24th of April – 21st May 2019:
After a few minutes, we arrived at a small, thatched hut with a flag of Guinea, where the border official greeted us friendly. He said that we would get the entry stamp in about 30km in the next village. We continued cycling along the ancient road with only pedestrians and motorcyclists on it. We were properly jarred and fought ourselves over rocky ascents and descents while sweating a lot.
After a small village, the military stopped us and we got our entry stamp. First, the older official was a bit grumpy, but then even invited us for a warm meal and gave us some cold water in plastic bags as a present. A huge construction site made our progress extremely difficult. Only the lovely and funny workers made us laugh, when they told us that they are installing a fiber optic system to the villages without electricity and running water.
The long day finally approached its end after we reached the asphalt road in Boké. In the lively and extremely loud market, we ate meat on a skewer, bread and local juices. In the uncertainty, if we would find a place to sleep before darkness, we asked a family if we could pitch our tent next to their house. The present women were excited to host us and we even got our own room, a bucket shower and some cooked mangos as a dessert.
After the almost 100km on bad roads yesterday, we were still exhausted from the day before and started a bit slower the day after. In addition, we already cycled 100’000 vertical meters since our start in Norway, which is about the same as climbing Mount Everest eleven times (from sea level).
Back on the relatively new asphalt road, we were now welcomed in the local languages Susu and Fula. During a traffic control, we had to show our yellow fever vaccination for the first time in Africa and were a bit irritated, since the document was deep in our panniers. After the procedure, the official changed his behavior and was suddenly very helpful. At a junction, minimum 40 women and children sold mangos, pineapples, plantains, fish and other treats. We tried the local pineapples that were cheap and delicious, after the many self-collected mangos in Guinea-Bissau. Since a couple of weeks, the mango season has started in Western Africa and everywhere are children who try to get the fruits from the trees.
During a break, we fooled around with the very interested and extrovert Guineans and observed at the same time the completely overloaded cars and busses. Our eyes were popping out of our heads when we saw minimum twelve people getting out of a small car. Three in the front, five in the back, two in the trunk and two sitting on the lowered window in the front. Shortly before the evening, we made a longer break next to a house of a family and they immediately brought us a mat and a pillow to relax.
In Senegal, the Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, we normally ate a sandwich with omelet, onions and mayonnaise for breakfast. In Guinea, this meal is less common and we slowly habituate to eat rice with fish and peanut sauce for breakfast.
People sell charcoal and palm oil everywhere on the roadside. The families produce the palm oil and then transfer it into canisters for selling. In addition, we realized during our first day in Guinea that the Chinese invest lots of money in huge projects. Humongous, highly frequented highways busy with trucks full of bauxite transport the valuable ore to the ports. Chinese logos and descriptions decorate almost all of the gigantic construction sites and makes it look quite ridiculous.
The driving style of Guinean people classifies in the category «suicidal». Overtaking maneuver like in action movies, completely overloaded vehicles and people on the roof or standing on the tow hitch and even waving at us, as it was not dangerous at all. The many car wrecks on the side of the road present a different image.
The day started cloudy as a change and therefore the temperatures were not as high as they used to be the last days, until the sun came out after noon. The closer we got to the capital; the more traffic was present.
Soon after, we reached an elongated line of hills that we crossed sweating. Then, we followed a several meter high rock wall and enjoyed the changing scenery. After dinner, we searched for a quiet place for the night, which was hard to find. After all, we pitched our tent a few meters from the main road and hoped the noise reduced itself during the night.
During breakfast, a few locals visited us for a chat and we talked about our journey and the economic situation in Guinea. Afterwards, we fought ourselves through the increasing traffic on the way to the peninsula, on which Conakry lays and therefore our next goal. At some point, we did not hear all the horns, the clattering engines and the shouting street vendors anymore and just followed the stop-and-go traffic as if we were in trance. At every larger junction, all the vehicles stopped and the motorbikes and including us with our bicycles zigzagged around the solid line of cars or even used the sidewalk.
In the city center, we waited in front of a city park for our host Karolina, who lives in the capital since almost four years. Because of the upcoming Ramadan, the fasting month of the Muslims, many marriages took place and therefore our waiting time was rather interesting.
