A Travellerspoint blog

The Adventure of Getting from A to B

The truck had sunk deep into the mud. In the middle of the road where a stream had made the already soft gravel into a regular mud bath. In a 40 degree angle, the truck’s right front wheel had disappeared in deep into the red mud.

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Stuck

Stuck

It’s some of the hardest travel in the world. That’s the reason why West Africa isn’t overrun by travellers. West Africa’s biggest problem, both economical and for travellers and tourists, is its poor infrastructure. Nowhere is this truer than in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Many overlanders, driving from Morocco to South Africa (the most common type of tourist here), bypass this corner of the region entirely. They instead prefer to go directly from Senegal, through Mali, to either Ghana or Côte d’Ivoire. But I had never imagined the difficulties I faced getting from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, to Monrovia, the capital of neighbouring Liberia.

Freetown

Freetown

Setting out from Freetown is a relatively comfortable drive, on a paved road with decent tarmac, to Bo, a regional capital in the centre of the country. The drive is supposed to take approximately three hours, but as our shared taxi broke down and was towed the last dozen kilometres into town that turned to four and a half hours. No matter, I would still make my connection the next morning. The poda-poda, or minibus, is only half full, but as the only daily connection to the village of Potoru, it’s actually scheduled. An hour’s drive in the paved road disappeared. Granted, pavement was missing for large parts and potholes were everywhere, but it was nonetheless a mostly paved road. Now the rest of the four-hour trip is on gravel, which quickly turns into mud. In places, the road is simply replaced by a continuous row of big holes full of muddy brown water.

Looking for pygmy hippos

Looking for pygmy hippos

I pause my trek towards the border at Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary for a few days, hoping to see the endangered and very elusive pygmy hippo. After two days of searching, I gave up. I’d been sitting on the lookout in the early morning rains for hours, trekked through the pitch black jungle well after midnight, and sailed through the swamp at sunset without any sightings. I hope my luck will change once I’d gotten to Liberia, where there would be more chances to catch a glimpse of the animal.

From Potoru public transport is non-existing during the rainy season. I can either wait for the first post-rains poda-poda, which will probably come through town two or three weeks from now, or I can hire a moto taxi. It’s pretty simple, really.

River crossing just before Zimmi

River crossing just before Zimmi

Driving along the mud tracks, which is called a road down here, for three hours brings me to the small market town of Zimmi. Here I hope to find onward transport to the border. Zimmi is just 44 km from Sierra Leone’s main border crossing with Liberia, so arriving in the early afternoon still gives me some hope of reaching the border crossing before it closes at 2000 hours. I’ll just repeat the important bit: this is the main border crossing between Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Having arrived here, there is nothing resembling onward transportation. That is unless I’ll jump on another moto taxi, their owners eager to take me to the border for wildly inflated prices. The terrestrial rain starts – once again – pouring heavily with no end in sight. I’m not going anywhere unless I’m under some kind of roof.

Sheltering from the rains

Sheltering from the rains

Seeking shelter under a small shack selling bootleg movies and charging cell phones, I meet Michael who’s managing the shop. When electricity is unavailable to most people, but mobile phones cheap, the business of charging phones booms in the smallest of towns. All you need is a generator and enough outlets to set up shop. Michael is also the second in command at the customs’ checkpoint on the outskirts of town. His paychecks are usually delayed for months if he’s paid at all, so he lives on the small shack’s income and the bribes paid at the checkpoint.

My truck

My truck

Michael offers me tea and arranges for the officers manning the checkpoint to check passing vehicles for an available seat on my behalf. For four hours not a single vehicle pass through town. Finally, a monster of a truck turns up. Not one of those regular cargo trucks, rather one looking like a military vehicle or an airport fire engine. With room enough for me, we are soon racing through the mud. The machine is probably the most powerful I’ve driving in. The driver, charging the otherwise impenetrable tracks as fast as the small, manoeuvrable moto taxies are able to, relied on raw power. We splinter thousands of branches as we ploughed through the trees and bushes encroaching on the road from the surrounding jungle.

We are rarely driving faster than 20 km/h, but this road – one of the worst I’ve ever driven – the speed is impressive. Along the way we are passing three 4x4’s that are stuck in the mud. Two of them had been abandoned long ago, while the third was being dragged out by fourth Landcruiser. A fifth 4x4 had overheated in the horrible conditions, and we had to tow it into the next village.

