Really, I have nothing to complain about.

Drone Footage of Guinea

It’s maybe the very best moment in the whole of Africa, a great night and the same for the morning. Swamped by friendly Sierra Leoneans. But with the VW crew expecting to get permission to move sometime today I need to get a shift in as well. It’s about 80miles to Lungi which is not so far away from Freetown and the all important Cote D’Ivoire and Liberia Visas. Apparently very easy here. All we have forgotten is that it’s Good Friday.

Can there be a better view to start your day?

It’s been such a nice Sierra Leone Welcome, the police are really Friendly, as are the military and even the govt Dept that won’t allow right hand drive vehicles are apologetic. Not even the hint of a bribe needed to get things moving. “We are sorry, our jobs are at stake if we allow you through”. No arguing with that.

As agreed before, its a big headache (and ultimately 2 1/2 days waiting for the VW Boys) being stuck on the border.

The Sierra Leone roads, at least the main one, is silky smooth and that’s not been experienced in a few countries. A big hard shoulder, road markings and very little traffic. In fact, not so much life, but an early sign asking people too report ‘Water Corruption’ leaves me with an idea of what’s ahead. A whole lot of poverty. Look left in a tiny Village which turns out to be the biggest place in 40 miles and you’ll see grass huts on wooden supports and inside that is all sorts of life including a fair bit of welding, the bright white light and crackling sticks out. As well as the idea it’s gonna be horribly poor here.

But this is your reward. The local kids are very happy we are here.

Look right and amongst the huts are quite a few huts with some pretty big speaker set-ups pumping sound and with a few locals having a dance. But it’s not an instantaneous wave and smile country.

Everything we need is here, including the ‘Videofootball centre’ where Champions League, both the Spurs v City game and the other one I forget were watched by a very excited crowd.

It’s also a big grovel under the shadeless sky to make it just 40 miles by 4pm. That’s another 40miles to make into a headwind and on the back of a bonk before dark at about 8pm. It’s a normal sorta West African day, fight it and be pleased when it’s over. I’m pretty convinced that a Police Checkpoint or tiny Village would put me up for the night but, right now I’m feeling a little uncomfortable in Sierra Leone.

Bribery in the Water connection centre! WTF! Still an average 1usd a day lived on here.

It’s too hot, not enough food and the Sierra Leone recent History is pretty hard going. Yet again, another country with Gold and Diamonds for example which would surely improve life if it was shared equally. Fat chance of that. Just have a watch of the Film’s ‘Blood Diamond’ & ‘The Beasts of no nation’.

Silky Smooth roads and the reality that smooth equals less shade, or how about no shade. The vehicles may be stuck but the cyclist ain’t. From the high of the early morning to the reality of a big, hot day ahead.

Yep, I’ve got my knickers in a bit of a twist. Amazing how far you can cycle when you’ve got a panic on. Might have caused me a big problem right there. I think, in my rush to find the Lungi Airport Lodge that we all agreed to meet at, I’ve smashed my shin on a pedal. Hard.

Fluid and Food, 5 of these for 50pence. Could be the answer too the mostly big empty road.

Turns out the VW Crew are still stuck at the border and initially I’m pouring a fair bit of Iodin on the multiple wounds all over my body after arriving. I’m wondering if perhaps I have a Hernia. A lump in my groin could be the reason. It’s all a guess but by the time the VW crew arrive, my shins inflated like a balloon and the pain is constant and unbearable. The chemist is in a shipping container, it’s less than basic and with a little help, I’m necking some Antibiotics, self administered.

And some respite when a River arrives, temporary but welcome.

By the next Morning it seems the govt Hospital is my only choice. The pain is excruciating and the swelling is red and angry.

Full zoom on some pristine Jungle. It’s way way over there.

The quite large but mostly empty of people and anything modern hospital has decided a drip is needed and a daily clean and change of bandages. If my assumption is correct, the tiny wound from the pedal has spread Into 6″ of Festering wound. It makes sense to be looked after in my Hotel room. It’s clean and basic. Carlos who will clean my wounds and administer the medicine earns 145usd a month! That’s a nurses wage. The fee for visiting me daily is just 5usd.

4 impressive Rivers crossed today.

