Update: The long and winding road…Kedougou, Senegal-Guinea-Conarkry-and back again


Fleuve-Gambia-sunset-Kedougou_MG_2279

The River Gambia (Fleuve Gambie), Kedougou, Senegal © Jason Florio 2012

 

 

 Tuesday 11th December, 2012 – Kedougou, Senegal

It’s been over a week since we were able to get on line and update. Not that we haven’t been busy, as a River Gambia Expedition team. Florio has been doing his thing – so we have lots of photo’s to come, over the coming weeks; I’ve been keeping up on my journal (some of which you’ll read here on the blog. The rest? You’ll have to wait for the book!); Abdou and Ebou have excelled as team mates, translators, and givers of cultural knowledge.

Here is what we’ve been up to since the last post. And, a little reminder: whenever you don’t see any updates here, you can always follow our route through our YellowBrick ‘YB3’ tracking device here

click to go to YB site

click to go to YB site

 

 

florioapp@my.yb.tl   to send emails to us

Overboard Bags - helen Jones-Florio

“No Photo!!” – Packing the Overboard bags on top of the pick up truck – Kedougou, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

Friday 30th November – Kedougou, Senegal-Labé, Guinea, West Africa

We left Kedougou bus station around 1pm on Friday 29th November, after three days of waiting for the vehicle to fill up with enough passengers – and, after much haggling about the extortionate price of the seats with what seemed like the entire ‘Drivers Union of Labe’ (if there is such a body. It seems everyone likes to get in on the action when the ‘toubabs’ – that’s yours truly and Mr Florio – are around). If that wasn’t enough, after agreeing on the price for the four of us, the driver still tried to extort even more Guinean Francs (GNF) from us, for our baggage. You can bet your bottom GNF that we paid over the odds. But, we had already waited too long for the vehicle to fill up – all 20 passengers in/on top of one ancient, knackered, pick up truck. Alas, comfort and luxury not included in the already racked-up price. We needed to get going – on to the next stage of our journey.

H and the team - leaving Kedou and the team - leaving Kedougou, Senegal © Jason Florio

H and the team – leaving Kedou and the team – leaving Kedougou, Senegal © Jason Florio

Saturday 1st December – 130km and 24 hours later and we arrive in the capital of Labe, in the Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea…

and our minds and bodies knew exactly why transport cost’s so much in Guinea – and it’s not just the horrendously expensive fuel prices. Unravelling our aching limbs from the crammed cab of the truck, after having traversed moonscape-like terrain for 20 of those hours – bouncing (hang on: ‘bouncing’? That sounds like much to a soft word. Lets replace that with ‘JUDDERING’) along over ‘roads’ which can only be described as driving over riverbeds – the rockiest ones that you can possibly imagine, at that. “Vehicles have to be remade when they have made the journey to Guinea” one driver at the bus station had told us in Kedougou, when we were haggling for the best price.

 

On route to Labe, Guinea - Florio films our ferry crossing over the River Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

On route to Labe, Guinea – Florio films our ferry crossing over the River Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

For every inch of those 130kms we rattled up, down, around, and over the Fouta Djallon mountain’s – fording streams; collective willing (from Florio and I, at least. ‘insh-Allah’/’god willing’ and, no doubt, from the other passengers) the struggling vehicle up 1:4 gradients; breathing in to cross narrow, barely-there bridges; getting a birds-eye view, inches from my permanently-wound-down-window (a hole where the  ‘manuel’ to open and close it, should have been), of the sheer drop down into the valley, whilst preying the driver doesn’t over estimate the narrowness of yet another hair-pin bend. And, despite hating driving – and, even worse, being driven (I’m petrified! Too many crashes and near misses with other vehicles, as they drive towards you with full beam, will do that) – at night in Africa I was actually relieved to remain in relative ignorance on this particular journey, as we drove through the most precipitous of mountain ‘roads’. And, as it got lighter, I tried my damnedest to keep my eyes directly on the road ahead – but, I couldn’t help myself, looking at the too-close-for- comfort sheer drop!

