Rhino (the SUV) The Last Great Adventure – day 1

The last adventure of Rhino driving to Liberia

Suzanne and I are two days and a fortnight away from leaving our beloved Ghana, so while I should be helping Suzanne pack up, instead I’m taking our beloved SUV, called Rhino on one last Great Adventure. Actually, we’re giving it to our TMS Friends Joey and Kerry who served in Liberia, and Joey and I are driving it there along with Joey’s Liberian friend Cyrus.

[Rhino saying goodbye]

We had visited Joey and Kerry at Easter and saw their need for a 4×4 Family car.

[Joey took Steve and Suzanne kayaking…it was great fun in Liberia]

So on Friday, Joey and his Liberian son Cyrus flew in and we loaded up Rhino will all sorts of junk household items that we thought might be useful to their ministry.

On Saturday morning we set out for Liberia (Google Maps said it would be a day and two hours of driving).

[how Steve was really feeling “Don’t goooooo Rhino]

The drive was amazingly easy and quick, beaches that normally took us 3-4 hours (Till #1) took less than two.

[Joey, Joey wake up! —to be fair Joey had just learned he’d had malaria]

The traffic was small-small, and roads were in good better condition until we met Cape Coast, where we stopped for lunch at Coconut Grove.

[lots of butterfly and beautiful flowers]

After lunch, it was one long stop and go traffic jam all the way to Takoradi. We pulled into our first hotel, “Dan to be Lodge” which we picked because Joey just liked the name. Kayak, Hotels.com, and Booking.com all said there was available, but as we pulled into the very empty parking lot, the hotel manager came out to tell us, “We are full up.” Joey looks up to see no lights on in the Hotel, and I ask “Are you sure?”.

[The first day]

So off we go, to find a close hotel with a less interesting name, but the one we find had 100s of youth loitering around aimlessly. It is now quite dark, no streetlights, and a mile off the highway down a bad, dark road.

Not feeling it, I pick another hotel. Thoughts of that bad, dark were quickly forgotten as Google Maps took us down one lane streets village obstacle paths of drunks, small children, goats, and Ghanaian men talking on their cell phones. Again no street lights, as I dodge the random pedestrians oblivious to how close they had come to meeting their maker.

Next deep mud channels allowed me to show off Rhino’s unstoppable high clearance 4×4 ability and after that we hear those wonderful words from Google Maps:”You have Arrived!”

[I’m not kidding, “You have Arrived!” is what we heard when we pulled up to this]

It was a partially built building. This hotel had great reviews about the friendly staff and good food and those reviews were, I guess, all aspirational fake …the building wasn’t even finished yet.

“OK, I’m calling it,” Joey says and while I’m off taking pictures he programs Best Western into my phone. As I’m driving I realize that was pretty stupid of me getting out of the car to take pictures (for this blog). It would have been a great place to roll us.

Ten minutes later we’re all in our ridiculously comfortable rooms, falling asleep to thoughts and prayers about tomorrow’s border as Rhino prepares to cross over into Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).

We have a Vehicle! (By Suzanne)

we have a car-steve2
[Introducing The Rhino]
We’re happy to report that we were able to find a reliable and sturdy new-to-us vehicle! It’s a 2007 Mitsubishi Pajero with about 100,000km (60,000 miles) on it. The Pajero isn’t sold in the U.S., but it is a 4wd, high clearance, very sturdy SUV, with a third row rear seat that folds into the floor for a total seating capacity of seven, if needed. Since the road is so bad here, and taxis who are willing to drive the road are not always prevalent, it is common practice to offer rides to anyone who is going your way – which we especially do with Ashesi students, and already have with villagers, also.

We have a car-Taxi

[This taxi is rethinking his route]
It’s funny about taxis–they are specialized.
  • Some will brave the bad road.
  • Some will take you up the Ashesi hill.
  • Some are shared, meaning a fixed price, but with as many as can be reasonably stuffed in it.
  • And at night the rates triple.
A few weeks ago we had gone to Accra with our friend Charlie Jackson, and coming back at night he dropped us at Kwabenya Junction to pick a taxi back home. Kwabenya is where the bad road begins, and at that hour we saw just one taxi where there were usually ten.
“How much to Ashesi?” Steve asks. He says 20.
“Ohhhh,” he says dropping the pitch of the word. “make it ten, “ which is still twice the day rate. Predictably, he goes to 15, and then wouldn’t budge. We went looking for another taxi, but after walking around getting several refusals he found us and said, “15 is a fair price,” and he is the only taxi at night. We thought we had negotiated up the hill to Ashesi, but when we reached Berekuso, he found another taxi, and transferred us out, and 5 cedi later, we were home. It was time to buy a car.
Steve drives the Rhino through Berekuso. We’re not kidding, it’s a rough road.
Getting a “home use” vehicle (meaning used) is not always advisable here–cars that haven’t been well-maintained are often for sale used. In this case, we’re hopeful that we found a good one; our first day at church (day three in the country), I was very briefly chatting with an old friend from church and mentioned that we didn’t have a car yet, but we’d be looking for one in the coming weeks or months. In truth, we hadn’t really discussed getting a car yet, and I had assumed that we would start looking in May/June or so. As I was saying this (about looking for a car) to my friend, I remember thinking, “Why are these words coming out of my mouth?” There were a whole lot more pressing and relevant things I could have said to her. Later that evening, she texted me saying a friend of hers had a car for sale if we were interested. I got basic info and we sat on it for awhile, but, long story short, it’s the car we ended up buying! We’re very happy that we got a good car for us without all the headaches of looking, looking, looking. (We did make one trip to the Toyota dealership to confirm what we suspected–that we could afford two-thirds of what we needed new.
Roads-we have a car
[Welcome to Berekuso]
The problem is the last 18km (11 miles) of road from Accra to the village of Berekuso are really terrible, and it takes a high clearance, very sturdy car to survive it–it takes about 30 minutes to navigate the 18 km, dodging the holes as best we can, and riding over, very slowly, the ones that can’ t be dodged. I like how Charlie calls that stretch a land bridge—instead of a road—because it has to be crossed to cross it to get anywhere.

we have a car-Suz

So we now have a ministry vehicle, and it’s really just a tool we use each time we take her out, and she comes with a name: The Rhino.

Suzanne Buchele