Conakry to Sierrea Leone border
Entering the capital of Guinea starts far from actual reaching the centre ville. Centre ville is Kaloum, la ville, where I start to write this post. In Maison d’Accueil, a catholic mission and one of the cheapest accommodations in town. I pay almost €20 and then it comes with an air conditioning unit, which I don’t use, and without water. Nothing, not even a bucket. Which is not very handy when you’re sweaty and salty and crusty and pimpled from the weather which has changed from pleasantly warm (even if that’s up to 40 degrees) to humid, cloudy and just filthy centre ville weather.
Reaching the capital
Coming from Coyah and having enjoyed a beautifully, great downhill which lasted about 10 kilometers I am back at sea level. The route from Kindia to Coyah was less beautiful than the tracks I rode before, and the last leg to Conakry is plain gruesome. Packed with traffic and potholes and constantly lined with dirty shacks where they mold ironware, little shops with the same crap, shacks with meat just stripped from their skin and a lot, a lot of greasy car and motorbike service shops. It’s not fun to ride here. And I have to take this route once more to get to the border with Sierra Leone.
It won’t affect my mood though because I am happy and proud that I have zipped through the traffic. Without one imperfection have I crossed the African roads, zigzagged between the cars, avoiding potholes and slashing car doors until I reached all the way down to where this part of the world stops. Just like that. With the ocean again in sight, me feeling that heroic feeling of having done it all myself. I love cycling in hectic city’s, I am good at it. They suit me better than hills. I am most concentrated, my eyes scanning quickly from left to right while always looking ahead, and I try to keep moving. I know my rights, they are non existent, so when I come upon a roundabout I check my options and slice through the traffic. I am really good at it because I always win from everyone around me. You just need to take your chances. However, I wear my helmet, 25 kilometers before entering centre ville. You just never know…
Roundabouts are designed to let traffic flow more easily, isn’t it? Well, not here. It blocks everything and although it hardly affects me it seems to agitate a policeman. He starts screaming and yells at me that I have to come over to him. To get my lesson, I suppose. Well, Mister Police, I ain’t doing anything wrong except taking my rights because when I am on the roundabout I am in my right. Apparently to the police man, everyone on the roundabout is to stop for all who want to enter it. I don’t stop to get my lesson, I continue speeding to where my direction leads me.
It takes me about 1.5 hour to find a low-budget hotel. Where I could easily find the right direction into the heart of town, here it becomes more difficult, mainly because there are not so many budget options. People are helpful, give me good directions, walk up with me to hotels and go ask prices which I know are way too high. I am even cheered on by another policeman, for the fact that I am cycling or for cycling in the wrong direction. Some other police man helps me, although I am cycling against the one way traffic this police man walks with me to Maison d’Accueil. He, Diallo, checks me in, helps with my luggage and carry my bicycle a couple of stairs up. He then gives me his number which I gladly accept; it can be handy to have a police man as a friend.
A little flash back, to Coyah
The police of Guinea is friendly and very helpful, like a police man should be, isn’t it? They ought to lead the traffic, or remove stranded trucks in the middle of a roundabout. But no, stranded trucks stay where they got broken and will be repaired on the spot, even if that take days. Police is here to help me, because I am a guest of their country. So when I enter Coyah I ask a police man directions for a hotel. He jumps on a motorbike and drive ahead of me for about 4 kilometers. There he offers to find food for me and off he is. Meanwhile he calls me 4 times to say that there’s no riz gras and no poisson, so he comes back with 3 boiled eggs, 2 bread and 3 bananas. I am thankful because I am tired but when the motorbike boy ask me a steep fee for his service I refuse to give anything more than one fifth of his price. I did not ask for his service in the first place. And so, while having an argument in French in my room (a room provided with 5 condoms, still in their package this time) I summon the whole lot to get out so I can take a shower. I am tired, you see. And they go. Police man and biker boy wait for the madame to finish her shower until she’s done. Then I am called to ‘please pay’. I stand my ground and I pay only one fifth of biker boys price. In the end they agree and I start eating the 3 eggs, not surprisingly tasting that well…
While I was in Gambia I went to the embassies of both Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast and decided that I might go to Mali instead. Thus avoiding their very steep visa fees. But things went somewhat less pacific in Mali and moving along I decided not to go to Mali. This bought me to Conakry where I was lucky enough to find the embassy of Sierra Leone open on a Friday. I race through traffic hardly moving, over the highway against one way direction, in between slow moving cars and I get there before the consul appears. The visa, it’s fee still being as steep as in Banjul ($100), leave me waiting 72 hours with the weekend in between. Great! This means I stay at least 5 nights in an expensive hotel, the cheapest place in town, the Catholic mission, for 18 euro a night. Impossible to get my daily budget less than €15.