The helpless truck

The helpless truck

As dusk approached, we arrived at the scene of the truck’s proudest moment. A regular truck had sunk deep into the mud, almost tipping over. Weighing well over 25 tonnes it seemed like a lost cause… until we came around, that is. With an iron chain as thick as my arm – which snapped twice – our driver somehow manage to pull the truck out of its helpless position. Having come down the road as bad as this one, it seems almost silly. I will be a matter of time before the truck gets stuck again. When that happens there will be not monster machines around to save it.

No matter the impressive power of our engine, the 44 km still took more than four hours to complete. We arrive long after the border post had closed, and I’m forced to spend the night in a basic guesthouse here.

Moto taxies at the border

Moto taxies at the border

In all – without counting my stop at Tiwai – it have taken three days of back-breaking driving on whatever vehicle available to cover the 390 km from Freetown to the border. A distance Google Maps think can be done in less than six hours. Had I not hired a moto taxi or been lucky with the miraculously strong engine and instead relied solemnly on public transportation it would have taken much longer – I might still have been stuck in the mud between Zimmi and the border. Imagine my surprise the next morning when I found a well paved and smooth road on the Liberian side of the frontier. Here a shared taxi took me the 125 km to Monrovia in a couple of hours.

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Posted by askgudmundsen 01:49 Archived in Sierra Leone Tagged travel roads crossing public_transport country transportation border travelling frontier liberia west_africa sierra_leone hardship_ freetown monrivia Comments (0)

Climbing the Highest Mountain in West Africa

Last we talked, my travelling spirit was kind of down. Which is not too surprisingly as travellers aren't supposed to sit still for too long. Struggling on a mountainside interestingly reinvigorated my joy of being on the road.

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Loma Mountains

Loma Mountains

For the past three days I have constantly been either well moisturised or soaked to the bone. Someone did mention that climbing the Loma Mountains in the rainy season would be mad. Nobody told them that madness is a batch a wear with stubborn pride.

Non-conflict diamonds, Freetown

Non-conflict diamonds, Freetown

At 1,945 metres, the highest peak between Morocco and Cameroon isn’t that frightening on paper. It is, however, well off the beaten path. A day on public transportation took me from Freetown, on the coast, to Koidu, in the highlands. This is where Sierra Leone’s conflict diamonds used to come from during the civil war in the 90’s. Think Leonardo DiCaprio and the movie ‘Blood Diamonds’ and you'll get the picture. Today the town is defined by a more legal diamond trade, but it's a fairly gloomy place and unless I want to try my luck with the expensive stones, which I don’t, there’s nothing here to stick around for. Koidu is also were the line of potholes, which some maps show as a paved road, ends. And so does public transportation.

The "major road"

The "major road"

From here it’s necessary to a charter motorbike to get any further. The scenery is pretty and hilly jungle, interrupted only by small villages of mud brick houses. But it isn’t pretty enough to take my mind off the ride. This road – a yellow “major road” on Google Maps (ha!) – is a hilly gravel road, turned mudslide by the rains. That is, the parts road that haven’t been washed completely away by rivers and streams.

Note: This ride is also where I get soaked the first time. I stay continuously wet, throughout this story, until I explicitly state otherwise.

Village Market

Village Market

Leaving the “major road” after five hours of driving my driver continues on a jungle track for another hour until we reach the village of Sangbania. I ask for the village chief. This is a necessary visit if a want to pass through the village and, more importantly, sleep here. As tradition prescribes, I hand over a small bag of Kola nuts. This illustrates my request for hospitality. The chief is, surprisingly, pretty normal looking. Old, with a small grey goatee, and dressed in a grey rope; he doesn’t stand out from the other old men in the village. He demands 100,000 Leones (about 15 US$). Not in English, but in a local languish I can’t recognise. The villages school teacher translates.

It’s a little steep for me. The motorbike driver has already ripped me off. I lie and tell them that I’m a student. Wearing a t-shirt from my old university, I show them the ‘university’ text. The teacher lights up; two of his sons are currently attending university in Freetown. With his help the price is cut in half. This donation to the village buys me dinner, a spot next to the teacher in his bed, and a porter, who will carry my backpack to the next village 6 km further into the jungle. From here I can start my attempt at the mountain’s summit. Obviously, I tip both the teacher and the porter LE25,000 each as they would otherwise see little of the money I handed to the chief.

