In the end, it took us all day to get from Monrovia to Camp Four by shared taxis. Lots of little adventures on the way: a car on fire, a praying big mama in the front seat who instructed our driver to drive carefully, a discussion about distribution of wealth with a couple of Africans waiting for a taxi, the mysterious loss of my spare camera battery, ending with a fantastic ride in the back of a pick-up truck for the last stretch from Sanniquelli town (the birthplace of the Organization of African Unity) to Camp Four. When we jump out of the car, the last light has already left the sky, and we walk the main street in search of the headquarters of the Mount Nimba nature reserve. Someone shows up in a green uniform, seemingly smelling of alcohol - it is after-hours, after all. He asks us to come back the next day. Next, a search for a bed, which takes us from one stark room to the next, and we end up in a room in a house that is still under construction. A terribly hot and humid night (no electricity) with a multitude of mosquitoes - the rainy season is around the corner. It would take a while before I would discover that this night would give me a bad case of malaria - but that is another story.
The next morning, I can finally see the place I have arrived in the dark of night. A large mango tree towers over the house: it is full of mangoes, and I cannot resist to try them, but they are not ripe yet. The town turns out to be quite pretty, with friendly locals welcoming me to their home town at the feet of the Mount Nimba range which stands high above us towards the east. The unpleasant surprise comes at the "office" of the park, where it turns out they have just considerably raised the fees. On our way up to the old iron ore mining site, my motorbike breaks down, and my guide and the compulsory ranger continue to walk up. It soon turns out the ranger has a serious problem with his foot, making his presence all the more dubious: he is constantly trailing. Anyway, we do get to see some things I have never seen before. A cleaning plant, where the iron ore was washed, before being loaded onto a train which ran from here straight to the coast. Higher up, a lot of parked equipment left behind during the civil war in Liberia when the Lamco mining operations stopped. The mountain have been shaped by the mining into terraces with steep slopes, inevitably inviting erosion into the lake. We walk down, all the way to the main road and beyond: once again, logistics are poorly handled. It also turns out the ranger forgot his basic equipment and has to go back to get it, causing even more delay. I am just dying to get up the mountain, and am happy when finally a young guy takes me up on his motorbike. He is as excited as I am: he has never been up, either, and when we reach a telecom tower, he stands at the edge of the mountain, and looks at his town down below in the valley with awe. Precious.
When the others make it up as well, we set out to walk the ridge. I have no idea what to expect, and set a fast pace, just to be sure. There are only a few hours left before sunset, and we still have to walk up, back down, and make camp. More seriously, when we round a corner and yet another telecom tower, dark skies loom ahead of us, and before we know it, it starts to rain. There is very little in terms of shelter here, and we just continue hiking up: on mountains, the weather can change any second. As, indeed, it does: we walk straight into a superb afternoon light landscape with a fresh rainbow right over the ridge of Mount Nimba. When we stand up the edge on our right, and look into Ivory Coast, we see yet another rainbow, below us, over the rainforest deep down. A magical experience to be walking between rainbows on what seems to be the top of the world. We reach a mountain which my guide calls Mount Nimba, but which I already know is not the highest summit here - yet, I cannot resist the temptation to scramble up and get even better views. But the best views are still a little ahead: right on top of the mountain where we see the lake below, where we had been in the morning. In the distance, we can see Guinea and their - higher - version of Mount Nimba, which I climbed back in 1988. We have to turn around, and to my dismay, the ranger has been sitting on a stone, waiting for us, instead of preparing camp. I quickly climb up another telecom tower hill which is noticeably higher than the other summit. The sun unfortunately sets in the clouds, and gradually, the walking down becomes a little trickier, until we cannot see anything anymore. Just before the campsite, we are picked up by a car surprisingly passing us, and the brilliant guy drives down, sends us a message asking what we want for drinks, and comes back up again to pass a most entertaining evening high above the lights of Yekepa town. The next morning starts out foggy; later that day, and the next night, a deluge comes over the mountain which would have made camping totally impossible.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Mount Nimba Liberia (Liberia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Mount Nimba Liberia. Read more about this site.