Karolina warmly welcomed us and showed us our room with air conditioning that we could use for the next few days. In the evening, we met some friends of her in a Moroccan bar where we could taste the local beer and learn more about the lively city.
Even before breakfast, we left the air-conditioned apartment and started to cycle to the embassy of Sierra Leone. The day before, we randomly met the brother of the vice ambassador and heard that the embassy moved to another location. In addition, he said, we could find a closed embassy the next day, since two days before there was the Independence Day of Sierra Leone.
Sweaty, we reached the embassy that was open despite the past holiday and we were welcomed in a friendly way. Against our expectation, the person in charge told us to call him the next day to pick up the visa already. From other travelers, we heard that they had to make a payment at the bank, and then complete an interview at the embassy to receive the visa a few days later. We left 200 US Dollars, each two-passport pictures, a passport copy and our passports at the embassy and hoped that we made a good impression when telling our travel story.
Promptly, we could already pick up our visas the next morning and even got many tips regarding our route. Later, we cycled through the old town, visited the Niger market and relaxed on the sofa in Karolina’s apartment. In the evening, we went to a bar full of locals and drank a couple of local and foreign beers.
Puffingly, we fought ourselves out of the big city traffic and tried to get out of the chaos without an accident, while the sky was cloudy. Already after 30km, it started to rain a bit, but this did not bother us at all, since it was a cooling change.
The traffic decreased continuously and unfortunately, the road quality as well. The completely overloaded cars and busses fought themselves across the huge potholes emitting tons of black smoke and producing spooky noises. The bumpy road ascended steadily, until we had a wonderful panoramic view on the surrounding deforested hills.
At the always lively roadside, work-crazy women sold mangos, pineapples and for the first-time avocados as well. Four mangos cost us around 0.10 USD, which made us smile, thinking about the horrendous prices in Switzerland. After more than 115km and 1’000 strenuous vertical meters, we finished our workday and pitched our tent below mango trees.
The night was windy and therefore the temperature in the tent was pleasant for the first time in a while. In the morning, the glooming sun woke us up and we knew it would be a hot day.
Despite Fabians frequent diarrhea attacks since Conakry, we wanted to continue, since our visa for the large-area Guinea was only valid for one month and we wanted to discover as much as possible.
The region got hillier and we had to climb several passes. The following downhills resulted always in the arrival on the initial elevation again. The road got a bit better, but the trucks still drove too fast over the holey road. Once, we even had to escape off the road, since a truck overtook another truck in a curve and therefore stole our space on the road. In the evening, we ate a mayonnaise-sandwich in an authentic village and 15 children starred at us, since they probably never saw white men before.
For breakfast, a local gave us a few freshly picked mangos as a present and we were very happy about the generous gesture. The landscape got even hillier than the last days and we cycled through dense forest and small villages. After Mamou, the traffic decreased significantly and the views on the neighboring hills got more impressive
Lately, children shouted: “Chinese, Chinese” more often and we amused ourselves a lot about this mistake. The children in this region see more Chinese than Europeans, since there are huge investments of the Asians in mines and hydropower projects.
When we left a village on around 1’000 m.a.s.l., we found a perfect spot for our tent and enjoyed the panorama.
Our overnight spot was not really a secret and several local couples visited this location with the awesome view to have a chat. Already after some hundred meters, the road got steep and stayed like this until we reached Dalaba on more than 1’200 m.a.s.l. The climate in the mountain village was completely different to what we have experienced so far in western Africa. Even grassy landscapes and pine forests were possible to see.
After a caloric breakfast, we fought ourselves down on a rocky and steep trail to the «Pont du Dieu» (bridge of God), where we saw a small natural bridge out of rock. For us the stream flowing beneath was more the attraction, since we could finally wash our sweaty bodies in the surprisingly cold water. When continuing the main road, we stopped shortly at the lively and interesting Sunday market to absorb some of the surrounding energy. Shortly before Pita, we fell asleep while listening to prayers and relaxing singsong from the nearby mosque.
The evening before, we learnt from an American who lives in the region that there is a German Couchsurfer in Pita. We wrote to him immediately and hoped he would respond until the next morning. Luckily, Karl saw the message quickly and accepted the spontaneous request.