Mountain Village

Mountain Village

Putting on wet socks, shoes and pants after a night in damp sheets aren’t fun, but the clouds hang low as we walk out of Sangbania just before dawn, so I’m quickly wet enough to not care anymore. The hilly 6 km is taken in a fast pace, but still takes 90 minutes to complete. Up a mudslide, down a mudslide, through a small river (no bridges – goes without saying). My porter is carrying my 10 kg backpack. I’m carrying nothing. He is wearing old slippers and I’m wearing hiking shoes. I can barely keep up.

Arriving in the final village, which name a can’t remember, I’m again taken before the local chief. More nuts are handed over. Le60,000 for the village, Le70,000 to the guide that will lead me to the mountain’s top. It seems like a steel and I don’t negotiate.

Keeping up with my guide

Keeping up with my guide

These are poor villages, and I’ve brought ten cups of rice (rice is measured in cups, not kilos down here) with me to be self-reliant. While the village is happy to cook the rice for me, the Chairman of Youth, Mouhamad, lets me get an hour’s rest in his house. Mouhamad is a war veteran from the civil war. Back then he had three months of English training – mainly to understand the instructions from the British Special Forces training him and his platoon. That’s enough to make him this village’s English teacher.

My attempt at the top starts at 11 in the morning. It’s raining again. The chief told me that anyone who can make it to Camp One can make it to the top. Good news, I guess. Not for long. The first two hours is killing me. Most of it is on a 45 degree hillside through jungle and rainforest, and I’m beginning to understand why some people think this is difficult in the rainy season. I’m slipping on about every tenth step.

Clouds on the mountain

Clouds on the mountain

Finally, we reach Camp One, which is nothing but a small fire place under the cover of two trees. I’ve fallen down twice. Repeating this morning, my guide who is carrying all my shit plus our food, is ascending the mountain like he was running the Freetown Marathon. I’m struggling just to keep him in sight.
It is 90 minutes between Camp One and Two. The going is easier. Still up, but not as steep. The sun, to my surprise, is shining. This doesn’t really matter, because we’re now walking in metre-tall grasses. And the grass is still very wet. There isn’t really any path either, so we’re just kind of pushing our way through it. This makes it impossible to see where I’m putting my feet and as a result we’re actually covering less ground that we were going uphill. Oh, and a fall down twice. Again. Taking what is, essentially, a shower rolling around in the wet grass. Usman, my guide and porter, walks along as if he was strolling through a well kept park.

The Loma's highest peak

The Loma's highest peak

As we reach Camp Two, we get a short peak at the peak before it gets covered in clouds again. We leave my backpack and the food at the camp and after an hour’s rest we attempt the ascent. Usman insists that he brings both (!) of his machetes with him to the summit. I never dared to ask why. We get yet another quick shower as we move out. The power of nature is taunting us.

The last bit is almost vertical climbing and for the first time I doubt the rationale behind climbing the mountain in the rain. If I slip, it’s pretty far down... but no matter, we’re too close now.

View from the top

View from the top

They say, that the greater the struggle, the greater the reward. As a miracle, the sky clears as we reach the top, adding a gorgeous rainbow to the scenery below. Standing in the sun on the highest point anywhere between Morocco and Cameroon with West Africa’s greenery stretching out before us, the reward surely is great.

The clouds gather around the mountain’s top once more, and I add stone on the pile that symbolises the number of people who have made it up here before starting the descent back to Camp Two.

The symbolic stones

The symbolic stones

The heavy showers return as we near Camp Two. It is almost six o’clock, which is not a problem for me. I have a tent, dry clothes and sleeping bag. I’d told Mouhamad that I planned to spend the night. Usman, however, have nothing. His soaked pants and t-shirt, and a rain jacked he left with my pack at the camp, is apparently all he took with him from the village. I’m already shivering, and I can’t imagine how cold the ten hours of darkness would be for Usman. There’s really nothing else to do than to turn around and go back down.

We eat in cover of the camp before unpacking our flashlights. We have about an hour of daylight left.
Just as we reach Camp One proper darkness sets in. This close to the equator, dusk last for mere minutes. The decend from Camp One to the village takes more than three hours in the dark. My flashlight gives out half an hour from the village, so we have to brave the last streams, fields and muddy hills with just one light.
Shortly before 2300 hours – more than eleven hours of climbing – we finally knock on Mouhamad’s door. I’m battered and bruised; my legs would hurt for days to come. The soldier-turn-teacher amazingly lets me take his bedroom for the night. The few reasonable dry items in my backpack luckily includes a pair of shorts, a t-shirt and my sleeping bag. I fall asleep instantly.

