Guinea – to Labe, Conakry and back

Early start road very dusty, twisty with big drop offs. Landy turned red as did most of our kit and us! 71 miles took about 5 hours but ended up in nice hotel in town called Labe – delicious local pizza thing and coldest beers for ages – can’t believe how much we are drinking and how good cold drinks can be. Took off tent outer cover as just complicates things – big mistake massive tropical downpour early evening – cover back on but too late – damp night for all.

river crossing - cheap this time

In the country we are definitely a source of curiosity to say least!

Met a crazy Dutch couple in a camper van half-way up the mountain,so stopped for a chat,they had got this far without four wheel drive,and were seriously struggling,it was so funny as we were all bright orange from the dust ,discussing our various journey’s….it would seem The Blue beast has gone from laughing stock to fastest thing on the track theres nothing better on dodgy roads(according to Michael anyway!)

We have basically stopped commenting on overloaded vehicles which paradoxically is almost everyone -imagine a Peugeot 504 estate with a massive roofload/pile with a large bullock strapped to either side, and one horizontal on the top,not to mention various chickens,goats and oh yes some passengers,full complement internally, with a few keeping the bullock company!

We also saw a guy, on top of a pile on top of a vehicle with his hands over his eyes,as he swayed two metres from side to side,whilst the front end dug a groove in the track because of lack of suspension ….terrifying

Some of the petrol tanker driver’s could win the world rally championship !

 

Labe to Conakry

 

We left Brett & Mary heading for Conakry , strangely we all commented on how nice itwas being only low 30c we must have passed some heat threshold in the previous few days as it was only a few weeks ago we were melting at that temperature.– lovely countryside changing all the time good roads to start – not thought to be any – but got very potholed – big sized – half way there. Loads of fruit and veg for sale – I got pushed into buying 6 pineapples, dozen avocados, bananas and 6 corn on cob complete with new basket for about 6 quid not sure how we will eat it all.

Quite a long way to Conakry – which does not come with a good description – very tatty – making good time until about 4pm and about 40ks from town when it ground to a halt – street market all the way crazy stuff – dual carriageway half closed – closed half seemed to be used for everything from football matches to bands playing to large crowds. Progress none existent got pulled by police half way there caused great chaos as landys turning circle meant much tooting etc. finally got to town about 8pm eventually found only lace in guide book which is a hotel/ catholic mission. We slept inside compound in our tents. Picked up a local tour guide the night before – very nice but would rather he went away went of to embassy only to find it closed – holiday – Easter Monday it seems which is a bit odd in a muslim country. So sat here waiting to see if they have a room for tonight – very busy seems to be occupied by lecturers for catholic university while accommodation is being built. Chatted to a few who were very friendly and interested in what we were doing. Hoping also the wee fee man will turn up.

 

Forgot to add theres virtually no electricity outside towns here and as the lady in the Labe hotel said if the have power they dont have phones/ internet or vice versa. Hence relative silence. Also connections are very poor/ slow so posting a single photo takes for ever.

 

Roadside stall - miles and miles of mangoes yum!

I think the locals are finding the fact that not only are we white,but non french speaking something of extreme interest,but they all have an English football team they support! Michael keeps telling them Drogba is a “Big girls blouse “ which of course takes some explaining!!

So far life is good on the road,albeit a bit stressful at times and I’ve never been quite so filthy,even when I was a child, the dust is thick , does not seem to wash out and there is a fine layer of it over everything,including the sheets. C’est le vie !!

after a day in the car

 

Spent the night in a basic room then up early for the embassy, a guy we had met – refugee trainee doctor from Central African republic wants help as it seems does everyone – had washed the landy.

Got there and promptly told to go back to internet cafe to transfer money for visa, returned then fun started lady filling in forms not too hot – seven hours and two pages of same basic info as on form/ passport already later we got finished. Some French company has sold them a “biometric visa system” which does not work with power let alone in a country where power is intermittent. It refused point blank to accept Emma had any fingers despite creams and pressing of hands etc by various staff members and did not appear to have UK listed until I remembered the old “rouame uni” heard on European song contest – perverse French programmer I think.

