A couple weeks ago Meredith, Heidi (my coworkers at the Clinton Foundation), and I drove up to Yekepa to visit Mount Nimba. Arguable Liberia’s tallest point (I’ve heard that there’s a higher point in Lofa). I’ve uploaded the
GPS file and the
Google Earth file should you want more details about where we were and how we got there. Getting there was very straight forward. The road to Ganta is paved, though there are lots of annoying pot holes along the way. Especially between Gbanga and Ganta. I hate driving on paved roads that have been torn up, it’s just no fun. I’d rather be on dirt. After Ganta I got my wish and we road on a fairly good dirt road. We were told to watch out for a big hill between Ganta and Sanniquellie. Apparently when it gets wet it gets slippery, and cars just can’t get up it. It hadn’t rained for 2 days when we got there, so we had no trouble, though there were some very deep rutts, I could see how it would be a nightmare when wet. On the way back. we passed taxis on the road, so somehow they’re making it up which always blows my mind and makes me feel silly for driving around with a 4×4. Anyway. We were able to go from Monrovia to Yekepa in 10 hours taking our time and stopping along the way.
Yekepa is a mining town. Back before the war it was run by the Liberian American Swedish Mining Company (LAMCO) , so Yekepa’s infrastructure is very nice, paved roads, street lights, and such. The sorts of luxuries you just don’t see in many other parts of the country. Now Yekepa is run by Arcelor Mittal. This was evident by all the private security guards we met, and the total lack of any Liberian National Police officers in the town. Thanks to LAMCO the road to Mount Nimba is paved to all but the very top. Which was a little anti-climatic. But the last quarter mile or so required a little four wheeling so that was fun.
None of us could get over how beautiful Mount Nimba was. It didn’t really feel like Liberia. Not that Liberia isn’t beautiful, it is, but Mount Nimba was so different. The air was cool and dry, and the vegetation was different. granted Yekepa is about 2000 feet above sea level and Mount Nimba is nearly 5000 feet up so that’s kinda what you’d expect. It’s kinda hard to explain, and I imagine part of it is that I’ve been in Monrovia for so long that to see something new is super cool. I like how Meredith put it when we were driving up. As we came out of the jungle into some grassy areas she noted that it was like Scottish highlands and then as we came to the top and saw the stepped sides of Mount Nimba she said you get a bit of “Machu Picchu action.” Just check out the picture on the right. As you can see there were some pretty incredible vistas and somehow we were lucky enough to have absolutely perfect weather. Not too bad. The guys we met in Yekepa said it snows some times in January. I’ll be back up to check out that claim. Also here’s a short video showing our drive down from Mount Nimba.
Finally I wanted to end with another antidote about driving around Liberia. I was coming back from Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount county with a few friends in the car when I was stopped at a check point. The Liberian National Police officer that stopped me, just looked plain mean. He had a scowl on his face, and appeared a bit rough around the edges. Everyone in the car saw it coming. I noticed that he wasn’t wearing his cap, badge, or ID card. I had just that week been told by a US Embassy person that my tax dollars paid for these items. So I decided that the moment he gave me a hard time I’d tear into him about his sorry state of dress and demand to see his superior.
He walked up, I said “Hi”, he said “Hello”, and as his eyes scanned the car I saw him stop at the front passenger seat. His lips slowly moved and he spoke under his breath, “Don’t bribe a police.” He was reading my Carter Center sticker that I had just put on the dash board. He looked up and waved me on. Didn’t say a word. As soon as we pulled away the car erupted in laughter and we called the Carter Center country director to thank him. Apparently to stop corruption we just need more stickers.