Spruicing up Monrovia, Liberia

I am so used to seeing the small stalls, crazy yellow taxis, and the chaos of Duala and Red Light market areas, that the recent developments in Monrovia are a pleasant surprise which almost passed without notice. There is a new¬†one-way road movement in the central area, newly painted zebra-crossings, new road-signs, and even street signs in Sinkor! Something is in the air!! Here are a few shots snapped from the vehicle window but I hope it gives you the impression that things are moving “small, small” in the big city.

Perhaps it took the ‘birds’ eye view’ I got from the new 8 storey office building for me to recognise the progress being made, because from the 5th floor it was great to see the new buildings on the horizon. The road infrastructure is being tidied up and some new forms of public transport are emerging…this is my favourite! ūüôā

In keeping with the Liberian flag theme of my last post, this photo incorporates the flag into the billboard message from the President of the Republic, “Liberia will Rise Again!”. Its a sentiment of hope that might be realised if the country can pass through the forth-coming election smoothly.

 

Hotel Africa, Monrovia

There’s not much evidence of the¬†Hotel Africa’s¬†5-star former glory but it offers some photographic interest to pass away a Sunday afternoon. We talked the guard into showing us around and snapped a few photos as we went. It would be¬†a great place to return to with a tripod and more time. So for a photo safari with a difference, here is a¬†photographic tour¬†inside the ruined hotel.

From what I can understand the Hotel Africa was built (with Libyan investment) for a large Pan-African Conference in the mid-80s. There were separate villas for each head of state (so over 50 villas) and a pool built in the shape of the map of Africa. The hotel continued in service right up to the 1990s but then the war began and eventually the hotel was looted and it has laid in ruins ever since. It must have been beautiful when it opened and it is still a very solid structure. There are rumours that Libya might invest again (and in the Ducor Hotel in Mambo Point) but given the current turn of events, I doubt that will happen any time soon.

It has taken an hour to upload these photos so I don’t want to push my internet luck any further. The final comment is that if you google Hotel Africa Monrovia you will find in Yahoo travel that you can still book rooms at a reasonable rate but the customer’s didn’t rate the service very highly!¬†ūüôā

Monrovia photo-safari

The Project¬†has begun! Mission:¬†‘Raise the standard! Purpose: 1.¬†Improve my¬†photo collection. 2. Make space for new photos from up-coming safari. Activity: 1. Edit and enhance¬†all 25,000 photos; 2.¬†Delete those that¬†are not up to standard.¬†Timeframe: Weekends and some evenings until the mission is complete. Deadline: Sometime before 2015!

The benefit of The Project is that I am revisiting photos in my collection (I dare not call it my portfolio) and rediscovering¬† the fun of those moments. I think it appropriate that I share some of those moments with you. My last post about¬†Grand Bassa County was a product of that remembering! So here now are some photos from a photo-safari through the streets of Monrovia, Liberia in March 2009. They give a taste of the scenes from the vehicle window rather than being up close and personal. Notice how much of the Liberian economy is driven by small shops (stalls under umbrellas by the side of the road) where people eke out a living by ‘trying small small’.

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(Again I’ll opt for a slideshow because that’s the fastest way to deal with the upload, and I assume if it works well enough for me to see it on Liberian ISP speed, then you with the faster ISP speeds will have no problem at all!)

Top 10 places to see in Africa

After 2 years livin”nLiberia its time to expand this blog a bit. I’m bored with it and haven’t written much at all this year.

Taking my restlessness as a hint, therefore, I want to post my list of ‘Top Ten places I want to explore in Africa’. Its actually not too easy to drill the list down to the top 10 in africa, so after hours of pondering I’ve ended up with my list of top 20 places to visit in sub-saharan africa.

I’m driven by a desire to see 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. Anyway, the list will be my starting point for my holiday planning for 2011. My challenge – to see how much of the list I can enjoy by 31 Dec 2011.

My list of top 20 places to visit in sub-saharan Africa…(in no particular order)

  1. Kenya РMasai Mara, Samburu, Amboselli, Tsavo and other National Parks [DONE]
  2. Botswana – Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park
  3. Namibia – Skeleton Coast, Namib desert, Etosha National Park
  4. Tanzania РSerengeti National Park and Ngorongo Crater [DONE] Very nice but lousy roads
  5. Uganda – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and mountain gorillas¬†[DONE] See my Uganda’s mountain gorilla page for more information on this!
  6. Tanzania РZanzibar [DONE] and will do it again! Special!
  7. South Africa РCape of Good Hope, Rodden Island, Table Mountain [DONE]
  8. Kenya – Lamu Island [DONE]
  9. Zambia/Zimbabwe – Victoria Falls
  10. Ghana РKakum National Park and Cape Coast fort [DONE]
  11. South Africa – Krueger National Park [DONE]
  12. Senegal РGoree Island, St Louis Island [DONE]
  13. Tanzania – Mt Kiliminjaro [SEEN IT, BUT MAYBE I SHOULD CLIMB IT – later]
  14. Rwanda – Virguna mountains and the mountain gorillas
  15. Zambia – South Luange National Park
  16. Kenya/Tanzania – the great migration
  17. Gabon – national park
  18. Malawi – Lake Malawi
  19. Mozambique
  20. Namibia – Fish River Canyon

The additional challenge is to document each place with fotoz and commentary. I’ve got 10,000s of fotoz from all my travels and safaris – I just need bandwidth and time to post the best of them to whet people’s appetites. This 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 also to hear from others who have travelled the same roads and enjoyed the same sites.