It’s incredible to think that the badly painted hospital sign shows some support from UK & US charities specifically from when Ebola was here. The lads at the hotel (with a smile) talk of the days of 24hr curfews just to try and help combat Ebola.

I can’t see much to smile about, but still they manage a big one.

The water corruption I saw in the sign Cycling the other day is too try and stop Water Company Employees from charging a connection fee too the water network.

Maybe this is partly why I didn’t feel so good recently. I think it’s was an invisible wound from todays cycling though. That’s how it started anyway.

Some of the hospital & Hotel staff explain to me that some of them have recently received electricity in there Villages. How do you get that done? Luckily for them they have an uncle who paid for the power lines and poles to carry the power. That’s how you get connected it seems!

Thank Goodness for Lungi Airport Lodge and big portions and great food as well and the plus the people people of Sierra Leone.

Add a Canula and the battle is on! Pump me with Antibiotics please.

Without these two I was in a pretty bad place. Co-codimal were being necked at a big pace.

I’m not gonna say I feel entirely comfortable on my way through Sierra Leone day 1 but the smiles that are not so common take a little work.

The Best thing I learned about this lot above is that they are a mixture of Christians and Muslims. It seems there is no religious tension here and “We are easy going people”. It seems marrying people from other religions is fine. No stress here.

I have no idea but it tastes pretty good.

Freetown is so named for a reason. Land bought from local Themne chiefs in the late 18th century became the new home for resettled freed slaves from Britain and North America, and of ‘recaptives’ taken off seized slave ships on the Atlantic after Britain passed the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act.

And if you think that’s for the dinner table, think again. That’s some sort of soap.

At last, 12 days after the swelling and pain started, it seems under control. Hopefully in a few days I can ride.

And how to make a Sierra Leonean smile? Put some music on, it seems they love to dance. Good on ya Sierra Leone

This is some footage of the Guinea Bissau – Guinea Border crossing.

It’s THE reason why I ride

VW Boys and Girls make border crossing.

Multiply the amount of people my 1000, add smoke, rubbish and traffic fumes. Overcast weather is a plus though. Show me a ‘nice’ city anyway.

Didn’t feel like riding this morning despite two highly successful Visa’s received in two days. Some down time of doing fuck all is needed.

Nice fella but stop getting under my wheels FFS!

We didn’t stop. Another team effort gets us the Ghana Visa with a little 17usd pp ‘hurry up fee’, no receipt for that and paid in local currency.

Conkary is nearly behind me. I have yet too meet an Fan of this Capital.

Someone’s getting a new Handbag and dress tonight we reckon, but it’s agreed that if you want an Express Parcel delivery in Europe you’ll pay extra.

Moments too put a smile back on this ugly mug. Right for Sierra Leone! Dream stuff! I never imagined I would cycle into the Land of ‘Blood Diamonds’ and horrific civil war we read about from the safety of Europe

It’s not unexpected and rumours that in neighbouring countries, Ghana embassies don’t even issue Visa’s to non-residents we can be delighted.

Back into the Red and along with mostly light cloud we have plenty of Trees for the eyes and some occasional shade. Ladies and kids are filling potholes with red dirt. Now that’s a tough life!

Ivory Coast and Liberia Visa’s look easy in the capital of Sierra Leone (Freetown). The only stumbling block is 200usd for Liberia, but you know what we ain’t gonna be coming back, so just do it.

Oh Yes Guinea! Plenty of Rivers here!

But two days of bad guts leave me feeling pretty flat.

And these lads have the right idea!

The VW boys and Gerry are heading to Freetown and despite our little (very expensive) Conakry Pension being a great spot and Conkary winning my heart just a little, just lying around isn’t attractive either.

Never EVER do anything else than enjoy and be totally amazed!

It’s a filthy city, it’s a hectic city and the fumes and fires and rubbish smell extra bad mixed with a rough stomach plus some short but brutal climbs are needed to get out, head North then East towards Sierra Leone and although that’s just about where I’ll make it tonight at around 80miles, the others are going too attempt the 180mile leap to Freetown with copies of my Passport and some passport photos to see if they can start the process.

Filthy, hot and not a 100% genuine smile, but only a complete wanker would ignore this lot and be grumpy.

It’s a good Team. It’ll be a big void when we go our separate ways. Everyone is up at 6am sharp and a little bread and coffee is the best I can manage but 3 boiled eggs from there are placed in my bag for the ride.