 

Had to wait 48hours so left for small island having left the car in the Novotel car park for security,the little fishing port was pretty grim, but once past plastic bags, islands looked great and landing confirmed our impressions.

beach house

Laid back even for Guinea, small bar hotel,but no one else here apart from a few French air hostess girls, who stay here on stopover, as its only an hour from town max. lovely supper 2 x 3 -4lb bass plus spicy bits and frites 30000 guinea francs – £3 can’t be bad

 

 

 

 

 

The Chefs

 

spent the next day on our own beach with chicken riz (rice) – Guineas traditional staple – chicken was a bit tricky to catch but gave several guys some exercise served with spicy onions/ tomato sauce and pepper chilli version very nice indeed. Tres jollie!

 

One less for Laura to panic about

 

Going back to Conakry tomorrow to collect visas and also to tackle the mysteries of Guinea internet again on the way and see if we can get some photo’s posted somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

Robinson Crusoe i presume

Hopefully then it’s off to Cote d’ Ivoire,then Burkina Faso, but will keep you posted, not much hope of internet for at least another week or so. Hope to get a visa for Ghana in Burkina, if so , slow journey through here,but internet could be better by then,so will continue blog then.

 

Keep the comments coming,when we do finally get to see them, it gives us a good laugh !!

 

Road to Guinea

Left early next morning very slow road dust everywhere huge ruts potholes etc crossed out of Gambia into Senegal quite easy we thought then across Senegal heading south to other border very hot as it had been for a few days – mid 40cs all day. Crossed out of Senegal and as there was a 30k strip of no mans land we decided to camp there because we were not sure how busy/ easy it would be in guinea.. Drove off road very hot so used shower thats when trouble stated bees every where so problems until dark.

 

Bee Camp

the river niger at Kankan

Very hot night even Brett and Mary rated it as the hottest they had encountered. Early start next morning into guinea road good to start then very windy and dusty as we climbed to central highlands very picaresque – sort of Hollywood style Africa – trees, bush, palms etc. People very laid back and welcoming. Wild camped in bush again. Strange feature is animals – cows and goats are all mini sized here.

 

Gambia.

Typical country side

Left town early in morning, Emily threw a major wobbly and we ended up touring various well dodgy tracks for an hour before finding a route to main road – no maps or signs to help. Road was good for a long way then changed to dirt. Nice country but loads of police stops (28 in 250 miles)we are something of a novelty as most overlanders cut this corner of Africa off and travel from Senegal to Mali then Burkina Faso. As a result loads of chat required and very slow progress. Spent the night in small family compound Camping Traditions in Basse in eastern Gambia we only just squeezed in(I altered gate and roof ladder a fair bit in process) but sorted it with hammer and help from a guy sitting by roadside – cost 1 beer in paper bag. Nice local style meal of chicken and rice. Loads of kids, goats, chickens etc

Camping Traditions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not exceptional - we are trying tokeep a record of best/worst onesStrange termite mounds we later discovered they exist throughout the region

 

 

termite hills - strange ones we found throughought the region covering ladrge areas at times

 

 

 

 

Changing Plans

Photos to follow

 

Whilst at Sekuta (German campsite) we met Brett & Mary, a young South African couple whose blog Emma had been Stalking in the UK as they travelled up East Coast to Europe and UK before setting off home again to South Africa. They were waiting for situation in Mali to settle as it basically controls the way forward. It became apparent that things were not going to be resolved quickly which left us with a problem – no visa for Cote d’Ivoire which we now needed. They had their visa but the country does not have a good reputation – mostly historical – so we agreed to tackle that together. To find a visa we made plans to travel through Guinea – somewhere theres not a lot of info on and not visited by tourists especially the route were were planning. Luckily after a tour of Sekuta (suburb of Banjul the capital) with a taxi driver who knew less than we did it seems we got our visas in 2 hours – new record for all but at a price as we both opted for multiple entry type thinking if we crossed out to try Mali we may not get entry therefore have to return.

 

New route meant travelling length of Gambia through part of Senegal again and into Guinea. We have to travel to capital Conakry on the coast to try to get Cote d’Ivoire visas and meet up with them to cross into Mali/ Cote d’Ivoire depending on situation.

Senegal(Zebrabar) to The Gambia,

Photos to follow

 

We spent a wonderful 3 day’s at Zebrabar near Saint -Louis, a little piece of paradise after a long journey,palm trees ,sandy beach and even breakfast thrown in,which has to be good

Zebrabar Camp

 

 

.Met the local people,who loved having a chat and bought plenty of fruit and veg from the ladies in the market.