I sulk a bit over the fact that I don’t want to stay such a long period in Conakry but then decide to make the best out of it and arrange the visa for Ivory Coast as well. This has to be done over the internet and the costs are even more steep, €110. And why not order the dress I long for? Done. I cycle to the only bookstore in town, full with excitement and hope, only to find out that everything is in French. Pity. I go to the huge internet place on Avenue de la République, being each and every time interrupted by boys and men who funnily wants to start a conversation? Strange. I am here for internet, not for socializing.
African men are not sexually frustrated, unlike the Pakistani and Indian. I am sure this has to do with the African women who are fond of sex, or just have not so much choice. I can walk into a crowd overruled by men and nothing will happen. No hands straying where they should not be when I walk in the evening on the pavements of Conakry. Even the tailor who measures my breast is doing this as professionally as can be. Makes me even more curious to his tailoring skills.
Conakry is obvious a city. Poor people come here hoping to find opportunities they don’t have in their village. Misshaped humans shoving along the street stalls where I sit and eat. Their legs in such a position that it makes me wonder how he must feel. Homeless making their little cozy places out of portals. Men and women who became crazy are now yelling, whistling a flute or wildly shaking their arms while talking loudly to them selves. Even a well dressed office man is commenting loudly to no one in particular. Beautiful women walk elegantly in wide floating robes, embroidered by little boys who are bended over the textile under the needle of their professional sewing machine in a unnatural position. Their eyes must go bad way sooner than a boy the same age who’s going to school. Bigger business is again done by Lebanese and I see a large Turkish community here, with supermarkets full of Turkish products, still very expensive. Big trucks laden with sea containers and heavy building materials pushing their way through the traffic, always a co-driver hanging out of the window, yelling at anyone who dare to be so unmannerly not to give way. I eat large plastic plates of delicious food, that is, if I can find it while at other times I stumble upon them like they are crying out for me. Ideally it is fish in the morning and fish in the evening with an omelet and sweet lait au café in the midday. Yes, lait au café because the filled sweet condensed milk is quite overwhelming. I discover a new staple, tapioca and together with thin sliced onion, tomato and spicy home made chili sauce this is a real treat. Working people are often stressed, car drivers too.
All the stuff we did not want anymore is here for sale. Buoys are cut in such a form that it has become a water carrier. Boxes stuffed with socks has to be sorted out and then they can be sold. Our bra’s and sexy lingerie is showing of their second life along the Route du Niger. While home trainers, bicycle’s and toys are fighting for attention. Plastic shoes and poorly hand made African shoes are to be seen, as well as old lady’s precisely cutting the skin of an orange. Sales boys try to sell me fluffy pillows, huge mosquito nets beautifully adorned with lace, sure very romantic but not handy to carry on a bicycle. I can sit and watch the people of this city with great curiosity, such a mixture of the world mingling together. Each of us observing the other with interest. I receive puberty stares from the fat Lebanese boy, I watch the beautifully black framed face of a veiled Turkish woman, return the open smile of a Guinean living in Paris and talk slowly with the lady behind the Ivory Coast embassy desk.
The woman is dressed in a two piece office suit. Her little belly peeping underneath her upwards crawling, partly woolen, colbert jacket. She painfully slowly explains me how to obtain the visa and even more slowly she takes a piece of paper and write down the internet address. While I think ‘If everything in this country is done so ineffectively, no wonder that it is such a big mess!’ We talk a bit about my cycle tour, about the route ‘Mali c’est ne pas bon’ and about facial cream.
Am I being followed?
Then, when I walk back into the spacious open courtyard of the catholic mission, I am greeted by two young men on a bicycle: ‘Are you Cindy?’ Yes, I am, and my eyebrows frown in a high bow above my round brown/greenish eyes.
They are Brandon and Oliver from Ireland and I guess I am mostly stunned by the fact that people actually do check out my weblog. Their bicycles completely covered in red earth and darkness fallen over us, Jean Paul, the boy who’s supposed to run the hotel, says he’s tired and ask me to show them the room. Also the room is not cleaned since I, half a day ago, have changed it, ‘do they mind?, or better ‘can you clean the room, Cindy?’ Jean Paul seems to be excessively African. Plain lazy. When I came to the hotel Jean Paul refused to help me at all ‘I am watching television now’, so Brandon and Oliver are quite well off. But not for long, they get robbed the same evening!