I think of worse ways too keep hunger at Bay! Mango season is right on our doorstep. Given to me by filthy hands, eaten with a happy heart. And a little dirt fear.

Sure it’s not enough but riding on an empty stomach isn’t unusual. It’s hardly a skill, but acheivable and with enough funds for water to the border and a little spare for biscuits (I’m only eating stuff that I can unwrap) I’ll be fine. Ride those bad guts off.

I think the environment has taken a battering here. It’s an educated guess and looks like logging has been, gone, left a scar but revealed this beautiful hills.

It’s a slog for maybe 20miles out of the capital and even a Rider from the Guinea national cycling team ain’t lifting me, in fact he’s pissing me off. I’m grumpy and he’s unintentionally stopping my needed rythmn by getting under my feet But when the traffic thins and the road sign says turn right too Sierra Leone I’m feeling a little excited. “Get you Jason, cycling too Sierra Leone” 7 years ago I’d be slogging out 80plus hrs a week too pay rent and my mortgage.

Dream/Pain Bringer.

I never forget the slog I prefer. And the surface turns red and big holes but relatively flat. Missed you red dirt. And the Sky’s kinda covered mostly with high cloud.

Once you’ve had Red, there ain’t no going back.

Hot yes, brutal sun, NO! I had another long what’s app conversation with a past over-lander who keeps telling me , “Be Careful, Africa is dangerous”. Forget the Looney ISIS North in Mali and Burkino-Faso and perhaps the Sahel desert region and I’ve had not one bad moment in Africa.

It seems water shortages perhaps are not a problem. It’s been about 5 months since the last rainy season they say.

He can only generalise about ‘Danger’ and finally admits “London & Paris and even his home, the USA can be dangerous but probably not” Every day I’m more convinced some of us West Africa travellers’ seem keen too portray West Africa and perhaps Africa as a whole as a place for ‘Brave Heroes”. Bullshit.

Apart from the grumpy arse in charge of the border crossing (and a grumpy cyclist), the Guinea and Sierra Leone lads manning it are awesome. Oh, yes, see that sign, they are West Ham Fans! Rarer than the famous pink tigers in Africa.

Yep, I’m ready for a fight today and too be fair people can read my not so spontaneous smile today and I’m making this less Friendly as a result. The only real danger I think is heat and keeping clean. And that ain’t so big either.

Sometimes I wonder why I do this, then I know!

I’ve lived less than clean for years and survived. Great people and less demanding Visa’s than expected. The Trees continue to be loaded with Mangoes and when you stop, the filthiest kids can’t resist saying hello and I’m watching one wipe his hands all over my water bottle lid, not intentionally but just like kids do.

The VW crew have treated me like diamonds and fed me a lot of food. Can’t deny I feel rotten with local kids watching. But hugely satisfied with my much needed fill.

And when more less than Hygenic hands offer me The ripest Mango’s, a little splash of water from my water filter is enough to make then edible. What a great day! And it gets better.

Entertained by the reflection in the Paint. Superb moments.

Firstly Sierra Leone is English Speaking and secondly unbeknown too the VW boys, Right hand drive vehicles are NOT allowed in Sierra Leone. A little research shows it’s a case of hold tight and remain calm and eventually things will resolve themselves in Africa style.

They all got a bag of Popcorn from a local seller. We are not sure if it’s the right or wrong thing too do. It got very hectic and a bit out of control. Are we teaching bad habits or just being humans. I’m going with humans with good intentions. I’m sure not many Overlanders sleep on the border. It’s a big headache the VW crew are being held on the border but from the bad comes the great. We all enjoyed that evening A LOT what a Sierra Leone Welcome!

Even a call to the British Consulate in confirms this they tell me. The only person who didn’t remain calm briefly was me. The hugely indifferent head of the Sierra Leone border post has deliberately stamped me in too the county right in the middle of a blank page and he’s super un-friendly, in fact down right rude. An young Indian girl (didn’t expect that) has appeared for her stamp and he’s dismissed me with a wave after a rude air of indifference and suddenly become extremely charming.

Good on Ya Sierra Leone & Guinea. Easy you ain’t, awesome you are!

