After another comfortable night in the Balys Hotel .. an early morning return to the taxi garage looked more promising. By 10 am we were finally away .. with a very good idea why this particular car had taken so
much time in filling all its seats. Most Peugeot 504 estate taxis use the 3 - 4 - 3 seating system .. ours was stuffed full of people with a 4 - 4 - 3 configuration !!
During the previous day's fruitless wait, I had
reserved my favoured front window seat and was amazed when the driver and two passengers got in the front ahead of me. I enquired fairly forcibly as to who the impostor was: "No mistake, please get in monsieur."
"Huh ? Where ?!!"
Weighing in at 90+ kilos and around 1.9 metres tall .. it looked an impossibility .. but I managed it .. just. More of me was leaning out of the window than was inside the car.
Ideal for taking photographs,
but a bit hard on my already sunburnt right arm .. suffering from over-exposure to the sun since the start of our journeys. Next time you sit in your own car, imagine the scene in the front of ours: The driver .. of a
similar size to myself .. next to him passenger #1 ( luckily a slim guy ) .. then the centre console and gear stick .. then passenger #2 ( also slim-ish ) and then me. Passenger #2 and I became quite a
practised duo at moving our legs in unison, each time the driver stretched over passenger #1 to attempt a gear change.
Obviously this wasn't the first time our driver had been squeezed up, struggling for arm and leg room. He grinned broadly at our discomfort whilst driving at presidential speeds .. via Dabola and Sisséla towards Kouroussa and the plains
of Eastern Guinea .. the Haute Guinée.
Factfile 15: Many West African dignitaries and their entourages are driven at very fast 'presidential speeds' when travelling across their countries Usually in convoy and often with outriders clearing the roads before them, sirens blaring and a lot of fuss.
Whether this is just for prestige or to make a more difficult moving target, depends on the people concerned ! It is definitely a very good idea to immediately drive off the road, until they have passed by.
The beautifully green countryside was sparsely populated with tiny villages of
thatched huts, hidden amongst the trees .. surrounded by large areas of meadows where cattle, sheep and goats contentedly grazed.
Our first rest and refuelling halt was at Dabola at which
many dark and smoky restaurants served cheap travellers' food. Determined to have his daily ration of meat .. Alaghi tucked into a dodgy-looking concoction of
spicy meat and rice .. saying at the time that it didn't taste good and unfortunately suffering a nasty upset stomach from it later.
I had a quick photo tour !
Dabola marks the end of the hills and valleys and the entrance to the
Haute Guinée. An area of sparsely populated flat plains, yellow grass and
termite 'mushrooms' covering over 100,000 square km., with most people living near the many tributaries of the river Niger.
Both on this route and the previous one to from Conakry to Mamou ..
thankfully we were spared from the attentions of avaricious officers at road blocks and had no official hold-ups at all. The roads were wide and in good
condition all the way to Kankan, with very welcome .. but too short .. prayer, snack and leg-stretching breaks in Sisséla and Kouroussa en route.
Factfile 15: As a devout member of the Islamic faith, Alaghi and most of our various male travelling companions adhered as strictly as possible to the timings of the necessary praying requirements.
Hands, feet and face would be washed, using water from a small plastic kettle which he carried throughout our journey .. a prayer mat would be brought or borrowed and laid on the ground. A couple
of minute's devotions to Allah .. always facing towards the east .. would be said and life would carry on as normal until the next appointed time. If a mosque was nearby, this would be used .. otherwise any
quiet place would be sought and utilised, sometimes on his own and sometimes en mass, in company with his fellow worshippers.
Scrub fires with herds of cattle escaping from them .. friendly families where we stopped to deliver packages and sacks of food .. small market
towns where fruit and fresh water could be bought .. our first glimpse of a tributary of the Niger, which was mostly a dried-up riverbed with bright yellow sand .. all made for an interesting, smooth and trouble-free journey
until we arrived in the university town of Kankan ( 500 km east of Conakry City ) as darkness enfolded us.