Today drove from Grand Bassam to Yamoussoukro, the capital of Cote d'Ivoire since 1983, a distance of 240km. Although it's the capital it has no major official buildings like embassies, just very wide roads and the amazing Basilica de Notre Dame de la Paix. Originally a village of around 500 people and called Ngokro, it was chosen as the then President, Felix Houphouet-Boigny was born in the area.
On the way we stopped to see latex harvesters working on the side of the road. A few language difficulties and we are not sure if the latex is used for plastic or rubber - another one for Google!
We stopped at the village of Kondeyaokro where the residents performed the Goli mask dance for us, which I believe is a welcome dance. Lots of dancers dressed in raffia and all the village joined in, even the children. We were the only tourists there so feel very honoured.
We arrived in Yamoussoukro around 6.30pm and headed out to a Maquis (outdoor eating establishment) for a dinner of BBQ fish with rice and a sweet potato leaf sauce.
Next day we started our sightseeing. The Basilica is a sight to behold! Built 1986 - 1989 at a cost of US$300M, the cupola is only slightly lower than St Peter's dome in Rome (apparently the Pope himself requested this), but they then added a huge golden cross on top to make it the tallest church in the world. With 7000 seats individually air conditioned, and room for another 11000 standing and 300,000 outside, it is rarely filled - only around 1M Catholics in the whole country! The Cathedral has now been given to Rome so that the Pope can foot the $1.5M per annum maintenance budget!
The Basilica seemed to us to be a massive waste of money for the amount of use it's getting, but to be fair President Felix also built a mosque (though not quite so splendid as the Basilica) to cater for the country's Muslim population.
Another sight to see was the lake near the Presidential palace which was full of crocodiles. They were lounging around on the shore and looked very well fed so hopefully they are kept that way to keep them in the lake!
Tomorrow we are on the move again, heading north to Korogho