When we get past the noise of the town, the market stalls which extend right up to the river front, we reach the wide and sloping beach, which stretches out in a semi-circle to a headland. We walk past the monument for the Dumana crew, British sailors who perished when their boat was hit by a German torpedo in 1943, and see the contours of several colonial buildings through a curtain of roots and leaves, until we walk the last stretch of the beach where we find a group of youngsters jumping a rope, to the lane that once led up to the house of the governor of Bas-Sassandra. This town once was the major port in West Ivory Coast, until San Pedro took that role in 1960 and eclipsed Sassandra. What remains are buildings of importance, or rather, the ruins of those buildings. After independence in 1960, the country was looking ahead, making a fresh start, and preserving relics from the colonial past were not part of that scheme. We see a once posh hotel, whose swimming pool is now covered by floating reed, and tennis courts with holes in the floor.
So we walk up the slightly sloping lane, under tall palm trees, until we reach the ruins of a building mostly covered by trees. A closer look, and stepping inside through huge openings in the walls, reveals that this once must have been an imposing building, richly decorated, on a very fine spot: overlooking the bay on which Sassandra lies, overlooking the Gulf of Guinea, and the peninsula stretching out in the east, with a backdrop of the Sassandra river in the background. The elements and trees have been eating away at this building, which will slowly disappear completely in the next decades. What a shame! There are other, smaller buildings on this headland, in a similar sorry state. We oversee the prison below, the inmates getting ready for dinner, before we descend to the beach again where we find a nice place to have dinner.
The next morning, we walk past hundreds of brightly painted Ghanaian fishing boats, drink some palm wine which supposedly helps against malaria, and take a pirogue out to Fisolagpo islet in the Sassandra river. After wobbling on the wooden boat carved out of a trunk, we reach the mangrove channels cutting through the islet. We see a myriad of birds in and around the islet, before we reach the river again, cross, and walk to where fishermen are hauling in a huge net which has been thrown into the ocean. The Ghanaians are able to build the big pirogues which are seaworthy: the Ivorians just put out a big net off the beach and pull it onto the beach. Every man has his function in this scheme, until the net lies on the golden sand and the fish can be taken to plastic bowls, to the community and the market. Back in town, we walk to the sacred forest, where ghosts of ancestors live, which starts right above the beach on the far side of town. The monkeys that are supposed to be here, are gone, and I notice that men use this far side of the beach mostly as an outdoor toilet. Hiking up a steep trail, I only see plastic waste, and smell human excrement, and it is not long before I walk down to the beach again. A little further up, I meet a bunch of kids, jumping and shouting to be on my picture. There are still kids, there is still future: we meet people who are dreaming about better days to come, hear about the Japanese who are building a new market, and who are supposed to build a new port to revive Sassandra. But oh, what if those hidden historic pearls would be cleaned up and restored to their former glory - what pretty town Sassandra could be!
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Sassandra (Ivory Coast). 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 Sassandra.
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