Always in the deep woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is an ancient fear of the unknown and is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. -- Wendell Berry

The TRIP: GUINEA - wonkifong --> MALI - bamako, djenne, douentza, Dogon Country --> Burkina Faso - ouagadougou, bobo-dioulasso, bala, ouagadougou --> GHANA - tamale, mole national park, tamale, yeji, volta lake ferry, akosombo, accra, green turtle lodge, elmina, cape coast, accra, hohoe and wli falls --> TOGO - kpalime, atakpame, lome --> BENIN - cotonu (transport stop) --> NIGER - niamey, tahoua, agadez, camel trek in aiir mtns, niamey --> BENIN (abomey, grand popo, ouidah, ganvie, cotonou) --> CAMEROON (douala, buea, top of Mt Cameroon, limbe, sangelima, yaounde, kribi, douala) --> MAURITANIA (nouakchott, atar, chinguetti, camels into the sahara, terjit, choume, ride the coal train, nouadhibou) --> MOROCCO (western sahara, dakhla, agadir, essaouira, marrakesh, imlil, summit of jebel toubkal, fes, chefchaouen) --> cross the Strait of Gibraltar --> Malaga, Spain --> fly to Geneva, Switzerland --> Les Grangettes, France
Click for a map. Updated April 30, 2007

vendredi, décembre 29, 2006

Happy Holidays!

I can hardly believe that I have been in Guinée for almost six months. I hope that everyone out there is enjoying the holidays with the special people in your lives. I am using the break from school to explore the country. The plan was to meet Geoffrey and Christine (a married volunteer couple living several hours south of me) at the taxi station of Coyah at 8:00 on Friday, December 22. I woke up early to walk the 7km to Coyah because I know that I have a day of sitting in cars ahead. The walk is beautiful as I begin before the sun has risen and am able to watch the sky lighten and listen to the birds sing in the trees. I take a different route than usual and am treated to a descent through banana plantations and over a river before entering Coyah. Geoffrey and Christine are not there so I begin waiting.

8:30 passes. 9:00…9:30…10:00. Who knows what can happen to transport in this country? 10:30…11:00…Maybe they took the back road to Kindia, which is the city where we would change taxis. At 12:00, I finally decide to go on. Thirty minutes into the cramped taxi ride, we come to a grinding halt in a long line of traffic. Once we get moving again, I am treated to the view of a large 18-wheeler that had rolled on a switchback. It had tipped to block one of the two small lanes of the road. The truck had been carrying lots of electronics that were now piled alongside the road. Fifteen minutes or so later, we stop again because of a flat tire. Fortunately the driver is carrying a full spare, but the three 50 kg bags of rice and the other luggage need to be unloaded to access it. With the wheel changed we are on our way again. A short while later finds us at 2:00 pm – prayer time. We stop at the next mosque so several passengers can pray. Finally after almost three hours, the typical one hour trip to Kindia is finished. I walk into the taxi station confident that Geoffrey and Christine would be there. No luck.
Fortunately, they do arrive with Geoffrey’s brother, Forrest, within the next 20 minutes. We take four of the six taxi seats and are on our way to Pita, where we will spend the night. The next morning, we return to the taxi station to get a ride to Doucki, our hiking destination. Doucki is a small town that does not even show up on the Guinéen map that I have. In the town, a man named Hassan has an ecotourism-type business that he set up with the help of a Peace Corps volunteer many years ago. Hassan is an amazing person. He speaks French, English, Spanish and many local languages while being an energetic person who loves to hike. He has explored the region and created many trails to show off the spectacular scenery of his back yard.

We begin that afternoon with the Indiana Jones hike that gives the feel of slot canyons. The next day is Wet ‘n Wild, with lots of water. I am convinced to jump into a small pool and then float down and follow the stream of water through an underwater hole in the rock. I usually try to avoid being pushed under rocks in the water but I exited with only a few scrapes. The next day was Chutes and Ladders, which was a long hike down into the valley from the ridge top where the village lies. For most of the day we hiked along the base of a cliff looking up and knowing that we would eventually have to climb back up. We eventually begin the ascent through a small crack in the cliff. The trail is over 100 years old and ladders, consisting of sticks lashed together with vine, have been constructed to climb vertical sections. This portion of the hike is fun as we quickly climb up along a cascading creek. Once on the top, we began the hike back.

On the way back, we are treated to a large group of baboons climbing rocks on the opposite side of a valley. The troupe consisted of 150 or more baboons that swarmed the rocks. I guess the baboon sighting was my Christmas present as it was the 25th.

The next day we decide to leave, but I have different plans than the others. We hike out to the road in the hope of catching transport. Geoffrey, Christine and Forrest are heading back to Pita and quickly get a taxi. I want to return by an alternate route but unfortunately there are no cars heading that direction. I return to Hassan’s to ride out with three guys who had arrived the day before and will leave in the morning. The next day, I leave with them at 8:30 in the morning for the beautiful return trip that gets me to Wonkifong twelve hours later. I am now in Conakry for a few days with a hopeful trip to the islands off of the coast to celebrate New Years.

Thanks again to everyone who has emailed, written, sent packages, etc over the first six months. Your support is invaluable and I love you all that much more for it. Enjoy the holidays and eat some good food for me.