Therefore, we cycled the remaining kilometers until Pita, met Karl with his family and were warmly welcomed. First, he told us his interesting life story and showed us his huge garden with more than 25 kinds of fruits from all around the World.
In the afternoon, we visited the nearby Kinkon waterfall, which lays below a small reservoir. In the evening, Karl’s wife cooked a delicious local dish for us and we had long conversations until we were all tired.
After an extensive breakfast, we cycled around 25km to the Kambadaga waterfalls. The first part was on the main road, and then we turned into a bad and rocky road to reach the river. An extremely adventurous bridge crossed the small river. Before entering the bridge, we inspected if it was safe enough. Ancient and rusty steel cables held the bridge together, equipped with sheets to walk on it. Afterwards, we walked the steep trail to reach the pool of the larger waterfall. We enjoyed the refreshing water, while we looked at the impressive, almost 50 meters high wall from where the water rushed down into the pool.
After the torturous road back to Pita, we searched for an open restaurant without success. The reason was Ramadan, the fasting month for Muslims, which started the day before. A friendly woman finally offered us to prepare some sandwiches, which we ate at Karl’s home later.
Before we continued our trip, we decided to spend another day with Karl and his family to rest a bit.
Heavy-hearted, we said goodbye to the cute family and loaded our trustworthy bikes. We wanted to continue the main road until Labé to change to the N27 for continuing eastwards. However, several touring cyclists and Karl told us that this road is in a disastrous condition and has not really the character of a main road like indicated on most maps. Therefore, we preferred to backtrack the 110km to Mamou and then follow another main road eastwards.
We had not really left Pita and met Julia and Pere, a Spanish couple on touring bicycles. The couple started in South Africa and currently on its way home to Catalonia. Sadly, the conversation was too short, but we used this time to give each other recommendations and information about the upcoming countries. We knew each other already from the huge WhatsApp-Chat, where dozens of adventure-seeking globetrotters share information and help each other.
On the bicycles again, we enjoyed the beautiful landscapes and the panoramic views, even though we knew this region already. Suddenly, a completely overcrowded taxi overtook us and a white woman with a piercing screamed out of the window. Quickly, we realized that was our friends Inga and Kenneth. In Dalaba, we met to eat something together and exchanged stories and our future travel plans. After the third reunion, which was also the shortest, we continued cycling a bit until we found a great spot including a stunning view.
Despite strong wind and thousands of lightings in proximity, there was no rain during the night. Already after one kilometer, Fabian realized that he had a flat tire and repaired it quickly. Rapidly, we reached Mamou and turned into another main road. Despite Ramadan, we tried to find a warm meal in a small village. After a long and unsuccessful hunt, the women send us to the police officers who offered us their leftovers from last night after some persuading. Most of the time, people in Africa think that we are looking for a fancy meal. The truth is that we only want to eat something simple that locals eat as well.
The vertical meters did not decrease and we realized that we were still in the Fouta Djallon region. The road went up and down repeatedly. The tarmac had more and more potholes and the houses on the side of the road got more authentic. Sometimes, we could follow the overloaded trucks uphill and even overtook them on the way down.
For breakfast, we ate ten local bananas and a large bread with chocolate spread. Not many tourists or white people visit this region and the locals looked at us shyly. Many women sold hundreds of Mangos, which fall from the trees in an overripe state. We asked ourselves who would buy all those mangos, since every family has mango trees themselves in the garden.
In Dabola, a larger town, we tried unsuccessfully to buy disinfectant for our hands and a replacement for Fabians broken bottle holder. Despite the oppressive heat, we climbed many hills with our bicycles and attacked the road with many potholes. The landscape changed abruptly and we found ourselves in an environment like a savanna. The mountains and hills vanished and flat, dry pasture with scattered trees characterized the new scenery.
Already at nine in the morning, the scorching sun made us sweat a lot. Thanks to a bit of tailwind and minimal incline, we made good progress. Many kids on the side of the road screamed «Toubabo» and ran in our direction. In contrast to the last few days, the word for white man changed and therefore we knew that the language of the locals changed as well. In this part of Guinea live most people of the Malinké tribe.
