On the road through West Africa -Senegal to Guinea

Trip Start Aug 14, 2013
Trip End Feb 01, 2014

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

For the past month we have been travelling in our overland truck Aminah through the depths of West Africa with 19 other intrepid travellers, camping and cooking along the way, staying in bush camps or on the grounds of grubby hotels / brothels. Trying to sum up our time is difficult as it has been so amazing and so much has happened. Also, internet in this part of the world is very unreliable. Apologies therefore for the huge update below!

Dakar, Senegal
We arrived in Dakar in the early hours of a Sunday morning, we'd been told that the visa process could take anywhere up to 3 hours to process, with a bribe involved, thankfully however our arrival was very non-eventful and we found ourselves through customs and in a taxi to our hotel within 30 minutes - no bribes paid. Whilst waiting for our tour to start we explored Dakar and the outer island of Goree with some of the group that arrived early.

Dakar really is a charming city with its crumbling paint flaked buildings and dusty streets. We spent hours wandering the streets and around the markets - attempting to keep clear of hawkers and hasslers. The food in Dakar was pretty awesome, with a mixture of Lebanese and French cuisines, we were spoilt for choice!! We found this awesome street stall, where the lady made the best omelette baguettes - little did we know this meal would become a standard truck meal over the next month - though never to the standard of our Dakar omelette lady. Thanks also to the Lebanese influence we found a great shisha restaurant, I ended up spending a good chunk of time in Dakar smoking the lovely apple tobacco.

After a couple of days in Dakar we finally got to meet the 19 others we'd be spending the next 1 - 2 months with. To say bunch of people on the trip are diverse is an understatement, all nice in their own way, though some mixed with others has been interesting to say the least.

During our first meeting with the group truck jobs were assigned, I became Truck Sweeper and Ant the Table Seteruperer, cook groups were also formed, who would know how difficult it can be to cook with a group of strong minded people, with vastly different ideas!!

After meeting the group we spent another couple of days in Dakar sorting out visas and the like, before heading off on our journey across West Africa.

From Dakar we headed toward Gambia, via our first fruit and veggie market - with oodles of people, weird vegetables and lots flies and staying our first night in a bush camp in an old quarry. To get into Gambia we had to cross the river on this crazy vehicle ferry which really didn't look seaworthy. We had to wait for hours to get onto the ferry and only after building a human line stopping other vehicles from pushing in did the truck make it on. The ferry ride itself took a mere 5 minutes to cross the river, which seemed ridiculous when we had waited so long!!

We spent 4 days in Gambia, which was only just enough to give us a small taste of the country. We experienced our first traditional drumming and dancing performance which was out of this world in Tendaba, where we found ourselves being pulled into a mosh pit of woman doing the most amazing dancing, there was a lot of laughing to be had at all of the white woman dancing! We then moved on to Bintang Bolong where we found ourselves surrounded by 50+ children in one village when a couple of us went out for a walk, picture this 10+ kids hanging off each person with our fingers, arms, shoulders being grabbed at by tiny fingers. The kids took us to their school, where I decided to become a 'monster', the kids were truly terrified and one poor wee girl ended up face planting in the sand trying to run away from me - oops!! We saw our first lot of African bird life during a boat trip through the Gambian wetlands, by far the vultures are the birds that I found the most interesting, for something that is a scavenger they are strangely graceful and beautiful creatures.

After our short stint in Gambia, we headed back into Senegal for a few days.

Senegal again
During our time back in Senegal we found ourselves being treated to yet another amazing drumming and dance performance, this time where there were 2 creatures doing crazy dancing to the drums and this ear splitting metal being clanged together, the local kids were so scared of the creatures, we had them basically sitting on our laps cowering in fear. We then moved on to the big smoke of Ziguinchor, a dusty town with not much happening for it - other than an awesome omelette man, who made the best coffee on the trip so far! From Ziguinchor we drove to Kafountine where we spent time exploring the biggest fish markets we have ever been to, with the vast the amount of boats and fish that were coming ashore you could be forgiven for thinking they aren't fishing sustainably, the only upside is there is no wastage of fish, as they have these huge smokehouses where thousands of fish are smoked daily, from the fish market we spent a couple of days swimming and lazing in hammocks; and just when we were thinking that the beach time couldn't get better we would find ourselves at Kabrousse, staying in the flashiest place we will stay on all trip, with a swimming pool overlooking the ocean - and they call this overlanding! We finished our time in Elinkine, wasting our time on a 4 hour boat cruise to not see dolphins (not sure if they really exist) and to watch a poor monkey tied by the bottom jump at you as you walk past and rifle through your pockets - not sure we'll race back to Elinkine!

Guinea Bissau
We were welcomed into Guinea Bissau by a lovely official who made us pay him a bribe to get into the country, Al our tour leader was pretty set on not paying him, however after 3 hours on the border, Al had to give in and pay him the darned bribe. Apart from the initial corruption on the border, we loved Guinea Bissau! The capital Bissau was a cool city, with its Portuguese influenced buildings, some deserted many years before, we found an awesome restaurant that served $1 caiparinhias, a massive markets where if you walked down small alleys you would find yourself in this rabbit warren of stalls selling anything from food, tobacco, clothes, shoes. We visited the beautiful Saltinho Falls where we swam within the falls and watched local guys fish from within the falls, and from the bridge above, catfish appeared to be the catch of the day. Our stay in Guinea Bissau was sadly short and after only 3 days we would find ourselves entering Guinea.

Guinea welcomed us with some of the most awful roads we have experienced to date. What should have taken us 1 day to get to the Fouta Djalon, took us 3 days with 3 bush camps along the way and some very grubby people. The Fouta Djalon is by far our favourite region we have visited, it is an amazingly lush and hilly. We spent our time trekking through canyons, rock climbing and swinging off vines, walking to waterfalls high in the hills with views for miles out over valleys, we caught local taxis where 9 people in a 7 capacity vehicle became the norm - travelling for 3 hours being crammed like sardines in a tin lost its charm after about 30 minutes, we stayed in a local village and slept in these cool mud huts, where we were fed the most amazing food and were local celebratorys to the village kids, we drank one too many tintos (red wine with fanta), alcoholic pineapple shots in plastic sachets - resulting in the worst of hangovers to date. Guinea is an amazing country with beautiful people, we would love to come back and spend more time exploring this piece of paradise.
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