Welcome to Cestos City!

At the end of the dusty track is a small town on a peninsular between the Cestos River and the Atlantic Ocean. But you have to drive the 4+ hour journey yourself to fully appreciate the humour to the sign, “Welcome to Cestos City!”

We visited there recently and stayed in a local guesthouse which provided me with a far better sleep than I’ve had in UN guesthouses in other parts of the country. A clean simple room with a mosquito net, large bed, sea breeze, and a bucket of warm water to wash with in the morning – what else does a gal need for her US$25? If it were not for the generosity of the Ghanian peace-keepers who provided meals for us, it would be difficult to manage as a visitor. Food is not available on the streets and I don’t know how often there is a local market. The only way to make it for a long stay is to find a house/room to rent – you may have to find a partly constructed house and complete the building yourself – and set up a means to cook for yourself everyday with supplies brought in from Monrovia or Buchanan. You can get fresh or smoked fish which is the enormous benefit of living on the coast! Our staff spend most of the evenings and weekends in the office where there is 24-hour power and internet access most of the time. (Cestos does not have a functioning light or power grid nor running water as is the norm for all places outside of Monrovia.)

The County Superintendent (who has just been reappointed by the President for another term) is quite active. He moves everywhere with his iPad showing photos of building projects and he has quite a few plans to develop the county. He has started a new road and wants to encourage people to eventually move to a new part of the town as sea erosion will eventually inundate the current town centre. Unlike many Superintendents he spends most of his time in the county and he appears to enjoy the job and be competent to plan and manage the work well.

Somehow despite the difficulties, I quite like Cestos. It is a quiet village with a restful feel to it. Perhaps I like it better because it is on the coast I have an affinity for the beach),or perhaps the functional County Administration brings a different sense of hope, but whatever the reason, if you get posted to Cestos you should not be too despairing – there are many worse places to be!

These photos will illustrate some of the sights of Cestos City…

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I’m back in Monrovia

I’m back in Monrovia. Back in the green and brown land. Back to slow and frustrating internet service. Back to food that always disappoints. Back to distrust and having to stay on constant alert. Back to tedious superficial work. Sigh. I want to be positive, but its difficult to move beyond a sort of relative positivism derived from knowing that “there are worse places to be”. That always sustained me through difficult times in Albania “well you could be back in the classroom facing 35 rampant 13 year olds…hmmm…better to be here afterall!” Now that thoughtline is replaced with “well you could be in Afghanistan, or Dafur, or Iraq…hmmm….better to be here afterall.” But it does kind of wear thin. Mainly because my subconscious is also starting to raise a counter argument to that…”well you could also be in Australia, or Croatia, Cambodia or Uganda…hmm…so you don’t actually have to stay here!” Aahhh the human mind is pretty amazing and tricky in how it reveals what’s really going on as a sort of sudden surprising revelation. I’m not about to make any changes, and I plan to stay in Liberia for as long as it makes sense to, but that’s not to say that there are some days when its nice to dream of escape and a more enjoyable and constructive way to pass my time.

These negative thoughts are somehow indicative that I had a fine holiday these last 5 weeks…great holiday equals difficult re-entry! The long flight back gave me time to think through the type of life I want here. As I can’t do much to change the work scenario, I need to sort out a few things related to my living situation – deal with the house-cleaner who is cheating me, find a new fitness routine to replace taekwondo, resign from all responsibilities outside of work, and expand my social network. All the usual things that we typically think through at the start of a new year hey…but good things that will help me to be happier for as long as I’m in Monrovia. I spent a few evenings sitting by the beach with an evening drink. The sunset by the beach is the best time of the day in Monrovia!

Even with the weeks of silence on the blog, there has been a steady stream of readers – noice! I need to find the time to post more and snazzy things up a little…if only the internet was a tad faster!!!

Here’s a photo to capture the mood of this post…sunset at the beach taken New Year 2012. Til next time, let’s keep smiling 🙂

Historic Harper, Maryland County

The city of Harper, Maryland County, is an historic place. No, I am not referring to Maryland County, USA, but the Maryland that is tucked away in Liberia’s South-East. Of all the places outside of Monrovia that I have visited, Harper stands out as the most established and substantial in the sense of having paved roads, solid buildings, and even a lighthouse. In its heyday Harper must have really been something! Now, unfortunately most of its buildings are in ruins and the city is a shadow of its former self. It makes for great photographic opportunities though!!

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The city was the first part of the coastline which was settled and eventually came to be called Liberia. The Episcopal Church was first established in a town nearby, and the church in the slideshow was built in 1851. The County was originally independent with its own administration and port, but eventually it agreed to merge in Liberia in order to have access to better services and particularly access to Liberian military protection! Many of the buildings are abandoned and occupied by squatters, but they are reminiscent of the architecture of southern America (or so it seems to me). The history, port, nearby beaches and natural beauty would make this little town a viable and interesting destination if only it were not so remote and far from the attention of most tourists! If you happen to be in Liberia though, it is a great place to visit for a few days 🙂

Top 20 places to visit in sub-saharan Africa – revisited

At the beginning of 2011, I created my list of ‘Top Ten places I want to explore in Africa’ and it evolved into my list of top 20 places to visit in sub-saharan Africa. It includes the best safari destinations, world heritage sites, and the best beach locations, but of course there’s heaps more to see on his vast continent than can be contained in this list. The challenge I set myself was to see how much of the list I could experience by 31 Dec 2011, and after my recent holiday I thought it would be a good time to revisit the list.