In a larger town, we tried to find something to eat, which did not contain sardines out of the can with bread. Unfortunately, almost nobody spoke French and we asked ourselves already if there would be something to eat for us at some point. Luckily, we asked at the restaurant of Kalil Camara and his son Senkoun Ariel Camara. Senkoun was very interested to help us and even drove around the village with his motorcycle to find something to eat. Of course, nobody was eating, since most of the people were fasting. Finally, he bought us all the ingredients for an omelet and we could prepare everything ourselves on a simple barbecue, directly next to the road. Suddenly, Adrian got strong stomachache during the cooking session and we decided to stay in the village for the night. Without us even asking, the owners of the restaurant offered us immediately a bed in a traditional round hut.
Luckily, the stomachache moderated overnight and we could continue cycling. We said thank you to the hospitable family and made good progress reaching Kouroussa. There, we stocked up with bread and chocolate spread and finally found the disinfectant for our hands.
Instead of riding the road to Kankan and then Kissidougou, we decided to choose the gravel road through the bush. The almost 200km long trip started with the crossing of the river Niger, which waited for us directly after Kouroussa. The river Niger is the third longest river in Africa and is more than 4180 kilometers long. Since it was still dry season, we could easily push our bicycles across. We used the opportunity for swimming in the river and the more than 20 kids were extremely happy about that. Since an intense storm approached, we decided to pitch our tent in the forest shortly after the river.
After a rainy night, a few dozens of bees visited us and either the colorful tent or our smell of sweat attracted those insects. Until the sun appeared, the climate was rather pleasant and we enjoyed the little-used road through the inland of Guinea.
In each village, dozens of children ran after us and for once even the adults stared at us as if we were from another planet. Apparently, there were not many tourists in this region of the country. In a village, a couple of boys organized a few fresh mangos for us and we started a conversation with the only person who spoke French. Half of the village listened interested how he explained them our journey.
In the afternoon, we asked the chief of another village if we could sleep here. Immediately, he showed us a room in his house and told his kids to fetch water from the well, so we can take a shower. Of course, the same family invited us for dinner as well. Hospitality in the countryside is a matter of honor!
Early in the morning, loud music woke us up, which did not really correspond with our taste. After that, we had problems falling asleep again. Until we finally got up, most of the villagers were already sleeping again, since they finished eating and the sun was up already.
We still followed the «main road» and wondered why there was not any indication for the «Parc National du Haut Niger». Since almost four days, we were in the territory of this national park. Unfortunately, we have not seen any wildlife, except thousands of reproducing frogs creating imposing sound effects around a pond.
The road got steeper and sandier. Sometimes we had problems keeping the control of our thin tires. We realized that the region got more humid and greener, even though the locals slashed and burned a lot of forest for the cultivation of manioc, rice and cashew trees. One can hardly blame the poor rural population, since there is no other work or existence available.
After a rainy night in the bush, we realized that hungry termites perforated our tent base. We knew about this problem already from other travelers and it seems to be normal. The precipitation during the night filled the large potholes with a lot of water and it was sometimes hard to know how deep we would sink in.
After additional 50 strenuous kilometers, we reached the city of Kissidougou and therefore the tarmac road. At a fuel station, we charge our devices after asking the owner. We depended on our solar panel for the last few days. In a bar, we asked if it was possible to pitch our tent in the backyard and the locals said that would be no problem. The customers of the bar informed us immediately that in this part of the country, there is a majority of Christians and therefore they can drink alcohol. A friendly agronomist invited us for a local tonic water and told us about his agriculture projects.
In the bar, we met interesting locals and all of them told us what they do for a living. They all wanted to do something with us the next day or just show us the city. Fapenguo showed us his hairdresser’s shop that he built on his own and explained us his business model, after a dinner we had together.
Despite many recommendations what to do and see, we decided to take it easy and not move too much, since it was supposed to be a rest day. When getting water from a public well, an English-speaking student invited Fabian for food and a long chat.
The chemistry teacher Bavogui, we met in the bar as well and he promised us to wait in front of his school at 8 AM to show us around.
At the large school, we met with the happy teacher, who took a day off just for us. We visited a few classes and sat in the front raw, to follow the lecture closely. Besides the simply equipped classrooms, there were up to four kids squeezed together on one desk. The sizes of one class can go up to 100 and they would never fit into one of the middle-sized classrooms. The doors were constantly open and it is completely normal that kids leave the room as they want. Respect is extremely important and when the teacher asked a question, many arms quickly rose into the sticky air. The school kids screamed the name of teacher in a nervous way and snapped their fingers. Since the classrooms have no windows, it is possible to witness a pupil spitting out of the window.
