We pass men with machetes, women with stacks of hay balanced perfectly on their heads, young children clasping their mother's dress as we ride past in these remote villages. They stare at first with absolute shock & bewilderment until we wave & they smile back genuinely. In one day, I nearly hit a dog sleeping in one of the potholes, 2 chickens, a pig and a snake jumps near my bike...
Our destination was Varela, a seaside village that is meant to be as nice as Capskiring but less people... they were right, there was no one there & the visitors book hadn't had anyone since 2002. No running water or electricity. As we ride to get there, we get halted by the only bridge that gets us there as it is broken... Gee whizz. They assure us not to worry and that the bridge will be ready by 3pm, Rob and I look at each other with gestures of noway in hell as its already 2.30pm and they are banging in supprt stumps by hand. We then see a yellow object in the water and realise it's a truck that never made it to the other side (told later that a rice truck fell off in the middle of the night months ago)
Real adventures now, how we got over still baffles me
So 3pm comes and we strip everything off the bikes to make them as light as possible and Rob nervously gets both bikes over planks of wobbly wood with the help of guniea bissauian in nothing but daxs!
classy underwear, i couldn't help but smile
Rob stomach churns as he leads the Africa Twin across, can you spot the truck!
a worker resting on the sunken truck
We head to Bissau & eventually track down a fellow Aussie & her husband we've never actually met before ( Lovely Cassandra & Steve who are working on demining projects here). Their generous hospitality leads us to fantastic showers, toasted ham & cheese sandwiches, beers and even their maid wash our filthy bike clothes. We have vegemite for bfast and reminsce about cherry ripes, chicken parmi and twisties!
The following day, Steve takes us out to show us the workings of demining. We casually walk past warheads & watch explosives placed underneath sandbags. I'm a little nervous & Steve calms me down by telling me there are Black Mambas around! We retreat to the road waiting........and BOOOOM, I jumped & one of the UN workers burst into fits of laughter about how I reacted.
Warheads and Mortars
We ride for a few hours as the sun sets trying to find a place to camp. People everywhere, so we can not descretely camp. We decide to take a dirt track for a few kms hitting a serene untouched little village. We talk to the chief and he kindly invites us to camp overnight. The word gets around and the whole town has come to see these two strange foreigners on motorbikes. As they all crowd around, we amuse them by setting up our tent, and as the pole get erected, there are echoes of ohh and arrrh. We later sit by the campfire making the kids laugh by making silly noises, as the communication is very limited as we don't speak Pulai or Portugese & they don't speak any French or English. We teach them our names and evidently I am "Amy" but Rob is "and Lob" because they have difficulties saying R's. The next morning as we say our thanks and goodbyes, a villager orders his son to fetch his gun and shots a hawk with another BANG in the tree above where we were camped.
pounding millets in the early morning
We hit Guinea, seemingly even more remote with lush dense vegetation and mountainous backdrops. We pass children that see us with fright, drop everything and RUN.... we attempt not be monsters and wave but they have already run into the bushes hiding from the road's view. We then ride through the Fouta Djalon region, immersing in spectacular treks through the likes of Grand Canyon and Indiana Jones. The rainy season has just finished so the roads are atrociously washed away, and there is red dust sugar coated everywhere!
A cameleon I nearly ran over!
As the daybreaks, the sun creeps over the mountains with intense orange and we ride into Conarky to obtain onward visas. I love riding at the time of the day as there is no traffic, less people and the air has a certain freshness to it. As we get closer to the pennisula, the scenery flatten out, more towns, funneling more people and hence more traffic. Rob's in front weaving in and out of traffic and I'm tail end charlie. There doesn't seem to be any written rules about how to drive in Guinea except Might is Right. I'm riding beside a small car and it suddenly swerves towards me, I quickly swerve with it so I don't get side swiped. I look up and see oncoming traffic as I am on the other side of the road (usually the cars part in the middle for mopeds and bikes but not today) I start frantically beeping my oversoloud 250cc horn, so I'm stuck in a moments decision to either pull back or give it some and squeeze through the gap. I realise that I was too far forward and stopping would have meant direct impact so I try the latter. I rev the baja towards oncoming traffic and am somewhat relieved that I made it through the gap but then a loud......BANG. Rob hears the impact as it was so loud but he thinks I am okay as I still managed to be on my bike. I again frantically beep as I realised I have been hit, the pain seeps in and i am in agonising pain with the fear my foot is broken. I start to panic as I cannot help but think I have ruined our trip. Due to shock, I didn't even realise that the impact had complelety ripped my left pannier off rolling it underneath the small car (could have been me). Rob recollects it as a nearby officer helps me off my bike by clutching me around my breast and hauling me onto the ground. Even in this bad situation, I still found this quite comical. People crowd aimlessly, I remove my trusty Colorado boots and smelly sock as he pokes and prods my ankle and I yelp in pain. A squad of police arrive but cannot do anything as we have no recollection of any number plate and I refuse to go to hospital after our Rob's scare in The Gambia. 20mins later, with a self diagnosis of no broken bones (perhaps fracture) and a nasty nasty bruise, I hop back on my Baja and ride painfully through more traffic to the Catholic Mission where we are staying.
Follow Rob as well on his site on www.hardwayhome.blogspot.com click links to our photos, our route and place comments!
Yes, you heard right after some strict rest, ice, compression and elevation of my bruised big foot we headed for Sierra Leone!! 3 months ago, if you would have said would you camp on the borders of Guinea and Sierra Leone? (where the Australian government websites tells you strictly DO NOT TRAVEL), I would have said you were mad..... but here we are sneakly hiding in the Leonian bushes to set up our tent in the dark.
Beautiful village girl
I was a wee bit dubious before arriving but very exhilarated at the thought of riding through a relatively untouched country. We found our way here after meeting 2 freelance journalist writing a guidebook about the country based in Freetown. So we obtained our visas from Guinea (US$200, well actually $210 because they wouldn't take small denominations so it costs us an extra $10 to exchange on the black market to a $100 bill! ridiculous I know)
The road to Freetown
The borders were no problems, the usual paperwork and running around trying to find the right man for the job...its a real treat that people speak english. We sit around laughing and joking with the police in a round straw hut with a SLR rifle dangling from the roof. They insist we try Poyo, the local palm wine even when we inform them we are riding.... so drink and then drive in Africa.
As we ride into Freetown, 2 policemen on a moped spot us and direct us to follow then. I'm not sure what or where we are going but they proceed to escort us through town and through the thick city traffic!!! its a nice change that they don't want anything, they just wanted to help us. We later ride around the Pennisula to whitesandy beaches and smooth tarmac road but this doesn't last long and we soon hit rusty coloured dirt roads with many little river crossings
one of the many river crossings
When we hit the last border crossing to leave Sierra Leone after treachous rough roads that lasted a few hours, the immigration officer tells us that we cannot get our carnets stamped there as it back 41 miles!!! After some serious convincing that ended with the only solution of Rob stripping off his panniers and riding back to the customs post. As he is about to ride off, a soldier requests a lift with his backpack and live chicken. So off Rob goes with a leonion soldier as I wait at the post entertaining the police for hours.
Rob at the border post, where he had to tediously ride back 130kms back to customs to get our carnets stamped!!!!
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