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November 14, 2012 / samwilson60

Into Guinea

After a night in Tambacounda on our way to the tarmacked border, we exited Senegal with absolutely no fuss and everyone as lovely as we’d become accustomed to. Even more surprising was the entry into Guinea. Still all smiles, and still no money changed hands, but it took a while. We arrived just after a Swiss delegation of four 40-foot trucks and a minibus, accompanied by two local pickups and greeted at the border by all manner of dignitaries. After lots of hand-shaking, a couple of speeches and quite a lot of other faff, they went off for lunch and we were waved through. The subsequent formalities were fundamentally very simple, but still they didn’t really get it. Not a single policeman, gendarme or customs officer took down our details correctly and all keep insisting someone else would fill in the carnet.

We encountered a second set of police, gendarmes and customs about 20km into Guinea, at a small place called Sambailo. Once again, all were disarmingly nice (except for one slightly scary dude in a very small hut, but thankfully he didn’t know what to do with us either). We’d been told Guinea was not as prepared for tourism as some of its neighbours, that most people would eye us suspiciously at first and that officials had the potential to be difficult. As it happens, we felt we’d got off to a great start and made friends with almost everyone we met. They all suggested we stay at the hotel in Sambailo, but we needed to change money first so headed on to Koundara. We asked around for a hotel there and just kept being directed back to Sambailo – including by the officers at a third customs post – so back to Sambailo we went, only to find we been gazumped at the only hotel by the Swiss truckers and their all-singing, all-dancing welcome party.

Back in Koundara and with the help of a few locals, we eventually got to what seemed to be the only hotel in town. After being plagued by insects at the hotel the previous night, we insisted on sleeping in our tent in what turned out to be the carpark of both the hotel and an associated bar/nightclub.

It was all very chilled out until they had to put the generator on to power the sound system and proceeded to party/shout all night. Suffice to say, we didn’t get much more rest than the night before and set off very early the following morning in search of a laid-back saunter to Labé and a peaceful night’s sleep.

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