We drove for hours down red dirt tracks, surrounded by forest with breaks in the foliage giving us sight of the spectacular mountains that cover the interior ... it’s like living in the pages of National Geographic”.
Charlie Curtis : 11th April

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Click the photos to see the gallery of Guinea

Click the photos to see the gallery of Guinea

DIARY : Guinea Imagery: ©2009 Terrametrics
Map data: ©2009 Europa Technologies

11th April : Bissau & Conakry

The border between Guinea Bissau and Guinea Conakry is confusing at best. We spent the night at what we thought was the border. We had our passports stamped with exit stamps, the car was checked and more documents filled out and we bid farewell to Guinea Bissau. We drove down a dirt track through the forests and small villages for an hour.

We passed another military checkpoint.
They didn't even seem to know whether we had crossed into Guinea Conakry.
Finally we hit a river with a ferry.
And next to the ferry a lorry which had apparently slid backwards into the water, with just the cab protruding. Taking photos in disbelief we were approached by a local who told us to beep the horn to get the truck driver to come across the river to take us across.

It seems that in fact the truck was part of the ferry crossing; using chains and pulleys to take the ferry across by somehow driving out of the river and up the 45 degree slope we had come down. Unfortunately we weren't able to witness this miracle as the truck was not currently in service. No massive surprise. Instead a pirogue full of locals, with Jon and I, got hold of the chain on the ferry and hauled ourselves across by hand. I love this continent.

Finally we crossed the border without incident and we were there. This country is stunning. It is without doubt the most beautiful place I have ever seen (but then again you may read me repeating myself often on this subject). We drove for hours down red dirt tracks, surrounded by dry forest with breaks in the foliage giving us sight of the spectacular mountains that cover the interior of the country. The people have also been the most friendly we have met. Pulling into a village we were given mango after mango by two tiny children. Pre-empting the standard child request for a ‘cadeaux’ we handed over some currency only to be told that in fact they were giving us a ‘cadeaux’. We nearly wept with shock and joy. Meeting the rest of the family we were again asked for nothing, and shown around their homes with pleasure. I'm pretty sure the father was trying to set his daughter up with one of us though ... After another night staying in a local village, chatting with the chief, we headed for the capital.

No tarmac here, just a dirt road and the potholes finally beat us and track rod bent again; Spent several hours dismantling and beating straight but the rod is now weakened. Needs to be replaced. We also lost the differential sump plug through vibration on the road; we used a wooden plug and sealant as a temporary repair until we get to Conakry. We had to retrace our steps to spend the night and now we have only covered 100km since out last stop; Local people tend to get to sleep late and wake at dawn so our window for sleep is small. It’s hot sleeping in the tent and very noisy with variety of animal sounds breaking the silence; Still it's like living in the pages of National Geographic ...

All was going well until the car started playing up. I say playing up; with a bump and a grind the prop shaft fell off at 50 mph. Not brilliant. Stuck in the middle of nowhere we picked up the debris and limped into a local mechanic who soon discovered the rear differential had seized up. The bung (a wooden bung used to replace the original which had fallen off earlier) had disappeared inside. We pulled the differential out to discover shards of metal and a lot of loose bearings.
All was going well until the car started playing up. I say playing up; with a bump and a grind the prop shaft fell off at 50 mph. Not brilliant.”
Unfortunately no amount of hammering would loosen the prop connection so we pulled out the half shafts (for those not mechanically minded you can skip this bit), and put it on diff lock to limp on with just front wheel drive to the capital Conakry in the hope of more help.
But first we had to get there. This proved tricky as we were running low on diesel and not helped by being pulled over by yet another military checkpoint (the sixth of the day) and spent 2 hours more frustrated than ever before. First we were asked for our tourist permit (this does not exist), then he refused to accept our international driving licenses were valid as they only had a start date. At his point the car which was idling away finally ran out of diesel and died.
With no local currency we were stuck there. The police did not like this as they had finally decided it was time for us to move on. Eventually a bloke on a motorbike turned up with a jerry can of diesel which he agreed to sell us for CFA (the local currency).

13th April : On the coast in Guinea

Decide to head for the coast.

< back to top >

14th April : Conakry Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

Finally pulling into the capital we found the help we needed; in the form of Nick, an expat working for a mining company. Following a brief chat while stuck in traffic, we met up for lunch and a chat. Nick is the captain of the survey boat for a mining company out here; an Englishman and as it turned out, very generous.

He took us to the only Land Rover specialist in the country to get the car sorted and offered us the night in his company compound. Beds, hot showers and cold beers!! The next couple of days were fantastic for us and terrible for the car. The mechanics winched it up on the most rickety frame I have ever seen. The rope they were using broke twice, but eventually they got it onto a stand. Well, a pile of rocks and a bit of wood.

We came back an hour later to find the rear axle removed and a lot of bits of twisted metal extracted from our diff.

We had really torn it to pieces. Eventually, 48 hours later, the car was back on the road. The chief mechanic there, Mahmoud, was a magician. He knew Land Rovers better than anyone I had ever met and managed to source mostly new parts from goodness knows where.

Time to move on but with all the banks in the city currently down we were not able to leave until morning so took up a kind invitation to spend the night at the embassy. It’s not quite the compound, but at least they’ve got a pool.

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