A few kilometers after Kissidougou, we met Fapenguo and he proudly showed us his second business, agriculture. On a small portion of land, he cultivates maize and a few banana plants. Shortly after, he showed us an interesting bridge that is difficult to cross, not far from his village where he grew up. The locals use the bridge only if the river is very high, since it was constructed only from a few bamboo rods and some wire cables.
Unfortunately, heavy rain set in just when we reached the bridge and we were soaked. Not even a huge tree could protect us from the downpour. All the clothes we wore were soaked including the shoes. We were even a bit cold after the rain. Back on the road, we said goodbye to the wet and shivering Fapenguo and continued cycling. The rain accompanied us through steep ascents and descents. However, it weakened and our clothes slowly dried. In a palm oil plantation, we finally found a suitable spot for the night, after a long search.
Exactly one year ago, we started cycling at the North Cape in Norway in the direction of South Africa. One year later, we are in Guinea and cycled almost 19’000km. Unbelievable, how far one can cycle in one year!
Yesterday, the landscape changed distinctively in comparison to the days before. We saw many women working in the rice-, manioc- and pineapple fields. In this region of Guinea, there is the highest amount of precipitation and therefore the surroundings are green and humid.
The new tarmac road, which we enjoyed since Kissidougou ended abrupt and a road difficult to ride expected us until Guéckédou. Trucks loaded with minimum 40 tones approached us in walking speed and the people on the trailer waved friendly at us. In Guéckédou, the last big town before the border with Sierra Leone, were many people from different countries who all wanted change money into various currencies.
After a night with heavy rain, we waited until the sun dried our tent in the morning before starting cycling, since the tent was completely wet. In the border town Nongoa, we used one of the charging stations to charge our computer and mobile phones, since electricity is a luxury in western Africa. While drinking a coffee, we met Diallo, an English teacher with very interesting views and innovative ideas for his country.
Only in the late afternoon, we continued cycling further along the increasingly difficult road, instead of crossing the border to Sierra Leone. Diallo told us that many tourists visited a waterfall nearby. The village from where one can reach the waterfall, was difficult to find and when we arrived, we continued by foot with some villagers. Almost running, the men showed us the way along the river until we reached the main river separating the two countries. There, we saw some waterfalls and rapids. Since it was already late, we asked if we could spend the night in the village. Apparently, we were the first white people sleeping in the village and eating with the locals. All the people from the village old or young were interested to see us and as always, the tent was the main attraction.
Already around 5AM, all the animals and people making noise around our tent waked us up. When we woke up for real, we saw that around 10 children and 5 adults observed us laying in the tent through the entrance. We shared our bread with the chief of the village and the other men. Before we continued our trip, we got some rice with palm oil and fish. The men were extremely happy that we ate together with them.
We left the village and cycled back to the border town of Nongoa, from where we wanted to reach another border. The road got a bit better but was still challenging to cycle and extremely steep. In the last larger town before the border, we ate something and observed the small village market.
When we wanted to leave the town, a few men cat-called at us that we should stop. Since every second person shouts something in our direction, we ignored the calls and continued. Quickly, a motorbike overtook us and the police officer said we just passed the customs. Apparently, we had to get our exit stamp already 7km before the border. We followed him to his office and he wanted to register us, when he suddenly said this would cost us something. Even though, it was not a large amount, we refused to pay for something we did not know if it was an official fee or not. After a long discussion and a few accusations from our side, he banged a stamp in our passports and wrote entry next to it. We got angry, told him he was crazy, and did not know what he was doing. He wanted to give us a wipe, so we could not leave the country and had to come back to him. Finally, we continued cycling and hoped to get another stamp at the border. At the border was nothing except a straw hut and a boat with which one can get to the other side. In the hut, there was a militarist and his wife who was selling pastries. We used the absent professionalism to our benefit and wrote ourselves by hand exit in our passports. The responsible person did not question the illegible scrawl and we took the small boat to the other side and were welcomed friendly in English. The two military men on the Sierra Leone side registered us and told us in which village we would get the entry stamp.