This was originally an island called Tumbo, connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway, which provided a safe haven for slavers and merchant vessels from the late 1400's.
Today's city is built 20 km out to
sea on a promontory with all the basic necessities of banking, shops, embassies, hotels and restaurants on offer. Luckily, the dire warnings I received were to prove superfluous The city is certainly not pretty, but all
the people I met were warm, friendly and accommodating .. although I do understand that some caution should be exercised, especially at night and in the back street areas.
We emerged from our taxi at the taxi-gararge ..
covered in brown dust and not a little stiff .. and said fond farewells to our companions, our driver and our once shining and quiet taxi.
Its exhaust was hanging off and with a serious sounding knocking from the front
suspension, it was as dirty as we were. It occurred to me that after a day's rest .. in which the car would have to be repaired .. the driver would be setting off on the same 24 hour return journey, with all its pitfalls,
potholes and frustrations. I don't envy him his job, but I certainly admire his fortitude !
We were soon approached by a happily smiling taxi driver willing to take us, in a small Peugeot mostly devoid of any interior trim but somewhat more spacious than our previous transport, to the nearby Hotel Galion .. to indulge in the luxury of a shower, clean clothes and a good meal.
On asking, and probably because of my dishevelled state, a small discount was obtained on the room price which came to FrG70,000 per night - including a very good breakfast. Equipped with remote control colour
TV, en suite facilities with hot water, a secure cupboard for valuables, air-conditioning and a large comfortable bed .. this was indeed luxury. Extremely expensive by local values .. but very affordable when compared to
the European / US equivalent.
OK, I don't mind roughing it in the bush .. but after many cramped hours with very little sleep ..
I succumbed to the temptation of some comfort .. I am not a complete masochist !!
Alaghi had lots of business to attend to before our next days' market visits .. and after a shower and change of clothes, disappeared off to the centre of the city to see his friends .. strangely declining my offer of a free
meal. He is more used to this sort of travel and contacts were much more important to be made. Telephoning in advance to announce our arrival not being an easy or usually available option in West Africa, the word had to be
spread to the traders to come up with any suitable goods which we may like to see and possibly buy.
Factfile 11: The spread of mobile phone networks is rapidly advancing across most
West African countries .. with many ( especially Gambian citizens ) suffering from the 'phone-permanently-glued-to-the-ear
syndrome' as seen in Europe. To get a line is relatively cheap, but roaming agreements are extremely expensive ( a deposit of D15,000 is required in Gambia ) and although my UK mobile worked in Mali and parts of Sénégal
.. Guinea has its own networks, solely serving the environs of Conakry City and not linked to any UK networks.
The weather on the coast was surprisingly but welcomingly cool. The shower tray was brown and muddy after washing off the grime .. but never has avocado with shrimps, filet de boeuf, fresh fruit salad, a couple
of bottles of Amstel beer and coffee tasted so exquisite - FrG 37,000