My list of top 20 places to visit in sub-saharan Africa (in no particular order) – reviewed October 2011

  1. Kenya – Masai Mara, Samburu, Amboselli, and East & West Tsavo National Parks [DONE] + Mara North Conservancy
  2. Botswana – Okavango Delta, [DONE] Chobe National Park
  3. Namibia – Skeleton Coast, Namib desert, Etosha National Park
  4. Tanzania – Serengeti National Park and Ngorongo Crater [DONE]
  5. Uganda – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and mountain gorillas [DONE] See my Uganda’s mountain gorilla page!
  6. Tanzania – Zanzibar [DONE TWICE]
  7. South Africa – Cape of Good Hope, Rodden Island, Table Mountain [DONE]
  8. Kenya – Lamu Island [DONE]
  9. Zambia and Zimbabwe – Victoria Falls [DONE]
  10. Ghana – Kakum National Park and Cape Coast fort [DONE]  See my Ghana page
  11. South Africa – Krueger National Park [DONE]
  12. Senegal – Goree Island, St Louis Island [DONE]
  13. Tanzania – Mt Kiliminjaro [SEEN IT but never climbed it]
  14. Rwanda – Virguna mountains and the mountain gorillas [DONE]
  15. Zambia – South Luanga National Park [DONE]
  16. Kenya/Tanzania – the great migration [1/2 DONE] We were there but the wilderbeest didn’t cooperate.
  17. Gabon – national park
  18. Malawi – Lake Malawi
  19. Mozambique
  20. Namibia – Fish River Canyon

So, where am I at with all this now? I guess that my last 2011 holiday will be to Ethiopia, so nothing more from the Top 20 list will be conquered this year, unless I change the list! In 2012 I might aim to get to Namibia and Malawi or Mozimbique, but that depends largely on what job opportunities emerge.

The remaining challenge is to document each place with photos and commentary. I have 10,000s of photos from all my travels and safaris; I just need bandwidth and time to post the best of them. The original purpose of the pages at the top of the blog was to write about these destinations and experiences. I have not achieved that and I’m a bit overwhelmed by the task because I would need to re-jig the blog and commit a load of time to it (but I will persist as it is a worthwhile project).

Africa is a brilliantly beautiful continent and yet also tragically difficult place to live in. I hope I’ll get to share my experiences and thoughts but I also love to hear from others who have travelled the same roads and enjoyed the same locations.

A day exploring iSimangaliso Wetland Park, RSA

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I spent a day exploring South Africa’s oldest World Heritage Site- established in Dec 1999. iSimangaliso Wetland Park is quite beautiful but I think you need a 4×4 and a few days to explore the areas further from St Lucia. I … Continue reading

3 days in Durban, South Africa – Photos

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3 weeks ago I was in Durban for 3 days. 🙂

Durban is bigger than I imagined, with a population of 3 million. That’s almost the entire population of Liberia which is estimated to be 3.9 million. For a city that large it is amazingly well organised and easy to get around in a hire car with street directory. After being in Liberia I always notice the normal infrastructure that is lacking here – Durban has painted lines on its roads, working traffic lights (why they call them ‘robots’ in RSA I still don’t understand!), electricity, highrise buildings in the city centre, and everything that makes for a sophisticated city, allbeit, some parts are looking a bit faded and run down. The sports stadium for the World Cup is pretty awesome and stands out on the skyline. The best bit however, is the beach, which runs right the length of the city and there’s a strip of hotels called the ‘golden mile’ which caters for the tourist. That was all very nice but what surprised me was that its a surfing beach and because of the piers jutting out into the sea you can actully watch the surfers surf right past you! I didn’t expect that!!

Apparently its also the biggest cargo port in the country, but for all of that the water looks inviting. It was novel to watch the surfers up close and fun to try some action photography. There was the challenge of the reflected light from the water and the fact that the surfers were often backlit so it was hard to get a really decent shot. Sometimes half the fun is in trying!

I stayed in B&B guesthouses throughout this holiday and found it a refreshing change from big hotels. I did stay in one of the best – Rosetta House in a very nice part of Durban. It was excellent! Best breakfast in town! Run by wonderfully friendly people. I might try this more often as its a nice way to meet other guests, get local tips about the city, and in this case to enjoy luxurious comfort for a reasonable price!

Durban was fun. It might be the only place in South Africa where it still feels like summer, even in winter! maybe the surfing vibe does that  🙂

Stay tuned for more photos from RSA…St Lucia, whale-watching, iSimangaliso Wetland Park and iMfolozi Game Park.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Ocean

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2 fotos of the wild ocean. the sea off the coast of liberia, west africa, is rough with dangerous rips.  it can be powerful, violent, and beautiful. these shots were taken 30 minutes drive outside of monrovia, liberia, on a windy day in september.

livin”nliberia #10 – robertsport foto-safari

with Friend and Visitor in mind, we made a trip to robertsport, the beach tourism and surfing centre of liberia! it makes for a good day-trip as you drive 2 – 3 hours out of monrovia and end up in a small town on the coast where you can enjoy a lunch at the beach and even swim or surf if you are brave enough. its best described in pictures, so here are some of the shots taken as we made our foto-safari starting with the monument to peace-keeping and this concrete representation of the liberian flag! 🙂

after exploring the town a bit and stopping at the fishing quarter, we headed for the beach. you can see from this next set of fotos why its worth the drive to enjoy a few hours in the sun! nana’s lodge has ben featured in the new york times, and while it is unusual to find any tourist establishment in liberia, the international attention is quite over-rated.

certainly an idyllic beach location devoid of tourist infrastructure and amenities…beautiful Robertsport.

i hope u enjoyed the fotoz!