Words by Tom Owen | Photography by Anna Jackson
We are two and a half days into an epic four-day cycle from Bo, Sierra Leone to Robertsport on the coast of Liberia. We are waiting at the border to go into Liberia and the driver of our support car has just accidentally driven straight through a cordon across the road, pulling down the border post (a wooden hut) that the cordon was attached to.
You don’t get to use the word ‘hullabaloo’ very often, but that’s exactly what this incident causes.
It causes a hullabaloo.
You could also say, all manner of hell breaks loose.
Where there was once a wooden hut with border officials inside, there is now a lot of broken wood lying on the ground and some very angry border officials, very recently deprived of a hut to stand in. The driver eventually regains control of the car and puts on the handbrake.
“The driver is thrown into a cell that has an actual iron grille for a door. It goes clang as they throw it closed behind him”
He gets out and is immediately swamped by the aforementioned border officials who are, it’s fair to say, quite angry. The driver is thrown into a cell set in the wall of the immigration building. It has an actual iron grille for a door. Like a LEGO prison cell. It goes clang as they throw it closed behind him.
You could also say, the driver is in deep shit.
Turning to me in complete deadpan, Sam, who works for Street Child, the organisers of the West Africa Cycle Challenge, says: “Borders are fun in Africa.”
Lots of things are fun in Africa. Cycling is definitely fun in Africa. The abysmal road surfaces make it very tough on cars – I lost track of how many minor breakdowns the two support cars had across the full four days – but by thunder, they are amazing to ride a mountain bike on.