of Man, nestled in the mountains. Just before town I’m treated to a massive West-African rain storm, something I have not seen since Guinea. The temperature rapidly drops ten degrees and the rain, thunder and lightning crashes down for 30 minutes, before ending as quickly as it began.

In Man I camp in the parking lot of a run down hotel, a stones throw from the bustling market and downtown. I take a rest day, checkout the nearby famous waterfalls and swing bridge, and generally just wander around town. On Sunday morning I can hear and extremely loud evangelical church gathering, the leaders screaming sermon booming over a PA system. The friendly ladies at the door assure me I am welcome, though the screaming and chanting make me feel very uncomfortable, and I get out of there as fast as I think is polite, without taking out my camera.

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Camping in the hotel parking lot, Man

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Man by night

In the morning I pay a visit to the head Customs building, and right off the bat I speak French, which turns out to be a big mistake. My second mistake is parking the Jeep inside the Customs compound, where everyone can see it, and they have some degree of control over it – if they close the gate it’s effectively trapped. “The Colonel” is called, and after a ten minute wait I am introduced to a very smartly dressed man, wearing multiple gold watches who everyone seems very quick to please. Shortly after sitting in his office and explaining that I’d like a computerized version of the Temporary Import Permit I got at the border, he looks me square in the face and says that because I’m a white guy with money, I will give him 50,000CFA ($100 USD) for it.

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Making repairs to a couple of my electronic chargers

Something about his attitude has me rattled right away. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m tired, or because I was not mentally prepared for this, or because I’m doing it all in French and only understanding about 60% of what is said to me. Whatever the case, I know I’m in trouble. He really seems like the kind of no nonsense man who will impound my Jeep without a second thought, and that scares me. He laughs at my request for a receipt, and he is now holding my hand-written paperwork and registration, so it’s not like I can just drive to the border and leave the country. I explain that I sleep in my car because I don’t have a lot of money, and thankfully my shirt is kind of grubby, so he believes that I have not had a shower in a few days (true). Eventually he comes down to 30,000 CFA ($50 USD), which he puts into his top drawer while his minion types up the details.

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The rope bridge near the famous waterfall of Man

I’m really not happy to pay that bribe, but something about the whole exchange felt very wrong to me. With the immigration guy at the border and this customs guy being so dead-set on bribery, I’m going to have to really watch it here.

After the troubling morning I set off, heading South and once again hugging the Western-most border, aiming for a seldom visited National Park I have been repeatedly told is a must-visit. Everyone I talk to along the route says I’m heading for the worst road in Ivory Coast.

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Heading South. This road will get interesting

This should be interesting.


12 Responses

  1. T&J says:

    Huh – suppose the $50 was a cheap way to stay out of trouble. Sometimes it is better to be smarter than harder.
    And i’m sure you did assess the situation right. In situations like this there is almost a bad smell or aura is the better word attached to these guys. You could have ended up with all sorts of dubious trumped up charges against you. This is Africa too.
    Hamba kahle

  2. joluc says:

    happy to see, you hace come to my country, i have friends in niakaramandougou and boaké, more further south. give me a buzz if you are in trouble again. laws on bribery are quite strict in ivory coast and the right phonecall could have got you out of that situation. usually tips in the scale of 5 to 10 dollars are ok though and tolerated. but then some documents need stamps from the treasure, if you need some, you can get them in or near the courthouses, elsewhere they are more expensive . for your experience this haggling down was good. for your future, in doubt again, tell the guys, that ask you some bribery or money, that you need to call a friend who works for the state-treasure (i.e. my brother in law) first, to see whether the requested amount is correct. Or tell them that you are in a hurry to meet the prefet of boaké (aquaintance of mine, i am careful with using the word friend) same for further travel (mayor of cocody). Once the guys realize, that you know people that know people of importance, they calm down. wish you success with bluffing a bit, a safe travel , pleasant stay and let me know how you are getting on

  3. Anthony says:

    I got the heebie-jeebies reading this. Glad you got out of there alright and by the sounds of it, $50 was a fair price to pay to never have to deal with the Colonel again.

  4. Jared says:

    This was corruption at it’s best/worst. I guess you’ve gotten away with paying many bribes, so it was bound to catch up to you. You can’t win every time. The description of the Colonel as a “very smartly dressed man, wearing multiple gold watches” was excellent. I can see the minor king sitting on his govt. throne, requesting that you pay him tribute.

  5. Gennady says:

    Why were Sierra Leone and Liberia skipped? Cheers.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Gennady,

      I didn’t like the safety situation, and I was sick of the torrential rain every day – I was there in the rainy season.

      In hindsight, I regret not going – I have heard amazing things about both countries! A friend is there right now and loving it!


  6. Scott says:

    You mentioned leaving the Jeep to go on some waterfall hikes – I’ve searched around your AMA and the website to see if you have any articles on security and all I was able to find was the kill-switch. What do you do, to feel comfortable leaving your Jeep unattended during a hike? Ever had a problem with theft?

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Scott,

      I do have a bunch of lock boxes in the Jeep to keep all my stuff safe. I talk about it a lot in this recent video:


  1. March 4, 2017

    […] I was rattled and I'm happy to still be in possession of the Jeep. Read the full story here: http://theroadchoseme.com/ivory-coast-begins -Dan Around Africa in a Jeep Wrangler JK @ To view links or images in signatures your […]

  2. March 4, 2017

    […] Read the rest of the story on The Road Chose Me […]

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