Healthy Soul

A canoe trip across the Hoffman River, Maryland County, Liberia

“Yes!” was my immediate answer to Rev. Rita Townsend’s question – “Do you want to come out to play?” Today it was a canoe trip across the Hoffman River. Affectionately called Rev. Rita, she serves Tubman University as the Vice-President for Institutional Affairs, but most importantly makes sure we enjoy what Harper City offers.

Rev.  Rita Townsend, Vice President, Institutional Advancement, and chief fun organizer for the TU staff.

Rev. Rita Townsend, Vice President, Institutional Advancement, and chief fun organizer for the TU staff.

After preaching the morning service to her newly formed Episcopalian congregation she comes by the Tubman Hall residence where colleagues Marie Simmons and Melville Harding join us on this adventure. We drive along Maryland Avenue into downtown Harper, going past the ruins of homes screaming the war-interrupted stateliness of the city.

Ruins of the stately homes owned by the Anderson family, one of Harper City's famously wealthy families.

Ruins of the stately homes owned by the Anderson family. Along with the Tubmans, Coopers, and Yancys, the Andersons are among Harper City's famously wealthy families.

Turning right on “the 18”, the city’s main drag, we head toward the market that sits on the Hoffman River. On most days we get freshly caught fish directly from the canoes. Looking through the back window we can see the Atlantic Ocean. A few feet to our left is the Upper Cape forming the point of confluence for the river and the ocean.

Mount Scott United Methodist Church, seen from across the Hoffman River.

Mount Scott United Methodist Church, seen from across the Hoffman River.

The first order of business as we get out of the car is to find a canoe owner/operator who will take us on this ride for an affordable price. We are talking with the fishermen who are mostly of the Fanti group originating in Ghana. The owner says gas will cost about 1,000.00 Liberian dollars so we agree to pay 250 Liberian dollars each (less than USD $4.00) and then an additionally 400 Liberian dollars for his time.

Melville Harding, faculty in the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, relaxes while we wait on the canoe to be ready for the trip across the Hoffman River.

Melville Harding, faculty in the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, relaxes while we wait on the canoe to be ready for the trip across the Hoffman River.

With this verbal agreement we wait for him to get the gas and install the portable motor before scrambling onto the vessel the best we could. It is important to note here that the waterfront is not a pretty sight. Public toilets from the market abut with a shoreline that is used by humans and animals. Luckily the tide is in and the canoe can be pulled very far onto the shore for us to get in without making contact with the water.

Marie Simmons, faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences with me on the beach after our canoe ride across the Hoffman River.

Marie Simmons, faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences with me on the beach after our canoe ride across the Hoffman River.

Ten minutes later we are on the other side of the Hoffman River that separates Harper City from Big Town and takes us to a much cleaner beach. The large defunct post office on the edge of the river reminds us of the days when postal mail came by boat from Monrovia. We walked the beach collecting shells and sand dollars.

Harper's former post office was at the confluence of the Hoffman River and the Atlantic Ocean.

Harper's former post office was at the confluence of the Hoffman River and the Atlantic Ocean.

By the time we made the return trip to Harper the tide was out. The dilemma was how to get off the canoe without making contact with all the refuse along the shore. Our canoe owner/operator had the solution – he would lift each of us off the vessel and carry us to the dry land. Can you imagine our hysterical laughter watching each person being lifted off? I’m so glad I was the one with the camera because I’m sure it would not have been a glamorous snapshot seeing him with my pocketbook slung around his neck and me being carried like a child on his back.

Rev. Rita being carried off the canoe onto the shore.

Rev. Rita being carried off the canoe onto the shore.

What a funny and unexpected end to an adventure! How about your day? What was the unexpected experience?

 

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