The descent

The descent

The next morning have Mouhamad arranged for a motorbike back to Sangbania. This is not normally something the drivers want to do, but after yesterday someone has taken pity on me and I’m spared walking anywhere today. As to sweeten my morning further the sun breaks out for two hours straight. Me, and most of my belonging stretched out on the ground in front of me, enjoy two hours in the baking sun. This dries both me and enough of my clothes for me to head out of the village completely dry.

It didn’t last long, though. As no less than three terrestrial showers hit during the six hours motorbike riding back to Koidu…

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Posted by askgudmundsen 15:41 Archived in Sierra Leone Tagged mountains hiking travel trek africa hike climbing climb travelling west_africa loma sierra_leone mansar mount_bintumani Comments (0)

Do I Want to go Home?

Doubt is a natural part of travel - well, of life, really... And having been on the road for a while I might have had enough.

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Taking a break

Taking a break

Am I done? Having used more than a week not travelling, I can’t figure out if I want to go back on the road or not. The comfortable expat life is getting to me. The simple fact that I’ve stopped travelling for a while have made me wonder if it might be time to end this trip for good and go home.

Bumping around in one of the wettest regions of the world – in the rainy season – doesn’t help either. Nothing, me included, really dry down here. Both the inside of my backpack and one of my wallets are becoming mouldy. Mould! Heavy showers keep everything wet, and the humidity here keeps me wet unless there are 30 minutes of the sunshine that can dry me off before the next shower. By now I can barely enter a dry room without making everything in it damp by my mere presence.

In Central Asia

In Central Asia

I have also just passed six months on the road. The longest I’ve been out on previous trips was seven months when I went to Central Asia in 2013. Back then, my return date was set in stone as I had to go back to my studies. I remember thinking a few times during the latter part of that trip that I was ready to go home. Having set a date for my return somehow helped keep those thoughts in check.

Now, I have no set date. Nothing that I absolutely need to go back to on a given date. That makes it difficult to see an end to the travelling life. Sure, I’m probably going to run out of money during the first three months of 2017… maybe, but so far I’ve been spending less than expected.

Summit of Mount Bintumani

Summit of Mount Bintumani

Then again. Nothing stops me from going home either. Or going somewhere else, where it’s easier to travel. Hell, I could just jump on a flight to Southeast Asia, if I wanted to. Nothing, except the profound feeling of failure I would feel if I cut this trip short, stops me.
But I’ve decided that it’s probably just a matter of feeling a bit homesick. Haven gotten out of the travel routine, I’ve also lost all those beautiful experiences that come with travelling. I’m going to head out of Freetown, climb the biggest mountain between Morocco and Cameroon (which is going to be a five-day round-trip, at least) and then re-evaluate.

To pull a little bit in the other direction, I’m also going to begin to apply for jobs. After all, I did just finish a master’s in Global Studies before I started this trip. In that way, if I should receive some fantastic opportunity to start a career somewhere exciting it would give me a valid reason for cutting this adventure short.

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Posted by askgudmundsen 15:07 Archived in Sierra Leone Tagged travel country travelling tired west_africa comfort sierra_leone expat_life living_standards hardship_ Comments (0)

Expatriate Life

Changing lifestyle for a while...

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It’s unlikely that you will enter Sierra Leone by road. It bears the dubious distinction of being bordered by arguably the only two West African countries that are in a worse state – Guinea and Liberia.

Freetown

Freetown

Thanks for nothing, Bradt Guides.

I have made my way from Conakry in Guinea to Freetown in Sierra Leone. Almost surprisingly, I’ve only been asked for a bribe once. Unfortunately, that was the guy stamping me into Sierra Leone. The fact that I didn’t want to pay him then resulted in him only allowing me to stay in the country for nine days. I’ll have to go to the immigration office in Freetown and buy an extension of my stay, as he told me. Luckily, he was pretty sloppy when he wrote the date into my passport, and I’ve been able to rewrite the date afterwards, granting myself another extra ten days.

A real house(!)

A real house(!)

To my surprise, after the last few days, I’m beginning to realise that nineteen days might not be enough here. For the last week, I’ve been couchsurfing with a German expat and lived the life of the expatriate – a jobless expat, but nonetheless an expat.

To the ones who need clarification, are expatriates – expats for short – defined as someone who is stationed abroad. Think of aid workers, diplomats, private institution teachers and the like. Stationing people abroad is usually no cheap enterprise and whether we’re talking about North Americans, Europeans or Chinese in Africa (or Africans in Europe). The paychecks tend to be larger than they would otherwise be in the expat’s country of origin. Perks like a paid house or car is also often part of expat luxury.