It’s only a minute later that I’ve noticed I left my phone in his office. I’ve dived back in a quietly taken it, said my thanks politely and left. One of his subordinates calls me back in the office for a bollocking. Not having that and Sparks fly. But it doesn’t matter. With the Two Swiss, One Welsh and One English parked up and in the dirt just beyond the border, that moment you ride for every day, the surprise, the gift, the big smile moment had arrived. The 90% hard work when you question your sanity has been proved worthwhile and that 10% of Awesome makes the day 100% perfect. They have cooked the most delicious pasta dish, we have chairs, we have tables, cold water and someone to share the story of your day AND even better is the fact that the locals and especially the Kids are delighted we are here.

I’m hanging on in this perhaps the most challenging part of Africa. That’s where the best moments are right?

We are mobbed my the Happiest most curious faces. It’s a little overwhelming for an intovert and my legs are blown off but yet again I’m seeing a slightly different view of African travel with Gareth, Pascal, Andy and Gerry who are just superb with the kids. This is traveling that makes you smile from ear too ear, uncontrollably. And there is space in Andy’s modern VW California for me to crash out unwashed, just after catching the end of maybe the Greatest Champions League game ever in the tiny Villages, let’s call it Village Hall and I can tell you “This is my best night in Africa” has been mentioned countless times.

Endorphin Levels running High!

