I heard a lot about Robertsport before I ever visited. I was never sure if I should believe the hype, or whether the glowing reports were the product of over-worked, stressed out development workers who had been in Liberia a bit too long.
Robertsport, a city only 3 hours outside of Monrovia, turned out to be a welcome break from dirty, gritty Monrovia. The first time we went, we used our contacts at the Red Cross (where Nick worked) to get tents to camp on the beach. Shortly thereafter a South African diamond prospector developed some land, building a number of posh elevated tents, a bar and a toilet/shower block. This made it much simpler to just pack up on a Saturday and head out for the night.
The trip shouldn’t take as long as it does, but once the well-paved road gives way to the dirt track, the going is slow. The potholes are intense, and in the rainy season there is the danger of getting stuck in the mud. But mostly it is an uneventful drive.
When you reach Robertsport town, the destruction from the war is all around you. There are amazing old buildings that are abandoned and overgrown with weeds, churches and homes with windows that have long been broken. As you make the turn off to start the descent back towards the sea, the glittering Atlantic spreads out in front of you. The surfers of the group peer closely to see what the waves are like, we all look at the long horizon to get a sense of what the weather has in store for us, and we start heading down to the beach.
Before the camp was built, you were met by a group of local men who would offer to help – catch you fish for dinner, build you a fire, organize the tents, and keep watch during the night. There’s less to think about at the camp – Joe’s staff tell you which tent you’re in, you haul your bag and cooler up to your room, do a quick change into your swimsuit and run off the beach for a first swim.
The water is amazing – I prefer the days without much wave, when the warm, clear water is like a bathtub that you can just splash around in. At other times, the surf is intense, and you prepare for a battle every time you head for the water, knowing that you have to swim constantly against the current just to end up in about the same place you got in.
My favorite part is sitting on the veranda of the tents, either watching the sunset with a beer in the evenings or relaxing with a book the next morning, listening to tunes on my portable speakers. Walking along the stunning beaches it is very hard to remember that you are in Liberia – it really is the clichéd ‘different world’ from Monrovia or up-country. It’s such a great place to forget for awhile about all that work waiting for you when you return to the office on Monday. Robertsport also made me think just how lucky we are – though living in Liberia can be pretty difficult at times, here we are just a short drive away from pristine beaches that sometimes feel private, made just for us. I remind myself how much people would pay to go on an amazing vacation to a spot like this anywhere else in the world!