Guinea - Part 1
Trip Start Sep 08, 2006
24Trip End ??? ??, 2007
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Landscapes dominated by jagged mountain ranges, acres of tropical rainforests and spectacular waterfalls, vibrant music and drumming traditions, friendly and welcoming people. And best of all no tourists.
I very nearly didn't make it Guinea at all. A planned quiet evening the night before was thwarted by the arrival of a bunch of volunteers who had heard I had cunningly "tidied away" the leftover alcohol remaining from the VSO xmas party and were selflessly determined that I should not suffer the burden of having to drink it alone.
I have never had the opportunity to explore Banjul airport before. I hope I never have such an opportunity again. There is nothing to do there.
My worst fears about Slok Air were realized when I boarded the plane. During the safety demonstration we were informed that the plane did not stretch to carrying life jackets so in the event that we crashed on water, we were to cling onto our seat cushions.
I found Conakry, the capital city of Guinea, completely overwhelming.
Guinea has virtually no tourists - something to do with its bloodthirsty history and inaccessibility. In 1958 when France offered its colonies the option of staying within the Franco-African community, Guinea was the only country to stick two fingers up at the French and demand immediate independence.
Consequently the national tourist office is not exactly high profile - to reach it we had to wander down a back street, climb up the fire escape, roam through a myriad of twisting corridors and then finally burst in through an unmarked door to find it. Our entrance came as somewhat of a shock to the lonely employee sitting inside, who after getting over his fright, was thrilled to see us. I wouldn't be surprised if we were the first people to come through his door all year.
The only sign that this was indeed the tourist office was the Blue-Peter-style collage of magazine photos of Guinea on the wall that I suspect he had made himself to while away the isolating hours. He had nothing so useful as a map or brochure to offer us, but he did photocopy for us the "Order du Mission" - a letter signed by various political heavyweights that promises tourists unhindered passage through the country, which he assured us should see off a good proportion of the extortion attempts that the military would make on us along the way. Thus armed, we declined his forlorn pleas to stay and chat, and left him to his solitude.
To be continued....