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November 14, 2012 / samwilson60

Day two in Guinea, and what a day!

The 250km to Labé started very smoothly, on perfect tarmac in beautiful scenery. At about 9am we stopped for a brew and waved enthusiastically at each of the seven vehicles in the Swiss convoy as they passed. We took our time so as to give them a bit of a head start, but soon caught up just as the tarmac ran out. The overly self-important escorts (police, military and other) heatedly insisted we position ourselves between them and the last truck, despite our objections and the obvious fact that we had absolutely nothing to do with the convoy. Wedged between, we were unable to stop for a wee even, let alone pictures or tea, and trundled along in first gear at best until about three hours later and only 20km nearer our destination.

Enforced convoy

Free at last!

We were fairly sure we weren’t making Labé by nightfall after all but didn’t want to get tangled in convoy again either so pushed on to the bac – a really rickety thing that made the Senegalese equivalent look like a Mercedes.

We sat back agape as they loaded the ‘Bonne Chance’ truck – it looked like it would fall straight through the floor of the boat and the only silver lining was that they didn’t try to put us on too. It returned from the other side of the river intact and we boarded successfully, ahead of a group of Senegalese guys who’d stayed at the same hotel as us the previous night. It was great to see them again and we crossed paths again just a few kilometres further up the piste, when they overtook us with fists full of money stretched out of the window. We still don’t really understand but they insisted on giving us money for the boat (not sure if we accidentally paid for them, but don’t think so). All too surreal for words.

We caught up with our buddies again, and 50 or so others, before long, at a bog hole that had already swallowed two bush taxis when we arrived.  Once the main drag had been vacated, it was mercifully low drama in the Tinker Beast. We didn’t even get any abuse from the policeman we covered in mud – he and all the onlookers just congratulated us on making it through.

Having been treated so well by our Senegalese buddies, we wanted to make sure they too got to the other side unscathed before carrying on. The driver was rather nervous and tried out a couple of routes – all highly unconventional but manageable. He just bottled it at the last minute every time. Eventually we got him through and were all on our merry way. They had to make it to Labé that night, but had some contacts in a village on the way where they said they’d wait for us, confident we could stay there. The piste got no better, just steeper, and nightfall was accompanied by thunder, lightning and the inevitable rain, so we dived into the bushes before making the village and sent word to our friends with a slightly startled bush taxi driver.

After the best night’s sleep in ages, we did the last 70km or so to Labé the next day at a more leisurely pace, arriving on a real high and treating ourselves to a nice hotel on the outskirts of town. We’re camping in the car park as usual, but it’s more of a garden than a car park, there’s no nightclub attached and the owner is really nice. So nice that we’ve stayed an extra day to catch up on internet, car maintenance and arts/crafts.

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