The major attractions of the western interior of Guinea are the Fouta Djalon highlands.
They are the source of the rivers Gambia and Sénégal and hundreds of others, including some major
tributaries of the Niger. Populated mainly by Fula herdsmen, its variety of landscapes range from richly cultivated or jungle-filled valleys (some with sheer cliffs) to bare, rocky
wastelands and sparsely wooded plateaux .. mostly accessible by the excellent main roads.
We eventually left Conakry's crowded streets around 1.30 pm .. helped by the fact that I splashed out double the normal fare of FrG 12,000, both to have the
front seat to myself and to speed up the filling procedure .. in what looked like a fairly new Peugeot 504 Estate.
Our driver was obviously a graduate of the 'Schumacher School of Motoring' and we sped along good roads and through the many villages at top speed, relying more on the car's horn to scatter anyone in
our path, than much thought of braking ! With only the occasional small pothole to avoid, we made good time through the rolling hills and forests. Notable were the large number of broken down trucks ..
in various stages of repair .. on the side of the road.
Factfile 14: By law in many countries, one must place a reflective red triangle a few metres up the
road to warn oncoming drivers of such obstructions. In Guinea, they use small bundles of branches, which are very effective in daylight .. but no doubt lethally invisible at night.
Massive great engines, gearboxes, axles and suspension units from very large trucks were often seen
stripped down into bits and being repaired on the roadside. Tarpaulin bivouacs and mini campsites had been set up for shelter from the sun for the people working on the repairs. Many were lying in the
shade .. probably waiting for spare parts to arrive .. and often looking as though they had been camping there for many days in the 35+ °C temperatures.
Every so often we stopped to stretch our legs and for the driver to refill the radiator .. which had a small problem .. two holes in it, to be precise. Perhaps not
such a new car after all !! Such was his haste, that any drinks or snacks (on offer at each village we passed through) had to be purchased in double-quick time,
before he was sounding his horn to be on our way again. One time, my too-hot to-drink-quickly coffee was literally poured into a plastic bag for me to drink on
the move .. juggling hot liquid in a plastic bag at high speed .. is not easy !!
Some people had large carcasses of meat strapped across the bonnets of their cars ..
probably to keep the smells and flies outside and possibly for it to be cooked to perfection,
with a combination of the sun's rays and the engine's heat, by the time they arrived home !!
Food was available everywhere en route .. lovely large juicy oranges and pineapples, the tiny but very sweet local bananas and meat, cooked over charcoal burners, which was
always accompanied by the local Fula bread. This is heavier and tastier than the lighter French-style baguettes found all over West Africa. Clean drinking water
had to be bought in bottles or 500 ml plastic bags .. both imported from France .. and the usual array of sometimes cool soft drinks .. Coke, Fanta, juices etc. were very cheap and very welcome in the hot temperatures.
Special to this region were fields of surface drying cassava roots .. pounded into a powder with a pestle and mortar and used for cooking .. which glowed a bright white amongst the greenery.
Housing was mainly square-shaped with corrugated tin roofs or small huts of concrete circular rings, with high-pointed conical thatch roofs nearly touching
the ground at their sides. Many of their owners had bundles of firewood for sale, neatly stacked on the edge of the road.
135 km out from Conakry we passed through Kindia, the gateway to the Fouta Djalon. A neat and
pleasantly laid-out town, surrounded by thousands of mango trees, owing much of its existence to the building of the now defunct Conakry to Bamako railway in the early 1900s.
Onwards and upwards through 130 km of steep, roads with hair pin bends, giving magnificent
panoramic views, we arrived without incident in Mamou at around 7.30 pm. The fastest and most
comfortable journey we had as yet experienced, despite the small problem with the radiator !