3:days -Less Glamour, More Slog. lot don’t mind the Camera.Guineas Capital Conakry has a pretty poor reputation as a place to visit from Overlander reports, it’s choked with Traffic, you can taste the filth and often see it spewing from the exhausts of cars, trucks and buses that it’s quite remarkable are still moving and the numbers of people squeezed into them is quite mind-boggling. But Visa’s are needed.“I’ll take biscuits, Tuna and Water.Norris McWhirter would have been watching records tumble. The road has been getting gradually busier as the capital gets closer and the fumes and battered overloaded vehicles is nothing new but now the volumes are now absurd and the road quality which has been pretty good drops off a cliff.Moments of… Chaos, still smiles everywhere!Space is tight and some frisky little climbs appear. It’s also true that people have been less than kind about much of what’s coming up in the next few West African countries and amongst those moments of fantastic dream beaches or those adventurous unsealed roads, amongst much of the everyday nature is too much garbage.Missing the unsealed stuff.It’s not even a case of can I drink this tap water, it’s more of a case of hoping the villagers have a well. Or the cyclist option is generally hoping for the smallest shop to appear and hope they have water.Some pretty big hills approaching the Capital.Choices are 1.5ltr bottles just like at home, possibly cold at 5000cfa or buy 450ml water pillows at 500cfa each. Can you imagine the litter from these? What choice do they have?I’m guessing it’s Old USA Stock?And biscuits, I’ve seen enough desert dry pink biscuits and sardines to last a lifetime. Amazingly at the small village the other night a 15litre tub of water appears, you’ll see ladies mostly with them on there heads moving this stuff around.It’s the Main Highway to the Capital.No questions asked and like every-one else amongst the Carnage, you’ll be clean(er). I asked where the toilet is in the morning. It’s a squat in a small block out-building attached to the bucket shower building.Now, I have wet wipes (rare, very rare) but before I’ve got them out, a small sort of 2 litre paint pot of water appears to clean your behind (left hand only). And there is plenty of sweeping going around huts in the morning.Getting a lift to the Bank with two technicians based on a Hospital Ship moored up here.It’s like holding back a tide of garbage. It’s been 4 days with no SIM card and any idea of getting wifi is just fantasy, in fact power is mostly just fantasy, night times are very dark except in larger, small towns.More people than you can imagine squeezed into most vehicles.But after a night in the cyclist favourite, the Petrol Station (a plastic tea pot to wash here and a security guard who’s clearly pleased to have me to keep an eye on all night) I’ve done the maths and there is enough in the funds before the capitals ATM’s to buy SIM card.Conakry has a reputation for being a little tired.Want an ATM? Rarer than hens teeth here. Anyway, it turns out the VW boys have had quite an adventure of there own and some use of the modern VW’s winch has been needed to tow them out of water over the wheels.8 Million Guinea Francs. Converts to 800usd. (Just 8 Bank Notes).Hotels are renowned for being ridiculously expensive but once comms have been made,we have our eye on a small Haven of calm amongst the madness of the capital. I’m ahead and moving slowly but still faster so I’m the advance party.The view from our Pension in Conakry.And it is, with even a pool and Hot showers. Turns out it’s £55 a night and i’m not loving that but 4 days of bucket showers and red dust that needs shifting and a 85yr French Lady who runs this pension by the beach with a pool means bite the bullet.Thankfully not our feet but this is the result if the insects are not removed.Add the fact my feet are chaffed from soggy humid shoes and I ain’t going no further. The VW boys have taken 8hrs to make what should be a 2 1/2 hour journey but they’ve arrived late and top too tail is the order of the day despite the fact that both have had to carve and I mean carve insects that have buried into there feet and laid eggs.The first and only coffee shop seen before the capital. The legs need it!Jiggers we think are the name. They won’t kill you but untreated… Some horrific pictures on the internet. Picked up from the paradise beach we think. All sounds a bit harsh and amongst the smiles, it is.A nice Orange Glow at Sunset here.All we have to do now is deal with the first BIGGER Visa hurdles. 2 copies of yellow fever certificate. We’ve had to print a copy of a photo of Gareths he keeps on his phone as he has lost his physical copy- Pass. 2 copies of Passport- Pass. 2 Copies of Hotel Bookings in Sierra Leone, Faked Those (as requested by the embassy)- Pass. 4 passport photos and 200usd for the English and 100usd for the Swiss. All we now need is USD and an 11km trip through the chaos of the city.It looks like it’s been logged here. Just a guess.As luck would have it a Hospital ship is moored at the port and a German & Swiss from that boat are heading that way in a huge Toyota 4wd. Next task is to negotiate with the money-changers.Local Store.50usd charged to change 8 million Guinea Francs into 800usd. It’s not negotiable. Next task is 10 withdrawals of 800000 Guinea Francs each time. And we are sat on the floor outside the ATM with wedges of cash. More form filling than you can imagine to get proof we have paid into the Sierra Leone embassy account and we are racing to get back to the embassy on the back of two motorbikes before it closes at 3pm. It’s both scary and exhilarating.An offer to share Lunch outside the Sierra Leone Embassy.The police have tried to grab Pascal and his driver (apparently the police are always trying to stop reckless Motorbikers in the city) but the driver has pushed him off and we’ve carried on into the Chaos. Knees, in, elbows in and pray. Three of the Five of us have stayed at the embassy and a 13usd fee has been agreed to make sure our Visa’s are ready tomorrow to save a little time.How strong are these Ladies.Allegedly it’s normally 50usd per person to speed things up. It’s been a great Team effort. All we have to do is head to the Ghanaian embassy tommorow for round two where allegedly it’s an easier process and just 80usd per person.It’s been agreed that those who want to pay 200usd for the Liberia will pick up an (allegedly) straightforward Visa in Freetown, Sierra Leone (the next country). Then Ivory coast and with Benin and Togo VOA we can relax until Nigeria which is allegedly nearly impossible to get right now. Could flying over Nigeria be the only option? The relative luxury of what’s supposed to be the more tourist friendly (mostly) East Africa looks a little appealing right now, but next are the Glorious Beaches of Sierra Leone. Africa is, hot, Harsh, not always easy to find enough food but it’s a proper adventure and we have no illusions it’s gonna burn a hole in our pockets AND despite the fact Conkary ain’t glamorous in any shape or form, the people continue to be just superb and Sierra Leone is English speaking plus the government officials from Sierra Leone who are here to count the amount of there citizens in Guinea, proved, clear comms are great and the rice, spice and grated potato leaves they offered us today looked mighty good. And our beautiful little pension here in Conakry has been the perfect place too recover from the Last 5 days African challenges. Retrospectively, getting the Visa’s was quite fun but a little stressful and if it wasn’t for Pascal and his French I think it would have been much much more challenging. We have found Burgers & some good Western food as well.

Red Dust Rules

That’s not sweat but heavy moisture in the Jungle this morning.
I’m over the moon. The unsealed roads that worried me a bit have turned out really rather good.

Some sections of very very fine dust. Just about rideable but clings to everything.
Some sections of mild washboard and parts made up of a really fine dust maybe 2-4 inches deep and a few section that need some pushing but other than that it’s not sand and really quite fun and the 41 miles to the sealed road almost go too quickly.