Thankfully, Mr Drammeh, our Guinean driver, had very obviously made the route from Kedougou to Labe many times – his maneuvering of the treacherous, red-rock-filled, roads, was a testament in itself. We salute the Chinese auto industry– that pick up truck was like a ‘Tonka Toy’!

Around 2am, the truck stopped in the darkness, in what appeared to be a cluster of huts in the middle of nowhere. Without a word to us, Mr Drammeh stepped down from the truck. We then we noticed the passengers disembarking from the back of the vehicle, with various pieces of luggage, and proceeded to unroll mats and carpets on the ground. I guess we are resting for a while then – an undetermined time, at that – no one having explained to us what was going on. A cacophony of pissing, farting (and it wasn’t just from the numerous goats doted around us), blowing snot out of noses, and, finally, snoring ensued. Then, the star-filled night was suddenly quiet. Abdou and Ebou found space on a mat, Florio took the front seats (splitting the silence, accidentally knocking the car horn on a couple of occasions, whilst trying to get comfortable! It’s a good job it we weren’t honking for help – no one stirred!) and I the back seats. Not much sleep was had but at least we had the full moon to light up the night – and it made much easier to find a place to pee during those wee hours.

We eventually set off again, around 7am, and arrived in Labe around 12.30pm. For a good hour afterwards, whenever I closed my eyes, I could still feel the juddering motion of the long drive. Later that evening, we met a couple from the USA and Holland – Tim and Kate – who had just made the same journey. Tim’s very apt analogy: “it feels like I have just been put though a cement mixer!”.

Saturday 1st December – Labé, Guinee-Conarkry

'Moto' boys - Labe, Guinea © Jason Florio

‘Moto’ boys – Labe, Guinea © Jason Florio

Labè’s got style!

Ghana photographer, Malik Sidibe, portrait subjects spring to mind, as we walked around the downtown area of Labe. These guys are seriously cool.

'Moto' boys, Labe. Guinea © Helen Jones-Florio

‘Moto’ boys, Labe. Guinea © Helen Jones-Florio

H & 'Moto' Boys, Labe, Guinea © Jason Florio

H & ‘Moto’ Boys, Labe, Guinea © Jason Florio

Flo-writing details-labe_DSF0798 copy

Florio gets the details – Labe, Guinea © Helen Jones-Florio

We met with Yayah Baldeh, who runs Galissa Voyage Trekking. He was going to supply us with a local guide and translator – Saifoulaye Djallow (Saif, for short) – who would take us up into the more rural areas of Fouta Djallon Highlands and, what we came for, to pay homage to the source of the River Gambia (Fleuve Gambie – as it is known in Guinea) and, after a year of planning, where the River Gambia Expedition would finally begin.

Saif and Yaya - Galissa Voyage Trekking, Labe, Guinea

Saif and Yaya – Galissa Voyage Trekking, Labe, Guinea

Labé is a motorcycle city, over-run with thousands of, Chinese-made , taxi bikes – ‘motos’ (those aforementioned extremely high fuel prices give people little option to use anything else) carrying a minimum of 2 or 3 passengers a piece. We constantly have to dart out of the way as yet another ‘moto’ zooms towards us, at maximum speed – we have this expression: ‘taking no prisoners’ –  within inches of us. “à ton à ton! There are too many accidents every day, here in Labè” Saif tells us, leading us through the dusty, stinky, dirty, litter-filled streets of the downtown area. Despite the moto-dodging, Labè a vibrant, friendly place – Jarama’s (local Pula language greeting) “bonjours” and “ca va’s” abound, from every smiling, curious, face we pass.

