Yesterday we got our knickers in a bit of a twist over who should be writing the blog. Having written a few paragraphs, I found Dennis had already written up yesterday. As we have been struggling all through Guinea Bissau with wifi, we were several days behind in posting blogs. We still haven’t been able to add many photos. Anyway, hopefully from now on we will do alternate days again. We are still struggling with wifi though.
Not the best night’s sleep, although we were in bed by 9. Someone was sweeping the courtyard around us at 2am. There was no sign of the owner but the young boy I was trying to communicate with last night reappeared. He spoke no English or French and my Portuguese is nonexistent, so we resorted to Google Translate. It came up with some weird answers though.
When asking if we could sleep in the courtyard in the vehicle and if so what would it cost, it never really resulted in an answer. This morning the boy asked for CFA 5,000. I only had 4,500 in small change so he accepted this.
Back out into the town of Gabu, to the worst roads we have ever driven on. As we left the town for the border town of Kandika, I hoped the road would get better. No such luck. Dreadful potholes. When we complain about the Lanes in Wineham in West Sussex in the UK, or the state of the roads in NZ, a comparison is laughable. Most people would take one look at these roads and think them un-navigable.
The distance from Gabu to the border was around 70 kms. The Sat-Nav said it should take us an hour and 10 minutes. It took us over 3 hours. There was little traffic other than motorcycles and bikes, but people everywhere. Habitations are now fenced enclosures of thatched huts, few cement built buildings.
When the Sat-Nav indicated we were a couple of kms from the border we entered a slightly more substantial village and were stopped by a tatty rope draped across the road. We sat and waited expecting someone to come and question us for something. Then we realised this was the border to exit Guinea Bissau. Kandika is over the border in Guinea.
In Guinea Conakry
We got out of Poki and someone pointed us in the direction of a building on the opposite side of the road. Here we found the immigration control. Friendly people. Our passports and Carnet were quickly stamped. I think the agent in the Customs office was hoping for a ‘present’. One wasn’t forthcoming, so he was pretty slow in lowering the tatty rope to let us cross.
A short drive through no man’s land before we arrived in Guinea. Guinea is often referred to as Guinea Conakry to distinguish it from Guinea Bissau. Conakry being the capital of Guinea.
The Guinea border was even more of a shock. A few thatched huts plus 2 slightly more substantial buildings. The Passport Office and the Customs. The biggest surprise for a border was the road. Just a mass of ruts, craters and rocks.
The Passport Officer was very friendly and reminded us we should speak French now. He was a big football fan. Often the subject that breaks the ice with officials. Every village we pass through has its own football pitch.
The Customs officials were very polite and quick with us, but two young, local motorcyclists were being given a hard time. Next we were directed to a thatched hut to change money. Not having any wifi or means of communication, I couldn’t look up the rate of exchange. We just changed CFA 20,000 or EUR 30. I received Guinea Francs 272,000 in exchange.
We set the Sat-Nav for Koundara and hoped the road would improve. Wishful thinking, sadly.
Before too long we decided to look for a lunching spot. Finding a shady tree we pulled over. The ground was covered in dry, large leaves and there was some vegetation we needed to tread down to get into Poki’s rear. We stamped around a bit to scare off any snakes!
I discovered some strange looking plants. At first I had thought they were toadstools but on closer inspection, they appear to be plants. Earlier in the day we had seen some other strange toadstool like objects. These were larger and looked as if they were made of dried mud. Could they be some sort of ant hill?
There are beautiful birds of all shapes and sizes. Small hummingbirds up to vultures. Last night we saw what we thought at first was a flock of blackbirds. A bit like a murmuration of starlings. On closer inspection we realised they were bats.
A group of boys on bikes stopped to watch us and remained staring until we drove off. Dennis remarked there are no old people. It’s true, the majority of the population seem to be children or teenagers. I don’t know what the official statistics are, but must check it out, when we get some wifi.
Setting off again, the road to Koundara continued to be abysmal. We stopped in a village to buy some mangoes and tomatoes. Dennis questioned why we were buying mangoes when there are mango trees everywhere. Soon after we stopped and Dennis picked some. They aren’t quite ripe though. Putting them on the dashboard he said they would ripen in the sun. I pointed out they wouldn’t stay there for 2 minutes with such road conditions and they would be flying around like small torpedoes.
As we reached the outskirts of Koundara we came across tarmac roads. Such joy. We headed for a hotel I had found on the iOverlander App. Hotel Diabola. There was no sign outside but we pulled over and I went to find out if this was the hotel. It was and while I was being shown the rooms Adam pulled up. He had stayed at another hotel in town last night.
We decided we would stay at Hotel Diabola, despite there being no electricity or running water. The owner said there would be both later. An English speaking gentleman, whose family live in Boston, USA. Adam decided he didn’t like the place and wanted to head on to Labe. He thought he might wild camp. The route to Labe is supposed to be mountainous, so he was hoping it would be cooler.
The hotel owner said he would help us get a SIM card to give us wifi. He called someone but as they didn’t turn up, we asked him again. This time a young man arrived and quoted us Guinea Frances 65,000 for 5GB of data. 2 hours later nothing has happened and we are still without the SIM.
Our room is at the back of the hotel and quite dark. We have a large window which we can have wide open as it is protected by a mosquito net. It is relatively cool and does have air conditioning, if the electricity comes on. If not hopefully it will be reasonably cool at night.
As our bathroom had a huge tub of water, we decided to take the opportunity to use some to do our washing. Our bedroom is now decorated with a line of shirts and underwear. Poki is parked in a secure yard behind the hotel. We found a washing line there too, so have hung our sleeping sheet out here to dry.
We returned to Poki and had a quick clean up. Everything, even in cupboards and boxes is covered in red dust. Us too. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be clean again. We then had dinner by which time it was dark and the electricity had come on. We returned to our room to find the air conditioning working. Unimaginable bliss.
Dirt tracks and dust that gets everywhere indicates that you’ve arrived in real Africa.
Hi John, yes, the Chinese are looking after the red dirt. Shipping it back to China to make aluminium…:). There’s still plenty left