A real Pea-Souper this morning.
I can’t help but wonder what the rainy season will do too these roads but still no sign of rain yet although the clear blue Sky’s are being replaced by really light cloud. Maybe that’s a sign of change.

It’s the consistency of flour.
What I do know is that this morning what you might call a heavy mist hung around until perhaps 10am and everything is moist and the jungle has a calm mysterious feel about it. The dust that is thrown up sticks too everything.

Even when it lifts, it’s still a sorta cloudy day and still crazy hot but much more bearable.
I’m only really putting a light layer of oil on the chain but it’s not long before it’s grinding under a thick layer of dust. Yep, as soon as I hit the sealed stuff, I’m wishing for more of what came before.

It’s a definite no go getting the camera out in the villages.

Life along this road has no electricity, no phone signal and riding through these very basic villages, mud and straw roofs is priceless. People are pumping water from wells, fires are burning and whatever breakfast is, is on the go. You can see and hear the pots clanking, people are carrying maybe 20 litre tubs of water home and kids are being strip washed and the ones that aren’t have superb cyclist radars and constantly shout and wave and run alongside.

I even had to sneak this one of a road that is used for trucks carrying borxite down to the port.
It’s infectious. They also seem far happier than the almost constant life that lines the main sealed highway. But it’s the red dust roads I love, don’t get me wrong, it’s still challenging but almost empty of vehicles but the ones that appear throw huge clouds of beautiful red dust in the air and generally are stacked with people. A Renault 21 estate full of people totalled 19 occupants including 4 on top. I can tell you that some of the lady occupants were really quite large as well.

Peaceful and low traffic levels.
Basic living it is but everyone looks like they are getting enough food. Rice and Spicy rice & fish was shared a couple of times (and refused countless times). Oranges, Mangos to name a few of the fruits on trees and lots of cashews. “Plenty of Wealth here” My Ghanian Friend tells me this morning “but corrupt officials are the the only beneficiaries here” he tells me and at one point a big road in the jungle needs crossing.

Plenty of Rivers here in Guinea Conakry.
It’s very busy with constant streams of trucks carrying borxite down to the port. “Foreign investors get our raw materials cheap here” he tells me. It’s been a superb day with one slightly worrying moment.

And just like that, the sealed road returns.
I have so many stamps in my passport, the entry stamp for Guinea Conakry is not easy to find and the tiny Police Checkpoint that initially feels very unfriendly and is manned by camouflaged men with shades and puffed out chests feels like it might be a problem.

It’s also true that I entered the country one day before my Visa officially started. But I know they know who I am as soon as I arrive, I can understand enough French to hear they identify me as English before my passports been shown and I’ve pointed to what I guess is the correct stamp and it’s problem solved and the tough personas disappear and the usual conversation revolving around football is a winner.

Thank goodness for the French Influence. A nice Pattiserie here!

I can’t help but think that Real Madrid may have given out hundreds of kits here. Full Kits of Shirts, Shorts and Socks in great condition are being worn by school kids parading outside school every morning. Last nights verandah with the Ghanian Telecom fellas was great and I’m feeling 100% comfortable and it’s the same tonight. I’ve asked to put my tent outside a school but I’ve been offered a yard of a furniture workshop. As soon as my inner tent is up, I’ve had a bucket of water bought over for a wash. Google Translate has done its thing.Currently known as the Red Flash.
It’s French and Muslim here and yet again, not a mosquito in sight. The big challenge again is the heat. I’m dripping at 9pm despite my tent door being open. Yep, the road road people are the friendliest but the main road bunch are pretty goddam good as well. Just 150miles to the capital now and Sierra Leone ain’t so far after that! Good on ya Guinea. Amongst my favourite people on this planet.

Now it feels like an African Adventure from Pascal and Gareth’s classic VW Camper.

I can’t lie, I love spending time with Gareth & Pascal, the Welsh & Swiss, they are top Fellas but I’m definitely feeling that I belong on my bicycle.And a view out of the back shows the red dirt I’ll be covered in soon.

We and the The Swiss Poppy and Englishman Andy drove 100 miles out of The Guinea Bissau capital yesterday and close to the Guinea Conakry Border.Pitching just the inner Tent is perfect and an essential upgrade for those tropical nights.

I got a feel for how it is to drive and those sealed roads full of potholes ain’t straightforward.What a gorgeous start to the day. If you could pan left, you would see the locals having a wash.

