From Houston to Sydney 2013

West Africa



New Year’s Day in Monrovia is probably a long way from most travellers’ dreams.  To be frank, if there had been a flight to my next destination by now, I would probably have taken it.  However, my flight out of Monrovia is scheduled for late tonight (actually pre-dawn tomorrow morning), and I have found myself spending the day in a fairly sleepy city that has largely shut down.

With no transport options available and nothing open today, there was only one thing available to do (apart from sitting all day in my hotel room – not my style!), and that was to go for a couple of walks around the city.  So that is precisely what I did.

I completed two walks today, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon after the fierce heat of the day had subsided a little.  My first walk was into the city centre, where I was surprised to find more activity in the streets than I had expected.  Although all the shops and offices were closed, there were still a few cars in the streets.  Furthermore, hundreds of small, colourful pavement stalls were open and there was a surprisingly large number of street barbers in action.

Tourism are still extremely rare in Liberia.  Most foreigners are diplomatic staff, peacekeepers with the UN, and aid workers.  Because of this, and given the recent savage history of conflict, people are very wary of having their photos taken.  Indeed, they are simply wary of cameras.  Being tall and white, it is difficult for me to blend in on the streets of Monrovia, which makes getting photos more difficult here than in most places I visit, even using a telephoto lens.  The photos I have included in today’s diary attempt to represent a variety of scenes of everyday life in Monrovia, but they are limited because of the constraints of picture taking here.

Despite these constraints, I found everyone to be very relaxed and friendly today.  People were greeting each other (me included) with “Happy New Year”, sometimes with a wave from the kerbside and more often with a shaking of hands.  I thought this was all the more pleasant as Liberians are by far the quietest and least extroverted Africans I have ever encountered.

My second walk was a longer one to another part of the city, finishing at the beach at Mamba Point (see the panorama below, which looks up towards my hotel from the beach).  The mood in the city was much more festive this afternoon, with many people (and especially teenagers) dressed in fine clothes ready for partying.  It was very evident that fluro colours are “in” for Monrovia’s girls this year.

I will be trying to get an early night tonight as I need to leave the hotel at 1:00 am to catch my flight to Bamako.  Unfortunately, the internet that has been so good during my time in Monrovia has died today (I guess it is having a holiday too - or at least the technicians seem to be), so today’s diary will be uploaded late - probably not for the last time on this trip.

Day 5 - Monrovia, Liberia


1 January 2014