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Yakro Adventures

This weekend, we decided to take a short trip up to Yamoussoukro to surprise E for her birthday. The rest of the cohort worked to get Friday off, and Thursday night, we headed to Yopougon to take the four-hour bus ride to Yakro (Yamoussoukro’s nickname). Yakro is an interesting city; it is the birthplace of Côte d’Ivoire’s first president, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, an iconic and well-loved leader.

During his time in office, Houphouët-Boigny worked to modernize and decolonize CDI and aspired to make Yakro the proper capital. It is a very planned city; there are large, well-paved roads, street signs, street lights, and beautiful flora. However, Houphouët-Boigny’s dream was not completely fulfilled; Abidjan remains the functional capital of the country and at least to an outsider, some parts of Yakro feel...empty. It's hard to compare it to anywhere else; it feels both urban and rural.

Yakro’s two biggest tourist destinations are the Caiman Lake, a massive lake full of lotus lily pads and caimans, and Basilique Notre-Dame de la Paix, the largest basilica in the world. Naturally, we set out to explore both, and walk around the large and beautiful city.

After lunch at Restaurant Le Brise, we walked along the Caiman Lake in search of, well....caimans. I love animals, and the fact that some were donated by the Malian president made me particularly excited to find some. Though it took some time, we managed to find some caimans laying around, clearly used to human attention.

Locals weren’t particularly fond of us standing so close to the fence; apparently one of the gators ate its feeder, and the tiny ones (about the size of a chihuahua) could easily crawl through the fence gaps and snag a toe. Luckily, the caimans seemed as full as we were, and after about twenty minutes of staring and pointing, we walked the rest of the way home.

That evening, to properly celebrate E’s birthday, we went to Le Hotel President for dinner. While there are usually three restaurants, COVID forced them to downsize into one. There isn’t much to

mention here; the food was great (I got a mushroom pasta), the drinks weren’t, there is a nightclub within the hotel, and on the day that we visited, a beautiful art gallery depicting biblical scenes and abstract work.

My only advice is that if you choose to go to Le Hotel for a late dinner, grab the number of your cab driver and ask them to come back and pick you up. Hailing a cab on the road late at night in Yakro, even near a major structure, can be dangerous. Honestly, if you are only there for a weekend, I suggest making friends with a cab driver you like so you don’t end up stranded somewhere for a while.

On our last day, we visited Basilique Notre-Dame de la Paix. Tours leave every half hour and cost 2000 CFA per person (if you’re a non-national). I cannot recommend this tour enough. The space is stunning, with majestic stained glass depicting biblical scenes, and an unreal interior dome lined in the most beautiful cerulean I’ve ever seen. You get to go to the roof and see the garden, but also an almost 360º view of Yakro. We were lucky enough to hear choir boys singing, and it can only be described as hauntingly beautiful. My only regret is not going to their mass, which I may very well make the trip back up to do.

All in all, a great weekend. It was nice to have the gang back together and to get out of Abidjan for a while.

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