Kudos to them. I’ve opted for the 1975 VW Camper although the 2012 fully loaded 4wd VW California and it’s air-con looks great but tricking myself with Air-con just ain’t no plan.I’m so wanting to get in, but it’s too early and this is the time to get some miles in before the heat.

The heat is real, uncomfortable but so much part of the reality and experience.And food is easy to find at breakfast! It beats a Subway hands down. Egg, Onion and Mayonnaise. Stomach is now ready for what’s ahead.

We’ve been stopped by the Police twice in the older Vehicle. The First time we’ve discovered the Guinea Bissau police only issued Gareth & Pascal 7 days local road tax and as we all agree it’s a bit strange considering they clearly saw there Visa’s are for one month.Somewhere here is the Police station that will stamp me out of Guinea. Still some 10miles from the border. Pen and paper for records and a thoroughly nice moment. It seems the African’s enjoy some over the top but very true words that describe how much I’m loving Africa.

Then a Second police check reveals that the Rear Lights are out, another fine right there and luckily the Police haven’t noticed but we are losing fuel from quite a leak.The view from the Cop Shop. Still a reasonable sealed road here.

Watching Pascal deal confidently but fairly is a great lesson in exactly how we all know Africa needs dealing with, smile and be patient and the ‘white man tax’ can be negotiated down.You don’t get these moments in a vehicle. “Excuse me, what’s this?” We don’t share a language. Creole and French here. It’s some sort of ground up leaf for flavour.

It makes us chuckle that we have a whole load of safety equipment that’s required, ie “Can you show us your two warning triangles, your Fire extinguisher and also your insurance” etc etc.Then the unsealed road arrived and unlike the road to the beach the other day it’s very rideable.

You’ll never see a local with more than a couple of ‘safety branches’ for example.I never expected Elephants here! For sure they didn’t turn up. But they will one day for sure! Nice feeling though!

Me, I just glide through, I love that simplicity and most of all I love Waving hard, lots, and having small moments with the people I just watched glide by from the back of the camper, so thats it, I’m riding today.I’m really quite enjoying the unsealed stuff! Can’t see anything unpassable here!

I’ll miss the evenings with that lot, the freshly brewed coffee in the morning and the fridges of cold water.Ahhh, I see what they mean now, could be tricky in the wet season!

I’m not so excited by the thought that my last minute decision to join them means I have no food and that searing heat.This is your typical home right now! Didn’t expect to see high Viz and Safety hats here!

BUT it always comes good right? I need to note I had my first Gazelle Steak for dinner last night, mighty good that but with the £6 camping fee and £8 for dinner my budget disagrees.Plenty of grovelling coming up now! This is shown as a main road on the map!

Lots of expensive Visa’s coming up. Sierra Leone £100, Liberia £100, Ivory Coast £100 and Ghana £80 for example.Erik from Ghana is building phone network here! AND he helps me swap some CFA for Guinea Francs at a fair rate with a shopkeeper! Easy.

Togo and Benin are free on arrival I think. Yep, the Africa expense is biting. Complaint it aint, but add the £22 a night being the cheapest Hotel option in the next capital, Conakry where a few more Visa’s need organising.The Dream Bringer!

Yep, I knew Africa is relatively expensive and finally that fact has arrived. As has the best days ‘Africa’ riding yet and I never saw that coming!No bridge over this beauty!

We were all unsure of which routes to take today. All have reports of being impassable in sections as the border is crossed.And this ain’t budging until 6pm they say.

It seems wet season is likely to be the problem and fortunately it’s not arrived yet.60 pence surely has white mans tax, whatever it’s great value.

I plotted a route using strava’s ‘most popular option. I’ll stick with my theory that’s says if another cyclist did it, then I can and it’s put me on the thickest road on the map the N3.Im tempted to dive in, it’s warm and lazy but the locals have superstitions about this river Erik tells me.

It starts off sealed and past the most beautiful waterfall, it looks tempting for sure and just like in Asia the locals are getting scrubbed up and I love diving in a saying hello.Here is the Power! No outboard here!

This is THE land of smiles and black faces and the whitest teeth make for THE best smiles. Although I’ve noticed that quite a few of the Guinea Bissau people also have the African features with perhaps some Portugese in the mix.Just right for feeling like an adventurer.