Of course I can intersperse the top 20 places in sub-saharan africa with the top 10 places to visit in Liberia – now there’s a weirdly unique challenge – what should be included in that list? waterside markets, africa hotel, robertsport, monkey island, red light market, …

omg

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! ūüôā

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!

livin”nliberia #9 – monrovia foto-safari

I have a visitor to ‘planet monrovia’ – yes, i really do know someone who considers Liberia a place to visit without coming here to earn a crust. As there aren’t really many sight-seeing locations,¬†you have to explore the sights with a camera at the ready. A few hours driving north and south in the city is all it takes to form the impression that life in Liberia is tough.

I’ll let the fotos speak for themselves…

The next set of fotos were taken in the market area known as ‘Red Light’ It is pretty intense and we weren’t welcomed with our cameras. “Don’t ya take ma foto man!” That, of course, is quite understandable. I certainly don’t want to be seen as the rich tourist making a foto record that somehow exploits the sadness of impoverished people in Liberia. But, at the same time, I’ve been in Liberia for 18 months now, and driving through these areas is part of my life. People who are not here can’t understand wot its like ‘livin’nLiberia’ unless they get to see some fotos. So, we upset a few people but I felt it was important enuff to keep snapping some fotos. Apologies to any who are offended…

at least one man smiled at us!!

You can’t miss the motorcycle riders who sit around ready to transport people where they want to go.¬†There have been security concerns about the motorcycle unions as the groups of riders are easily mobilised for protests if there is an incident. In order to improve the situation various international partners have provided training in traffic rules and road safety to the bike owners, while also distributing helmets. They are a pretty volatile group.

…but this rider posed while sitting on his motorbike!

So that’s all for this post. I’ve got many other fotos and will try to post more of them later, but soon later!

1000 hits

so i thought i’d jump on to the blog even though i’m on holidays and sick-leave. it seems appropriate to reflect a little now that i just recorded my 1,000th visitor to the blog-page. i guess the people who read this are curious about liberia and africa – that’s why i jump onto other people’s liberia sites when i find them! but then i don’t think i really do the best job of telling people how it is to live in liberia. i must make more effort to do that this year when i return. otherwise, its mainly my small circle of friends around the globe who jump onto the site when i remind them that its been up-dated!!

well of course, i’m no mathematician, but even i know that 1000 visitors to a blog page started in 2008, is not many visitors really!! wot – maybe one a day. well, i did have 28 visitors on my most popular day, sometime in april 2009, so if i want to improve that, i just need to post more, remind my friends more. so, its not exactly a mega-site or anything, but i think its still worth pursuing becoz it gives me a platform to describe my life in liberia and display some of my fotos from around africa. hmmm, i must do more of that this year also – and i will! senegal, namibia, botswana, zambia, rwanda are all options on my 2010 travel list – more foto-safaris – YAY!! overall, i just need to be more active on the blog if i want to have more readers. yes….this year i need to do that too!!!

actually i have finally managed to print out some of my fotos from kenya, uganda and tanzania. they’re probably better than the average tourist would get, well for sure they are, but they’re definitely NOT at professional level yet. me still amateur, but me happy with progress! at least i’ll have a nice calendar to put up in the office, and people will definitely be impressed. i’ve got to get some serious internet time and upload fotos to my foto-safari pages.

well, everything is a work in progress, so small small we will get there. altho’ i think even if i had no audience, i’d still blog becoz i want to try to express my thoughts and record my experiences while livin”nliberia, so it is worthwhile doing solely for me! the fact that others read it, is a bonus i think. definitely a bonus!!

if you actually do jump on and read this, please feel free to comment… or advise… no mockery please!

ps. no return to liberia until 19 march at the earliest – i’m on sick-leave.

FayzFotoz

way, way, way back in the early 90’s, i had my Canon T70 slung over my shoulder as i back-packed around asia, crossed russia on the trans-siberian train, and meandered about europe. as those shots were all taken on film i don’t have many fotoz from that period to display digitally, just a few that i scanned into digi-format. i clung onto my faithful canon way longer than necessary and got a little olympus ‘point and shoot’ as my entry into the digital fotography era. that was woefully inadequate to catch all the shots that could’ve been taken in kosovo and nepal – but wot to do?! ah, hindsight.

when i knew that i was coming to africa i had the good sense to buy the new release Canon 50D EOS with a nice 18 – 200mm lens. wise woman – very wise woman! it is not slung over my shoulder at every moment as it draws too much attention to itself in down-town Monrovia, but it is brought out for special occasions. 2 aussies and i went on a foto-safari drive around Monrovia to take fotos of billboards and street-scenes. my camera was the biggest and most obvious and there were times when we met some hostility and i simply could not raise it to take any fotoz. i’d neva go walking on the streets with it for fear of being robbed or mobbed if i tried to use it.¬†

regardless of that, i have had several chances to use it and have some nice shots to share with u eventually. but this has lead to the next thing – nice fotos taking in RAW format use up a lot of laptop space. to keep my shots i purchased Lightroom software which enables me to keep the images arranged in a nice database on an external hard-drive as well as to do some good foto-editing. i only installed the software recently, so my week in accra has been spent understanding the software and deciding the best way to re-organise ALL my fotoz. ¬†i decided to remove all my images from flickr and as i arrange, edit, and save my fotoz into neat little JPEG categories, i’ll then be able to upload them into flickr and facebook in a manner that shows them off in the best light.¬†

all of this might sound dull, but when u live in Liberia, u need a constructive and creative hobby! this will be mine.

it has also rekindled my interest in this weblog, so it ain’t such a bad thing…..is it!!