H goes shopping for supplies, downtown Labe market, Guinea © Jason Florio

H goes shopping for supplies, downtown Labe market, Guinea © Jason Florio

Traders. downtown Labe market, Guinea © Jason Florio

Batik traders. downtown Labe market, Guinea © Jason Florio

'Pain' traders, downtown Labe market, Guinea © Jason Florio

‘Le Pain/mburro’ traders, downtown Labe market, Guinea © Jason Florio

We stayed in Le Campagne Hotel, a short 15-20 minute walk from the downtown area (and 10 minutes to the nearest ‘Cyber Café where we could also get a decent/fast at times WiFi connection – 500CFA/Central Africa Franc for an hour – about 50p). The hotel was a small, pleasant enough place, during the day, that is. After 6pm, it became the local hangout for well-heeled – judging by the shiny new cars they rocked up into the compound – Gaselle (Guinean beer) guzzling, good-natured, Guineans guys and ‘ladies of the night’. Loud, vociferous banter and laughter, accompanied by static, as in un-tuned transistor radio music (what is it about Africans, that they don’t seem to notice when a radio is not tuned in and/or is constantly turned up to mac 11?!) blared into the early hours. Oh, and lets not forget the 24 hour TV, blasting in the restaurant area. It was a job to pry ‘la madam’ of the hotel away from the screen, to which she sat, glued, to get an order of drinks or food!

Hotel Le Campagne, Labe © Helen Jones-Florio

Hotel Le Campagne, Labe © Helen Jones-Florio

So…our journey continues…we will update as and when we can – which is not that often at the moment. We’re going to see if we can buy a ‘dongle’/network key, which we can insert our cell phone sim cards into, to get on line. However, as mentioned, if you don’t see any updates for a while, check out our YellowBrick page, to see where we are, at any given time. I think my mum is our biggest fan – she knows where we’re headed before we even get there!! You can also leave messages on  the page too and we can respond, due to the YB3 tracking device being on the iridium and satellite network – all we need to do it blue tooth it with the iPad and viola!

Florio, YellowBrick and Concern Universal - on route to Tambacunda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

Florio, YellowBrick and Concern Universal – on route to Tambacunda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

click to go to YB site

click to go to YB site

 

 

 

 

Thanks, as always, for stopping by. It’s great to have you on board!

Fonyato demanding (‘til next time)

Helen, Florio, Abdou & Ebou – River Gambia Expedition team

Overboard bags on top of yet another vehicle - Hore Dimma, Guinea © Jason Florio

Overboard bags on top of yet another vehicle – Hore Dimma, Guinea © Jason Florio

 COMING SOON! Reaching the source of the River Gambia, in the Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea; toilet humour and bathing with bull’s(!); 80km and 8 ½ moto-taxi ride from Mali Ville, Guinea, to Kedougou, Senegal… updates as soon as!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

About River Gambia Expedition 2012

Jason Florio, FRGS: award-winning photojournalist. Helen Jones-Florio: expedition & photography producer. 2009: The couple co-led the West Africa expedition 'A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush - a 930km African odyssey' - the first circumnavigation of the small West African country, by foot, with two donkeys and a cart. Resulting in the award-winning series of portraits of Gambian village chiefs (Alkalo's) www.floriophoto.com (under 'Projects') http://930kmafricanodyssey.tumblr.com/ 2012-13: The couple co-led their second West Africa expedition - 'River Gambia Expedition - 1000km source-sea Africa odyssey' over-landing for 400km and canoeing the River Gambia for 720km https://rivergambiaexpedition2012.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Adventure, Culture, Expedition, photography, Photojournalism, River Gambia, The Gambia, tradition, Travel, West Africa and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Update: The long and winding road…Kedougou, Senegal-Guinea-Conarkry-and back again

  1. Thierno Bah says:

    Hey Helen I see your updated pic from Labé, I’m very glad, hope that it was nice.
    Will be very pleased to be with you the next trip. I don’t know if you gonna spend more time in the Gambia.
    Thierno Bah from Conakry Yaya’s friend with whom you suppose to trek
    Thank you

  2. SO glad that you have managed to get an update through and really loking forward to hearing the next installments. it’s cool to see you on the move with Yellowbrick.

  3. Ram Mohan says:

    Amazing… Looking forward to the next update..

  4. nikkigermany says:

    Such a great post and pics!! Can’t wait for the next update. Be great to get an idea of how much you ended up paying per seat – I’ll do the Koundara route in early Jan.

    Thanks
    Nikki

  5. Pingback: Every picture tells a story: River Gambia Expedition – latest new images from Jason Florio |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s