Saint-Louis itself was a busy vibrant place,with funky brightly coloured buses everywhere , black and yellow taxi,s,goats on leads and horse drawn carts,just great for people watching. aving had another horrendous border/ferry crossing at Rosso,this place was just what we needed.

A red billed hornbill - i think!

Left Zebrabar(rather sadly)had a long drive in 40c,passing through many different villages,got toH

Gambia border,expected this to be fairly straightforward,but once again,they tried to pull a fast one,

making out we hadn’t paid enough,when we refused to pay more they took us into a compound telling us they would search the vehicle for drugs…….Michael spun them a yarn and they finally let us go ,but by the time we got to Barra the port,we had missed the last ferry and spent the night in a rather unsavoury compound,until the early morning ferry to Banjul . The pool by the car door was from overflowing bogs – nice touch!

 

Finally found camp site we were looking for nice compound run by a German couple Jo & Claudia very helpful Jo has spent abnormal years in Africa wee fee and money Changing available

a red bird -not looked yet

 

 

Mauritania

 

The drive from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott is is bit of a hike, the previously contemplated diversion through a national park was abandoned as we found out from locals it was desert and you needed a guide to get the best out of it. Having seen enough desert we decided to crack on. Had a Mauritanian tea though ( very dismissive of Moroccan version weak/ minty they say  – theirs involves lots of pouring back and forth , adding sugar until you get substantial froth then small glass is poured, its the tea equivalent of espresso coffee and quite nice.

 

Drive was 450 kms of desert of all sorts ,the southern third had a surprising number of tented villages – sort of modern Bedouin set ups with 4x4s. They seem to exist by the use of huge water bladders hence proximity to roadsides. Roadblocks – reached double figures before lunch, gave up counting after that.

 

Mauritanian facts – its huge, twice the size of France, they only recently abolished slavery, their government still estimates there’s about 100,000 slaves out of a population of 3 million – nice!!. Girls haveyou got a weight problem? this is a place for you –  young brides to be are still force fed in some areas untill they are deemed fat enough  to marry then kept that way. You can see why most people it seems aren’t too keen on the country despite the charms of its desert.

 

Nouakchott is a modern town – I don’t think there were any originally in the country, all date from last 40 years. Didn’t see much , but stayed in nice place. because of Mali problems we decided it was not worth it, getting in was likely to be OK but local ECOWAS countries ( EU type of thing) are promising military intervention unless the coup leaders negotiate and with embargoes it was felt we would only get so far then get stuck because of no fuel.

 

Left next morning for border only 2 options one of which is regarded by serious African travellers as arguably the worst in Africa ( therefore probably world class) -Yup thats the one we had to take as road to other was apparently closed (mud) and it meant a 100k + round trip to find out. We had spoken to a spanish lady who took over 18hours to get across a few days before, and that does not involve sitting in some nice terminal believe me.. We did it in four hours which is very good but costly, bribes, sadly is the only way,otherwise we would still be there

– police, customs more police etc etc etc on both sides by the time we crossed we were both absolutely shattered – constant harassment takes its toll – and a fair bit poorer probably $200+ .We were assured by various Senegalese that border aside (and to be fair most grief was on Mauritanian side, corruption elsewhere was not an issue which seems to be the case.

 

Drove through Senegal to coast, a much nicer feel than the previous two countries, got to campsite near St Louis after dark including long drive down tracks –our mega beam lights did there job well. Joy of joys even in the dark it was apparent why Zebrabar is rated as an overlanders paradise – Honesty bar with cold beers , only a few English people here – part of some Gambian charity thing we had met some previously in Morocco .

 

Daylight confirmed our views, white sand coconut palms very quiet, lovely loos/showers delicious breakfast, lunch, dinner . Area is a National park based on a series of lagoons and famous for birds. Havne not a clue what most are, as only bought Southern/ East African Bird books but have seen Pelicans – huge, hornbills, and Purple Heron (??) and lots of others interesting things. Huge change from camels and desert.

 

Have to go to St louis tomorrow for money then back for local market in nearby village and more laziness-just chillin.

 

Struggling with photos very poor link tend to load then crash at end spent hours will add ASAP