And with this very unlucky happening a continuing sets in…
Brandon goes off to the police station each day to find the thief who stole their electronic devices. We all know who did the robbery and so the police offers to sit down in a fancy restaurant annex bar and hopefully spot the boy and being able to molest him. Understandable, all on Brandon expenses. Brandon doesn’t go for it though. When Brandon is tired of paying bribes in the form of gas, breakfast, lunch, extra fees or by the same police being harassed for not having his visa copied, he is actual free to arrange visa for the following countries. I have already started the hunt for visa and am in the full swing of things. But everything moves to a much slower pace when I start to explore the city with Oliver. Can it actually be called a city? It is a big trash dump where nothing seems to make sense, where everything is either crumbling apart by total neglect or being built sky high by eager Chinese. There’s no logic and nothing seems to work really. Yet, it does flow.
Teams of young boys and grown up men are playing football in the middle of the street, not being disturbed by lampposts in their football field, nor fat jeeps speeding through. Men from the countryside are having their neat little food stall in a stifling container where passing trucks let the structure shake enjoyably. The beach is covered with dead rats and human fecal matter but it does have atmosphere and young people smoking marihuana flock to it to have some privacy. The pavement is a joke, passing it makes us laugh out loud because of the missing sewer coverings, the irregularity of used concrete with or without iron rods sticking out. The traffic has slight difficulties with driving, either they stay in a elegant straight line while there’s plenty of space on the left of them, either they just knock you over. Like they did with Oliver.
Oliver knows how to cycle in heavy traffic, really. He’s from New York and not cruising that city in a car but having chosen the bicycle instead, he has capabilities to move through African capital cities. Nevertheless he could not have guessed that the car left of him did not see him and simply jerk the steering wheel to Oliver’s direction and smash him hard into the tarmac. Yes, they have tarmac in this city.
The police takes the driver his license and insist to go to the hospital. Oliver his arm is covered in blood and soon his brother is smeared all over as well. Shortly a crowd is standing around us and the traffic comes to an halt. Oliver knows how the police works in this country and so he signals to me to cycle on, quickly and fast. Brandon being a triathlon sportsman and me getting a huge rush out of city traffic we push the pedals and leave the whole scene behind us in wonderment.
Wonderment is also how the boy from the internet café looks at me. He press my arm and he bend over his desk to see how I look like. Not very strong nor muscled yet he’s asking for my contact details and whether I am married. Most people want to leave the country and with good reason. Things don’t seem to happen in this city, being a business man must drive you into complete insanity by the lack of people working, lack of electricity, lack of running water, lack of logic.
When I ask a salesman for washing powder to wash my clothes they hand me over a bottle of bleach. When I stand at a stall for mango’s and papaya’s other salesman come run to me and ask if I need washing powder or electronic plugs. When I ask the bookseller for an English book they offer me French dictionaries. And of course boys with huge racks of sunglasses must be encouraged by me wearing extraordinary sunglasses and ask if I want to buy another one.
I like Conakry. I like the atmosphere and I like the company I am in now. Walking down the streets at dark feels fine, the food at the destroyed pavements is a joy for my tongue and the looks I receive from passerby’s is just an adding to the fun: a white woman eating village food on the street. Hilarious! I have cassava root with fried fish and a sauce of onion with chili for breakfast. I am happy to find plantains, the fried banana and I am simply enjoying the company of the two Irish brothers. While Brandon goes out to the police station each morning, Oliver and I stroll the city and while drinking lot’s of Nescafe I discover the city at a different angle, go to places I would not go myself. We sit and watch the sun sink in the ocean, the ocean diffusing with the sky, as far as our eyes can see, the world so vast. Full with interesting people. Exchanging thoughts. Contemplating on a beach covered in stinking shit and dead rats while the stone we sit on roughly massaging my bottom. People who travel extreme are interesting and Oliver and I are one of those, in need to express ourselves.
We end up in a bar, watching football on a screen showing only green colors. The hut we sit in hovering over the ocean and marihuana sliding into my nostrils. I drink a sweet lemonade, and let the breeze play with my growing hair. Discovering the city, another mind, having fun and sit on concrete structures and pavements until my eyes become sleepy. Too late I end up in my bed, the city’s excitement keeps me up to a time I normaly sleep. We walk past groups of men who play football in the middle of the street, we eat ice cream and order double lunch. Oliver approach to people is an adding to mine and together we enjoy the city to a much larger extent.
