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November 25, 2012 / samwilson60

Chutes de Ditinn

What started out as a leisurely play day turned into something else entirely. We had a relaxing start watching the sun rise over the escarpment in Dalaba, then headed out of town with bread and bananas. On the piste to Ditinn we were feeling very relaxed, if a little uncertain of our route. In Ditinn itself we stopped to ask for directions to the waterfall and, without realising it initially, were aided by the mayor and his second in command. Despite all we’d heard about the delicacies of taking photos in Guinea, these two practically begged us to take as many shots as we could to help publicise the local area. It is incredibly beautiful but still largely unknown, it seems. After some prolonged chat about our queen and conservatism, they gave us vague directions to the falls and we blagged the rest. A couple of young guys flagged us down to offer their services but we assured them the local mayor had told us all we needed to know.

A gentle saunter?

A little further down the piste, the next group of youngsters didn’t go to the bother of offering help, they just jumped on the back of the truck as we drove past. Unimpressed when we twigged what was going on, we stopped to explain why we don’t like to drive like that, for their safety if nothing else. The response was confused – they came up with lots of reasons as to why they had to accompany us, none of which was particularly convincing but as long as they stayed off the car, we agreed they were doing no harm. We stopped for a brew in the hope that they might get fed up with us but the entourage only grew, with the majority running along ahead trying to guide as along the piste. This was only mildly frustrating initially but took a turn for the worst when they collected on the only solid bit of ground, pointing insistently at the mud below. We reluctantly took the low road and quickly regretted it. They had meant well but landed us in a rather delicate, immovable position, left front wheel in the air, right back buried and back axle likewise.

It was just getting to the hottest part of the day and our water source was as inaccessible as the rear wheel, so the first decision was to take it slowly, even if it meant cowering in the shade all afternoon and trying to extract the Tinker Beast when the sun was lower in the sky. This baffled the locals beyond belief. There was much debate and some insistence that if we paid them, they’d get us out. But how? Surely the hand winch was a best bet, or at least it was until it broke. After that we agreed to enter into negotiations with the hordes that had since assembled. One went off with a wodge of money to get us some liquids and the others discussed the price of labour. The end result was quite reasonable, but it wiped us out completely. Thankfully the manager of the campement at the end of the piste was among the masses, so we negotiated a discount with him, gave every remaining Guinean franc we had to the group of willing helpers and were out the other side with the car horizontal again in no time. No disrespect to the team, but Sam’s digging and the sand plates were probably our real saviour. That said, they helped us assemble all the ropes and tools we’d had out and shared their oranges with us as we all basked in our combined success. We introduced them to Robinson’s orange squash in exchange.

Once at camp, we were too frazzled to visit the waterfall and could no longer afford it anyway. Instead we set up camp in a shady spot by the river, with view of the falls in the distance and, as always when such an opportunity presents itself, washed ourselves and everything we own. The river at the bottom of the field was perfect for both, not to mention chilling the beer, and we were surrounded by hundreds of beautiful, giant butterflies.

The manager of the campement then gave us a tour and we started, slowly, to form a bond. He was clearly very proud about what they were setting up here, but it was early days. So far, the site consists of three huts in a field, with the river running along the bottom and the path to the waterfall leading out the far side. There are lots of plans to improve the access route, build a proper bridge over the river and develop the campement, and we saw the progress at first hand. By the time we’d woken up the following morning, a brand-new, shiny yellow sign had been set up outside and the manager was using the remaining concrete to level off the floor of one of the huts.

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