Arriving into a new country is always an exciting experience and each time its completely different, there is nothing like stepping off an aircraft and walking down the plane stairs to a waiting shuttle bus and getting that first smell of a different land, landing into Liberia at Roberts International Airport on the outskirts on Monrovia was no different. I cruised through passport control, had my Yellow Fever certificate inspected and was the first passenger to enter into the arrivals lounge, not so much a lounge as an open forecourt, separated from taxi drivers, families and friends by a few small barriers. Due to it being 0300 I had some negotiating power with the potential driver I picked and negotiated him down to half the price my guidebook suggested it would cost, it was still expensive at $35 however the journey was about an hour and along the route the driver phoned the hotel I had booked to let them know I was arriving.
I was able to get a couple of hours of sleep before I had breakfast and began to explore Monrovia. For a capital city I was really surprised at how small it was, with a population of 1 million it feels like a town as the main hub is located on a spit of land a few hundred metres wide, after a couple of hours I returned to my hotel for a rest and some lunch. I opted for a traditional West African dish called Fufu with fish (being on the coast and all that) and was told I would have to wait whilst one of the cooks went to the market to get some of the ingredients, I wish I had told her not to bother as the plate of doughy cassava and dried fish soup turned out to be quite hard to swallow, the cassava especially, with the fish growing on me the more of it I ate although I was still tasting it a few hours later.
I started off the afternoon by chatting to the three other tourists in the hotel, one was just about to fly back to Germany, and a couple were planning to travel into neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire, as usual in any situation like this we shared travel stories and talked through future plans, it’s a shame that none of them were travelling in the same direction as me. I decided to set off to a abandoned hotel which sat atop a hill which over looked the city, it was about 25 minute walk away, a lot of it uphill, when there I was asked for $5 to enter which I thought was excessively expensive for effectively a slightly better view than I already had so I passed and just enjoyed the view for free.
For dinner I caught a tuk tuk (yes they do have them in Africa) to the other side of town to a beach front restaurant and bar, I picked a table on the sand, dug my chair in, ordered a beer and watched the sunset dip into the sea whilst eating fresh garlic crab, not a bad way to end my first day in Liberia.