Diamonds in Liberia embassy
We cycle through the city to obtain several visa and when we step in the Liberian embassy I was not thinking I would obtain the visa but might as well get it since we are where we are. Catherine is the woman in charge, her office smelling of too sweet air refresher, she herself young and loveable. Soon Brandon sprays his masculinity over her and from an additional $50 for a quick visa issue we are able to get it the next day without paying the fee. Great! Even greater is the present I receive from Aboubacar, the landlord of the embassy, a highly decorated building and completely out of tune with the Conakry style. He introduce himself and if it is the most normal thing -which probably is- he says he’s dealing in diamonds. Because of Catherine’s loveliness and Brandon’s slight flirtations, I decide to join in and ask Aboubacar if I can have a diamond. ‘Sure, I’ll get you one,’ and off he goes. Coming back with two tiny diamonds, a rough one and a polished one. Embedded into two thin sheets of paper, like we’re talking about grey river pebbles. I am stunned! Now I am stuck with two diamonds and have to cross into Sierra Leone and Liberia. I can only hope they won’t search my luggage too well….
Our short captivity
The police of Conakry is obviously in need for additional payment and so they got themselves a nice little task. I would call it discriminating but they call it law. All the white people are picked from the street and pushed into a minivan full of policemen. Brandon has gone through it the day before and so we are warned: always carry your passport information on a photocopy. So when the three of us set out for breakfast we all carry our photocopies. The police of Africa however will find a number of excuses to push you into their van anyway, and so Oliver and I are forced into their white, shining vehicle. Only because we don’t carry a copy of the Guinean visa. ‘No problem, we take you to your hotel and you can pick up your photocopy there,’ is what they say. In a meantime they drive us far away from our hotel and when Oliver is objecting and the van comes to an halt, Oliver steps out of the minibus. I am not sure what to do, only that becoming angry is not the way to gain things in Africa but on the other hand, I do want to stand behind the man I accompany. Not to be stubborn but to show the police I don’t agree with their discrimination. So I push myself through several police man and in a meanwhile Oliver has gone mad! Within the minute a large crowd is surrounding the minivan, the countless policeman and a wildly rejecting Irishman. I already run off, into the direction where Oliver is leading me: the hotel. But soon I am smoothly drifted back to the minivan. Not sure what to do? Shall I interfere between the police and Oliver? Shall I ask him to calm down? But how will he react? This Oliver is new to me. I decide to do nothing, the people surrounding us succeed in calming down Oliver and tame as a lamb we step back into the minivan.
Off to the immigration office. The other white man in the minivan is a Kurd from Syria and obviously used to being oppressed. In the immigration office we are handed over to an officer behind a desk stacked with large bricks of money, wanting our passports. An impossible task if we are not allowed to go back to our hotel nor the embassy where my passport’s laying on a desk waiting for another expensive visa. But we may go out to have our breakfast, accompanied by a policeman who watches over us. We wait for a few hours, I call my newly made Guinean friend who’s a policeman and he’s willing to help and comes to us by taxi. When he almost reach the immigration office we are handed over to the woman who’s in charge and simply says we can go. That’s it.
A tougher journey begins…
I realize quickly that traveling with Brandon and Oliver will be slightly more demanding, Brandon is a fit young man who’s into triathlons and Oliver carries his bicycle loaded up and down two flights of stairs. Our first day cycling together starts around 4 o’clock, in the afternoon that is, a timing which suits me well. Bandon start the late cycling day with a flat tire but because their passports are in the hands of Liberian Catherine, Oliver and I need to speed up through thick, heavy traffic to reach her at the embassy about 22 kilometer further. On our way out we decided to give Catherine a call to say we’re on our way. But to Oliver’s great great horror she says she’s not in the embassy but on her way to the airport! Shit! This would mean we have to stay two extra nights in Conakry. A thought which drives Oliver wild and he has to do extraordinary efforts to get Catherine so far that she is willing to meet us at the airport to hand over two Irish passports with the Liberian visa in it. Luckily Oliver succeed, but not after some steam erupting from his ears. Oliver can be a very good negotiator and that’s why we nicknamed him The Diplomat. Sometimes he’s not very diplomatic though, and calls out to the locals ‘have a very good life’, or ‘I never come back again.’ Honestly always pays off and no one seems to be disturbed by his straightness, not the least myself, being a Dutchman. Actually, I have a lot of fun. And this only continues…
Speeding through the capital onto the airport is a wild adventure and seeing Oliver fully loaded in front of me makes my view more complete. Watching him is seeing myself. It’s great fun to be one with the African traffic and swirling from left to right, avoiding all the possible risks is highly concentrated cycling but gives me an instant energy boost. Soon we are at the airport. Oliver being very attentive sets his folding chair for me and is off to meet Catherine in the airport. But only after another heated conversation through the phone. In a meanwhile I am surrounded by curious Guineans and Chinese workers who are all admiring me until a woman walks past and asks me if I ever delivered a baby. No, I didn’t. And her look says it all. And she’s right, delivering a baby is probably harder than cycling from The Netherlands to Guinea. If I think about it, it all goes so smoothly…
Except that Liberian Catherine is not in the airport. She’s not to be found. And the passports are with her. Oliver goes mad once more, while I get this strange feeling that we will see her. This sure must sound naively positive to Oliver but guess who’s shouting at us at the roundabout? Catherine. Immaculate dressed in a white blouse, buttons ready to burst by the overload of breast pressed into it. Handing Oliver the two passports. Saved! ‘Coffee!’ states Oliver and with effort we do find coffee but only after I throw in some female sweetness rather than his not so smooth diplomacy.