Hardship Country?

Hardship Country?

Whenever there’s a significant drop in living standards, say from a European to an African country, the paycheck goes up further. Every international organisation divides countries into “hardship” categories based on how dangerous, undeveloped, etc. the country is.
Sierra Leone is such a country. Frankly, most of the places I travel are considered “hardship countries”. And more frankly, there’s a lot more difficulty involved in budget travelling than being stationed somewhere, with excellent perks and top salary. Long time travelling – especially in Africa – is not a particularly comfortable lifestyle, and having just reached six months on the road, I needed a break. A pause from the cheap, semi-dirty rooms. A break from eating rice for 90 per cent of my meals. A break from crowded transportation. And a break from that self-imposed ambitious of not wasting time as many travellers have.

Travel Living Standards

Travel Living Standards

I think I need to elaborate on the unwillingness to waste time. Travelling somewhere new, just to sit and do nothing is not why we travel. It’s not a vacation. It’s, for me, a year of seeing a region of the world I don’t know much about. Not exploring it would be a waste of time. Also, having a limited time – or rather having a limited wallet – means that I have a rough idea about how long time I can spend in each country in other to get all the way to Nigeria. Those plans go out the window often but nonetheless do I have to keep a little bit track of thinks.
Those factors create pressure. At least in my mind. I need to get everything I want to do done so that I can move on. During that without wasting too much time is a very demanding way of travelling, and can only be done for so long before any traveller wears him/herself out. Arriving in Freetown, I’ve just about worn myself out during the past six months.

Lobster Lunch

Lobster Lunch

Since my host is living in a rather nice three-bedroom house, I’ve spend a lot of time – a lot of days actually – taking a vacation from all the travelling. To be honest, I’ve spend more time on the couch than anywhere else. We have ordered pizza and beers three days in a row for dinner and used the evenings to watch football.
I even burned money on joining my host and two other aid workers on an extended weekend in a small guesthouse on the exotically named Banana Islands. Lying in a hammock all day, enjoying gorgeous beaches and eating lobster at $10 apiece. We even went spear fishing. We also joked a lot about the fact that Sierra Leone is a “hardship country.”

Expatriate Guide

Expatriate Guide

However, in other aspects of life, it surely is. It took my host six months to get running water installed. Something that just happened. My first week here he only had bucket showers. My computer didn’t survive the trip between Conakry and Freetown either; trying to fix it seems almost impossible to do down here. I’ve instead bought a used tablet with an add-on keyboard. Buying electronics down here costs about the double of what it would do in Scandinavia – and this used tablet have set me back about the same as a new one would have done back home.
So there are definitely reasons as to why West Africa, in general, is considered “hardship” for expats too. To recover from this, and to see if it will be at all possible to recover what’s on my old hard drive, I think I’ll have to spend a few more days on the couch…

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Posted by askgudmundsen 07:32 Archived in Sierra Leone Tagged travel country travelling west_africa comfort sierra_leone expat_life living_standards banana_islands hardship_ Comments (0)

How to Deal with Bribery Attempts

Many in Africa see white people as money bags, this is especially true of Guinean officers

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“All tourists must carry their Tourist Identity Card on them, at all times, or go to jail,” the soldier told me. This was the essential part of the conversation. This was what they needed me to believe was true. Not necessarily to convince me fully, the slightest tremor of doubt would be enough. However, they were unarmed, and I was buying none of it.

Not everybody are this friendlya

Not everybody are this friendlya

Bribery attempts often rely on two factors. First, the officials take advantage of the fact that you, as a visitor, is not familiar with local laws. This can lead to rather amusing accusations like “your passport is not valid at night” or “travelling alone on this road isn't allowed.” Secondly, that the threat they are making scares you enough for you to pay up. Threats of big(ger) fines, jail or dragging you to the police station are typical favourites.
Needless to say, it's a lot harder for your wallet to escape unharmed if you have actually broken the law. Though most officials prefer to do as little paperwork as possible - if any paperwork is required in said country, that is - so if your crime is small enough it can be possible to get away with minor offences simply by being a foreigner.

Kids playing in the streets

Kids playing in the streets

On this particular day, the sun was shining. A rarity in Conakry. Guinea’s capital is one of the wettest in the world. I was strolling along the garbage littered streets, doing what little sightseeing the city offer. Like many other African capitals, there isn't very much to see regarding “typical” sights. Mostly, it comes down to massive government buildings and independence monuments. Conakry doesn't even have an Independence Square - just to illustrate how few places of interest there are here.

