Yesterday, I traveled from Takoradi, Ghana to Elubo, Ghana to get my exit stamp. The local Elubo taxi drivers and their commissioned bag carriers swarmed me; they all wanted to take me either across the border, or all the way to Abidjan. I needed to pull my bag away from them and get strict, I finally chose Sylvester for 1000 CFA help me get the Ghana and Ivory Coast stamps and then drop me in Noe.
I was worried, by strange quirk, I took photos of a friend who was a Police Officer, he was very demanding and wanted to know where I was at, as if he was coming to get me. I removed the photos, but there is some strange code in Ghana that believes they can control other people, it is a "Chief Mentality." Maybe a master and slave way of commanding other to obey, I obeyed because no picture of Ghana is worth fighting over, nothing that exciting and photos would be close to impossible to sell.
Putting up a Road Blocks to Collect Money System
The normal system of extracting money from people is to set up a roadblock, a border crossing is the extreme form of a tollgate. It is very common for Border Guards to try to get an extra 5 or 10 dollars for unknown reasons from people crossing a border. They use some reason, maybe you are on the last day of your visa, maybe you purchased some clothing that appears to be imported into their country. I have had problems with my computer and cameras; they want to say you need a license or permits. I did not have a Yellow Fever card with me one time as I entered Niger, no problem, they just asked for 20 US Dollars. Any small reason is translated into cash for the military or police forces, and they carry guns, and can deny me exit of country.
A normal tollgate on the road can be bypassed, it is very difficult to cross borders and without becoming an illegal alien, a person must get an exit and entry stamp. Well, in this case, I knew it was possible for the Police Officer to call ahead and tell the border workers, stop this white man and extract money. In the worst case if the man happened to be very connected, they could put me in jail and get as much money as I was willing to cough up.
"I will make you and offer you cannot refuse."
Extraction of money depends on how much money the person has, and how urgent the need. If I exited on the last day of my Visa, the border guards know I must leave, I have no choice. I do not leave on the last day of a visa in dodgy countries, which is about 50 percent of them.
Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa --- Saturday, February 19, 2011
I made it through the Ghana tollgate, a.k.a. border crossing, I smiled a lot and then my driver took me to the Ivory Coast crossing, where they wanted to know the exact city I was going too, as if to track my travels inside the country.
Maybe you could call this a "Vested Interest Transport System" to cross borders. When I was in Takoradi, Ghana I tried to ride in this van, it was going direct from Takoradi to Abidjan and for 5000 CFA the driver would help with border crossing, 15,000 for the Van, and 5000 CFA for the border crossing assistance.
If you are up to no good, maybe a smuggler, or bad papers, or you want to bring some contraband into a country, this is the way that it is done. Intermediaries collect large fees for trips and magically the border guards let you pass. I wanted to go with this van because the driver agreed to become a stakeholder, I told him, I will give you the 5000 CFA when I am across the border. This is not a direct bribe; it is an indirect way to sweeten the pot, finding someone who knows someone who has a special deal.
He needed three more riders, and finally the direct van next to me loader for Elubo and I changed loyalties and went with the faster transport situation. It could take five hours more to find someone that would pay 10 times the going rate for the direct trip. I was more interesting in speed than sweetening the pot, I also knew I could hire an arranging driver in Elubo if needed, and there is always someone around who will make life easy for money.
I think I would be a great escort for high powered executives who need to come to a truly off the wall country, I could relieve tons of stress by explaining clearly what is happening. It is stressful to just accept what is happening without ever understanding.
Snails Purchased by Private Taxi Driver
Private Driver from Noe to Bassam
I arranged a private driver to take me from Noe to Grand Bassam about 80 miles, and strangely, we had his cousin or someone in the back seal that was going to Abidjan. It cost 6000 for one seat in the shared car or I could buy them all, for many reasons I purchased them all for 20,000 CFA, which is about 40 US Dollars.
The driver stopped for many reason, any reason, to many reasons, first for Snails, next for Crabs, and we almost stopped so he could buy one of the huge rats they eat in Ghana and Ivory Coast. I was happy to not have a dead rat sitting on the floor behind the driver.
New Road Block World Record
The most stops to be checked by immigration police was maybe between Colombia and Venezuela, that record was eight. Yesterday we went 10 between Noe and Aboisso, about 50 miles, then got another five between Aboisso and Grand Bassam.
15 times, they stopped the car, opened the trunk, look in my bag, and asked for papers, sometime my passport, or sometimes the drivers, or both. The extra passenger got out one time and walked through one stop point or barrage and we picked him up later, a proof positive he was up to something, and not just the cousin in the back.
Note: I did NOT pay any bribes to Ghana or Ivory Coast, I have only paid one bribe and it was in Mexico. (Mexico is one of the most corrupt country on Earth and Americans love it.) I have given unknown fees or unexpected five dollars; I did this to enter the Dominican Republic from Haiti, and extra five for the DR.
There are some truly off the path fees that governments can come up with, it is not possible to know all the possible reasons to pay a government and who cares, as long it is small. Nevertheless, to offer a bribe only enables the bribe system to work. On the other hand, bribes can help a person have all the freedom possible on the planet, all you could ever want to buy is for sale. A person can truly buy their way through borders, but I do not recommend you ever offer money, wait for them to ask and always call it a gift, or help for their family.
Travelers love to tell stories on how to bribe, some are very creative, and the normal person would rather bribe than do things correctly. It is like paying taxes, people cheat on their taxes because it is easier than paying, and people consider a bribe ok if they can afford it and it makes life easier.
I Left Poor Ghana and Entered Rich Ivory Coast
I look at the world as a farmer, when a farmer see good tillable soil, he or she looks at it with a lust for land. Ghana does a good job, 10 times better than Togo at farming, which does about nothing, but Ivory Coast is the farming champions of West Africa.
There was a sudden lushness as we entered Ivory Coast, everything was green. Plantations popped up for Rubber, Palm Oil, Pineapple, and a few very large fields of onions. There were now factory size processing plants for these plantations. I left the small boys and entered the big boy world, Ivory Coast feels rich.
No Visa Pushing Please
I am happy to return to Cote d’Ivoire, the proper name, not Ivory Coast as the English world demands to use, but is clear to people from a writing point of view.
I have until September to leave this country, I got a one year Visa in the USA, I requested three months and they gave me a year. Now, I can make good decisions without feeling like a Visa boss is looking over my shoulder.
Bah Bah I am Back with Bah the Ivory Coast Girl
Bah came to see me, she was happy I returned, she is in a safe place. When she entered Ghana, she was in culture shock, relationship shock, and language shock. When people are experiencing these types of shocks, they often become demanding as they try to control an uncontrollable world. If they are in extreme fear, they become passive, and very controllable, well, Bah was never passive.
The saga continues…
I am thinking, maybe I invest two months and finish my book, I need to push onto the finish line and get a completion high. I love the rush of finishing what I started months ago, we are going this presently with the photos project and "My Hobo" the social network on HoboTraveler.com.
Video of Pineapple Plantation as I entered Cote d’Ivoire or Ivory Coast
Video of 10 US Dollar Hotel in Accra Ghana West Africa
2011 February 18 Entered Ivory Coast left Ghana West Africa