Brandon finds us, repair his tire again and off we are. Speeding with the three of us through the madness of the capital rush hour. It gives me so much pleasure, the road winding constantly up and down full with traffic exploded with the same energy. A little out of the capital we set up our camp. By now we are cycling in the dark and that’s really not a great thing to do on those African roads blessed with potholes, missing tarmac and vehicles without light.
A new experience sets in
Brandon and Oliver choose a place to camp right in sight of every one. We actually find ourselves a spot in the middle of town, a field where the market’s being held. I don’t mind since I have two broad shouldered protectors, two brothers who are not afraid to face any African wildebeest. I enjoy the pleasures of being in a small team and that include that I don’t have to find my self a hidden camp spot. Soon, of course, we are surrounded by the whole village, curious children who laugh at us and who come so close that I can’t even turn without bumping into them. Brandon seems to be able to relax among this crowd, (which isn’t really how he’s experiencing it) laying in his tent, listening to the BBC news on his little world receiver while Oliver and I are off to find food.
We are attracted by the low glistering of light across the road, a little food stall cum television hut is serving bread with omelet and Nescafe coffee. Oliver and I perch ourselves between the men who are hypnotized by the loud crackling sound of a French movie. While we are waiting for our diner, being prepared on a little blackened pan on a small gas burner, we soon are hypnotized too. It’s a great seventies movie where the director must have been completely stoned. It draws Oliver and me closer, surrounded by African men and children, darkness hoovering around the television hut and the sweet knowledge that our stomachs will be filled very soon.
Coming back in our market-place-camp we soon get into trouble by a man whose ego must affect the whole village. He says he’s police and order us to show our passports. We are all hesitant and this makes him angry. Makes him loose his reputation as a policeman in front of the big crowd around our tents. He starts to become rather annoying and soon Brandon becomes angry too, while Oliver diplomatic skills come to a high. I start to become agitated by the fact that I can’t find a spot without being watched while I want to pee and wash myself a bit. The show reaches it’s peak, the crowd surely enjoys it, with an officer, a police, a religious dressed Oumar who interpret between us, passports checked for visa and stamps and finally, without having to move nor paying anyone, we can stay. Where they found it was dangerous for us first, it is now complete save for us. A fact we already were aware of…
There are no religious rebels out here, although some people like to scare us off. Later we find out that this country is on the nerve of an outbreak. People are nervous, a war can come anytime soon, is what we hear…
It is true, most houses are surrounded by walls. The walls are dressed with barbwire or pieces of broken glass and nothing seems to be safe. But we do feel safe and we certainly don’t feel the possibility that we will be kidnapped or invite rebels to our camp. I think most locals are just over protected towards us. Most can’t believe we cycled all the way from Europe, they simply can’t comprehend.
When I wake up and want to find a quite spot for toilet facilities I am immediately seen and so my possibilities for a natural toilet are gone. I head back to camp, just in time to shove off the guys walking eagerly, happily and with full enthusiasm to wake up Brandon and Oliver. Have they no clue at all? Don’t these people understand we might like some quietness after opening our eyes? No, there’s no such thing as privacy. But what about manners?