Strolling past the Presidential Palace, I made sure to keep my camera out of sight. Photographing strategically important buildings is begging for trouble in most developing countries - like throwing eggs at a police car back home. The guards were hanging out at a small guard house behind a movable paling - like the ones lining the streets at a cycling race to keep spectators off the road. As they notice me, one starts to shout for me to move away from the gate and walk over to the opposite sidewalk. Another waves me over to the low fence. A third is simply lounging on a small wooden bench. Typically, not even in front of the Presidential Palace are the soldiers well enough trained to act with any accordance to professional principles. I walk over to them to figure out whether or not I'm allowed to use this sidewalk as the locals around seemingly doesn't care too much about which side of the road they are using.

Presidential Palace gate

Presidential Palace gate

The guy who told me to switch sidewalks leaves immediately for some reason, while the other two invite me behind the palings for a chat. This effectively traps me between the soldiers, their guard house, a wall and the palings. Realise my mistake instantly, I initially go for a very friendly approach. A method that includes introducing myself, shaking hands, talk a lot about football and smiling excessively. It only kind of works.

The soldiers ask for my papers. As my passport is at the Mali embassy for visa procedures, so I offer them a curled up photocopy of my passport’s identification page and my Guinea visa. This doesn't go down well with the soldiers, but I manage to explain to them that the embassies wouldn't be allowed to keep my documents overnight is the law states that I should have my original passport on me at all times. This logic is enough to make them accept the photocopies. It's not sufficient to make them happy about it. They then dismiss my enquiry into how excited they are for the Spanish Football League’s opening matches the coming weekend.

Conakry's only tourist attraction

Conakry's only tourist attraction

They then ask for what is the centrepiece of their bribery attempt: my local identification card. I don't have one.
“But everyone living here has one,” they say.
“But I'm not a resident, I'm a tourist, so I don't have a resident’s card,” I reply. They are unimpressed.
“All tourists must carry their Tourist Identity Card on them, at all times, or go to jail” they retort.

At this point, it's clear they want a bribe to let me back out into the street. We discuss the imaginary ID card for a bit. Me telling them I know there is no such thing as a Tourist Identity Card, they insist that I have to go to jail if I don't have such a card.

Tourists are staying away

Tourists are staying away

This time, it's my turn to be unimpressed. No chance in hell such a card exists. Driving through numerous checkpoints upcountry and encountering other tourists here in Conakry, talks about such a card have never come up. The jail talk is essentially just a scare tactic that all bribery attempts need. Something worse than paying the “fine” upfront. However, the soldiers can't leave their post, and all their friends around the gate are wholly uninterested in our little discussion.

I decide that I can't be bothered. I decide to leave. Normally, in these cases, that is relatively easy. I just say I firm “Goodbye” and walk off. Usually, this comes as a profound surprise to the people who are bothering me. Usually, I get far enough away before they can do nothing more than shout angrily after me as I leave them behind. This wasn't one of those usual times.

Edging my way through the palings, one of the soldiers grabs me and keeps me from leaving. I'm bigger than him, and he is unarmed. So is his buddy. But getting into a struggle with the soldiers could probably get me into some real trouble. I decide to walk back.

At this point, the soldiers make it clear to me that I can't leave before I've paid them. Finally, we're past the point of non-existing ID cards and not-going-to-happen jail sentences.

With independence came corruption

With independence came corruption

I tell them it's corruption.
They assure me that it's not - it's simply an “arrangement.”
I repeat that it's corruption and that I'm not going to pay them anything.
They repeat that then I can't leave.

I shrug. This is fine by me. I don't need to be anywhere and eventually - even if it isn't before the end of their shift - they will get into trouble for having let a tourist inside the barriers. I sit down on one of their benches, lean back on their guard house and put my feet up on another bench. Once comfortable, I only tell them, “Fine; I can wait” and slide my hat down in front of my eyes ready to take a nap, Indiana Jones style.

Conakry selfies to celebrate freedom

Conakry selfies to celebrate freedom

At this point, it takes less than three seconds for them to give up. “Okay, you can go” is all they mutter. I leave quickly, resisting the urge to look back at them to show the big, smug smile that is growing on my face. I'd won. Once again I'd won and avoided contributing to a system already ridden with corruption. 83 countries travelled: 0 bribes paid.

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Posted by askgudmundsen 12:34 Archived in Guinea Tagged travel police africa travelling guinea west_africa corruption officers corrupt officials bribery Comments (1)

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