I take a quick romp around Robertsport Fante town that night. The former airport now has buildings on the runway while the windsock still dances. Some of the fishing boats here are huge, the keel dug from a single tree. Out of the water they were taller than me and as long as a London bus.
The next day I walk through the ruins of a 2 storey hotel, what must have been the hotel, with views onto the crashing waves and fishermen bringing in the lunchtime catch by dragging in a net from on the beach. Everything had been taken – pipework, doorframes. All that remained a roofless, but not soulless, structure of concrete.
Strong petrol fumes, direct sun, and the swaying of the 7 person shared taxi (3 front plus the driver) make the road to Monrovia difficult. Coming towards the capital we cross bridges made by Pakistani UN engineers. Monrovia has quite a nice centre, with some historic monuments among only a few broken buildings. I see a group of people on the first and second floors of a building with no walls or other utilities. Water drips from somewhere onto the street below.
One floor of the national museum has photos from the end of the war in 2003. They made me stop and think. In streets recognisable to me were images of a female fighter brandishing a gun; US helicopters cheered by a crowd; people seeking shelter next to (not in) the UNHCR office; the hospital at Mamba Point taking in patients once more; all here inches from where I was standing. It says something that Monrovia is so much a city already.
The Atlantic is brown in colour for whatever reason on Atlantic Street, Buchanan. The town is pretty small for Liberia’s second port. The road on to River Cess Town and then Sinoe/Greenville is a loggers road. Untarred, long, like we see of the Amazon, but undulating. It takes 2 days. A policeman there says “this man is come to check we are all doing things right”. He seemed to think I was with the UN; my accidental travelling companion didn’t help: “He’s travelling with the Chief Inspecta. No white man woul’ come from his country jus’ to see things”!
The road onto Harper is equally as rough, and takes another 2 days. We pass large pickups that had apparently been stuck in the thick mud up to their wing-mirrors for a week. Harper reminded me a lot of Robertsport, at the other end of the country, but that’s for next time.