Breakfast and coffee are things which are not always easy to find, certainly not easy to order. Nescafe coffee is an experience in itself in this country where the word Nescafe indicates not what you would expect. If you ask for Nescafe they ask you first ‘to drink?’ and if you made clear ‘yes, Nescafe to drink,’ then follows if you want it with milk. That’s a good question, but the difficulty lies in the fact which milk you want: sweet condensed milk or unsweetened condensed milk, which I start to call by it’s name ‘Omela’, to make things easier. Then you have to watch for the tea making man because before you know he will spoon in extra sugar, which is absolutely not necessary if you have chosen the sweet condensed milk version. And this goes all in French. And then, after a long struggle you do have your Nescafe. Ordering the second Nescafe is to start the whole thing over, if at all they understand that you want another.
Then comes paying the bill. One plus five is maybe eight?!
Pushing myself once more
My first full day of cycling with Brandon and Oliver pushes me up to 65 kilometer before I take my first stop. Would I take my own pace I would soon have lost them and by cycling just a little bit faster and not taking rest every time I see something worthwhile, I am able to meet them in Forécariah. A larger town reached through lush forest and slow moving hills. The road is far from flat, unlike Brandon’s tire he’s repairing once more at a greasy mechanic shop. I find it nice to see those two bicycles waiting for me in this village and even greater to find out the brothers like to take an extended lunch break. Exactly my idea. We sit down for about one and a half hour, enjoy a full plate of rice with manioc leaves and set off to the border after Oliver finds himself a set of lovely toilet-cups to extend his kitchen utensils.
At an almost 100 kilometer day ride we reach the tarmac and with that the border with Sierra Leone. The scenery is plain tropical, if only for the young fresh girls waving at us wearing nothing but a wrap around skirt. A little further another river gives another view, that of fully naked grown up man washing and splashing the tiredness off from a day of hard field labor, or maybe a day of sweaty laziness.
Oliver and I head into the barrier of the border crossing, having cycled some time together while Brandon’s waiting for us. My work is finished here, I can relax and stand back, searching for a place to camp is now Oliver’s job and with him exploring through the fields in front of us we soon gather a new crowd around us. The audience of Pamalap.
A new life
Oliver is new to camping. He never did this before. Oliver is also new to travel by bicycle. In fact, Oliver is new to traveling altogether. He never really did this before either. Therefor, my admiration is great for him. He made an extreme change, from working to cycling overland from Ireland through West Africa, not the easiest continent. He gave up all and jumped on a Surly bicycle which his brother choose for him, a few days before setting off. Now Oliver comes back and says he has find us a nice camp spot, reasonably flat and away from the road. We follow him, Brendan pushes my bicycle through the fields and I take his very, very light bicycle. I notice we are now wading through farmland, heaps of earth covered with hay are smoothly flaring in front of us. We destroy a few by hauling our cycles over them and then set up camp on a piece of very sloping ground. Perfect!
We are to be seen from the road, surrounded by palm trees and a fresh flowing river is waiting for us. I like this new lifestyle, even though we are presented with the ‘chef du village’, backed up with some people from the immigration office and a load of children followed by curious women. The audience of Pamelap has found us and we realize we have forgot to ask the village chief for permission. Now we are obviously standing on somebody’s ground, our own inviting might not be taken well with the locals. Three white people choosing to set up camp on some one’s fertile ground. Oliver and Brendan know how to deal with this and soon the audience is gone. With the quietness we also got permission and with this knowledge we take our toilet bags, soap bars and headlights and wade through the fields towards the river.
Such simplicity is like a crown on a cycle day. Being able to wash of the sweat, the dirt, the greasiness and the tiredness is truly a delight. Our washing basin is nothing more than a little pool of water standing still, surrounded by palms and green lushness, deep throat sounds coming from male frogs huddled around us. We let ourselves sink in the water, with a little less openness than the locals we wear our cycle shorts and T-shirt. When the darkness having reached it’s height I take off all, ask Oliver to turn around and give myself a second wash. Then it’s Oliver’s time to splash, and I turn around, sit on a stone and watch the stars. Such simplicity makes my heart beat slowly…
Oliver is having a night out in the village where they show football on television, apparently the African championship is being held, a happening where I am now aware of and which don’t even bother me. Football is really something I try to avoid but being in the perfect company I now even enjoy the crackling sound of the voices of BBC through the world receiver radio. Brendan and I prepare rice with turmeric and loads of union, a dish barely being able to fail, but we manage to make it into a non-edible meal. Still hungry I go off to sleep at a late hour of 11, just after Oliver strolls back to our camp, a little tipsy through the potato fields, his voice changed into a deeper Guinean French, trying to surprise me with his act as chef du village…
From 25th January to 2nd February 2013