I like the market, and indeed Grand Lahou, better the second day. Some goodwill from passing strangers, and 800 CFA francs in change in my pocket allows me to buy what I want (I had been having small change problems). I even manage to get hold of a Moldovan made ice cream.
On hearing I’m a scientist, the hotel owner that night mistakes me for a sociologist, and tells me about all the regions tribes – stretching to Nigeria! He also tells me that during the recent war (with President Gbagbo refusing to leave office) rebels demanded free lodgings, air conditioning and all, before smashing in all the doors looking for loot. Not something I really wanted to hear.
From Grand Lahou its a coach ride via Abidjan to Grand Bassam. On reaching the de facto capital for change of coach, the vehicle stops in the Adjame district. Cue the most complicated way of getting on a bus:
1. With grease stains obtained somehow on first coach, find the correct ticket queue in a massive muddle of people
2. Queue for an hour and a half
3. Present rucksack to baggage team and receive baggage ticket
4. Go to ticket hall and pay baggage ticket
5. Get on coach!
From the centre of Abidjan we join the coast road and follow it all the way to Grand Bassam. The Atlantic looks invitingly blue.
There are some lovely old buildings in Bassam. Some are in use – like the wax cloth shop inside a derelict hotel, stock visible through absent doors and windows – while others slowly crumble. The town has the same air as Saint Louis in Senegal: that when all is said and done it is a European’s town, despite independence.
I have to travel the 40 minutes or so back to the capital to pick up a visa for onward travel. Abidjan reminds me a little of London – its that kind of city, with sky scrappers, flyovers, traffic, supermarkets and everything anyone could ever want, including Haribo Smurfs. I can’t wait to get out.