#13 – Flying through Guinea
There was no border control, but in the first village I passed, someone in army coloured clothes came to me and asked my passport. Afterwards he also asked for some money, to buy a smoke and to help him. I told him I already paid for the visa and I shouldn’t pay at the border control. I changed subject and slowly moved my way out of here. An hour later I had a similar experience. This time I told the man that buying cigarettes was not going to help him. He couldn’t identify himself and seemed a bit uncertain about himself. It was a tricky situation, putting myself at risk or to support bribe. I’m sure it’s going to happen more often, and I have to trust in my feeling about the situation. A little later this bad experience was compensated by a cool experience, I had to cross a river by kayak.
“Passport please”, a man in a blue uniform now asked. He registered my details and put a stamp in my passport. That looked more confident. It was late and I asked if I could camp next to the football field behind him. “No problem, many people have done it before. Americans, Japanese, French”. Great. As I was setting up my tent and cooking dinner, people started to gather around on the football field. They were going to have a training. After my dinner I asked if I could join the game. In these cases I’m happy to speak the language of football and to make some short term friends.
Surrounded by a dozen chickens, there was absolutely no chance of waking up late. But it was raining, so it took a while before everything was on the bike. The gravel road was in a bad condition, but nevertheless fun to ride on.
The red clay was cursing with the toxic green grass. The people in the small villages reacted mostly happy when I passed by, and quite some even spoke English, while the official language is French. Later I found out that quite some people are from Sierra Leone, a former U.K. colony, and came here as a refugee a few years ago.
At the end of the day I ended up on asphalt again, near the city Boke. I found a hotel and asked if it was possible to camp here. Although I got refused, one minute later he agreed anyway. I was even able to have a shower near the swimming pool, which offered probably the best view I ever had while taking a shower, towards a large valley with a swinging river and some kayaks.
Hills and thunderstorms
To do something back for the hotel I was staying at, I offered them to make some photos and videos of the hotel and its beautiful location. It was also an opportunity to recharge my devices, which is difficult nowadays.
The road was getting quite hilly and being able to look over the surrounding on top of a hill is something I truly missed during my cross through The Sahara. Rain poured down on me more frequently too. During one storm the thunder came pretty close and forced me to hide under some bushes for 30 minutes, while getting soaked from top to toe.
Surrounded by 10 kids I set up my tent under a small roof. First they were afraid of me, but slowly they started to approach me. In the evening they even offered me food, which was delicious, although their level of spicy seemed to be much higher than mine.
A woman with some local dishes walks by, and I buy myself a breakfast at her. It’s fried dough, a similar dish as Dutch people eat during New Year’s Eve.
I continued my way thereafter and encountered so many happy faces beside the road. Everyone greeted me with a big smile on their face. Their astonishment is one of the greatest rewards I get on the bike. Some people even take off their sunglasses, or they freeze during carrying loads on top of their head. Kids start to sing and dance.
At the end of the day I asked some locals if it was possible to camp at the communal hall on the other side of the road. No problem, as usual. I didn’t count on the concrete tables which are places inside, so I had to squeeze my tent between them.
After eating some spaghetti leftovers from yesterday, I was good to go. I was impressed by the enormous amount of Chinese influence around the country. They do a lot of mining and building projects, so much that even the signs were in Chinese.
My phone started to show problems with charging, till it dropped dead and showed a message that the connector was wet, preventing it to charge. No phone means no GPS, but I knew roughly where to go and just followed my instinct.
I stopped at a shop to buy some rice for drying my phone. A man came to me and asked if I talk Dutch. Surprised I looked up and started conversating with him. He helped me with the rice and offered me to stay at his place. In 1999 he fled Sierra Leone to The Netherlands. He lived in Enschede and some other cities for 13 years and now moved to Guinnee.
Being careful with energy
Sleeping on a clean, dry and soft mattress made me sleep incredibly well. Bha, my host brought me to his shop, where I also parked my bike, to have breakfast. It was amazing to meet someone being so grateful for the opportunity he got to come to The Netherlands and get a Dutch passport.
At his shop I was able to charge my phone up to 30%, till it said the connector was wet again. I switched it off during the rest off the day, since I needed to spare some energy to download my visa for Sierra Leone. The visa will be send to me tonight, by a host in Sierra Leone. Without the remaining energy, I was simply not sure if I could get the visa printed somewhere.
The traffic was madness. Multiple cities seemed to be formed around this important network route and took me nearly half a day to find a spot to rest for a bit. With my hand drawn map I was able to navigate and eventually stopped a few kilometers in front of a bigger city, so I could hopefully print the visa tomorrow.
Hoping for the best
Just after the rain in the morning I tried to charge my phone, and it worked. My best guess is that during the day, the moisture becomes so much that my phone refuses to charge. This means that I can only use my phone for priorities, and not for music and navigating all the time.
I pass one of the small wooden bridges that lead me across the ditch. I enter a small room with a few people and a few computers. This is my only and last hope to print my visa for Sierra Leone, otherwise I have to cycle back for 40 km. My presence attracted many other people to enter the room and the small terrace outside. I try to keep an eye on my bike outside. Some 15 minutes later I’m happy to walk away with 2 pieces of paper and to enter the border to Sierra Leone.
The road in Sierra Leone was very good and led me to a place 50 km inside the country. Although the road was very good, the many begging people learned me that this country is incredibly poor. I happened to arrive in a city with a decent motel, so I took this rare opportunity to recharge and to get myself ready for a long day tomorrow, in which I will cycle 120 km to the capital.