It’s just assumption but I remember from Timor-Leste the old Portugese colonial’s were more than happy to mix with the locals. It seems though that they took some budging from this country with I think a 12 year war to throw them out.A mild accident today!

I Also read an interesting fact, there are no Prisons in Guinea-Bissau. I’m not sure how the wrong-uns get dealt with. Apparently a lot of South American cocaine gets shipped via this country, they call it a ‘Narco State’ not that we have seen any and with the Guinea Conakry Border less than 20 miles away it seems unlikely.My new rear wheel took some punishment today! Still true though!

I also heard that when the Portugese were ousted it was for quite sometime seen as a model of how Africa can progress. It seems that countless political shenanigans put a stop too that. And the thick looking N3? It quickly turns into a beautiful unsealed but very rideable and empty road through a national park that had signs showing Elephants and Buffalo and Sim-Sim who looks like a fast sorta horned animal. Excitement is high.Thanks to these smilers for the unprompted push up the hill. It’s exactly why I ride a bicycle!

It’s feeling very VERY African and waving and smiling is easily returned with either unsure children or confident ones who run alongside waving and calling out. Then the tricky bit arrives, pretty straightforward forward MOSTLY for this cyclist but I’m fairly certain not doable for the VW crew.Check that Red from the dust!

I’m not sure if they managed to locate the issues with the Fuel leak and recently replaced fuel pump and checking with them is out. This part of Guinea Conakry had no signal and that’s where tonight’s host comes in. He’s from Ghana and as an ex British Colony speaks perfect English and he’s here with Indian telecommunication companies to get a Phone Network out into the sticks.The dust has a flour consistency and grinds the running gear!

“Once you’ve crossed the River, you’ll need to find the police who will stamp your Visa and then about 1km after that is where I live right now and your welcome to stay” Right now I’ve been waiting an hour, had right nice time with the neighbors and we’ve exhausted our sign language but I’m confident he’ll appear and getting this thick red dust off my body and my scrapped Knee from a small crash cleaned up. Its just cosmetic damage though.See that? The main road is too rough for driving on coming out of the capital!

What a fabulous day in both Guineas, I’m totally in love with Africa! Another 40miles tommorow through perhaps more lush thick jungle. Its likely to be hard work again but I’m loving the African Adventure. Lots. And of course Eric turns up, dinner is on and about 20 of the neighbors are crowded around Eric’s tablet, it’s Film time! Brilliant! It’s been another wind less day and it’s the same now and If I look up… The stars are sparkling😀

“Come with us” Big goal for me is to see if my Frame can last for 100,00miles of touring.Early Morning Guinea-Bissau, cool(er) peaceful and it would be so easy just to sit here and sup coffee.It’s near as damnit just on 100,000km and that’s how it’s going to stay for now. As promised the heat has gone through the roof and leaving early is now an absolute must. Cool mornings are going to be the deal breaker, it’s only 20c at about 6-30am and although it gently creeps up all day, it only really peaks over 40c after 2pm so its enough time to make progress, but after that time it’s unbearable.It looks like these bricks are just drying in the Sun and will be used on this new house.It’s enough to get me from where my VW camper mates dropped me off after the beach to the Capital, Bissau. Things that need noting include the infrastructure.And here is one with the roof on. Still plenty around with roofs made from Natural Materials.The main road is in shocking condition. Weaving to avoid huge holes is likely to be the new normal and even this, the largest highway, most vehicles are using the dirt hard-shoulder.The Main Highway through Guinea-Bissau.Last nights Portugese owned guesthouse was immaculate if a little tired and £8 gets an en-suite shower and the all important fan, BUT power from the generator only comes on after 7pm to get the all important Fan Spinning.Occasional small towns appear.It turns out a quick comparison with UK electricity prices shows that the people of yet another ridiculously poor African country pay 4 times as much as us per unit of power. Not that it seems that power is common outside of the small Town of ‘San Domingos’. It’s pretty empty of much life along the highway which is lined with Cashew nuts and occasional tiny Hamlet’s.Cyclists and Motorbikes own the middle of the road. Everything else uses the hard shoulder.People are definitely a little more reserved here and it feels lovely and relaxed. Peaceful, calm and a rare treat almost no wind. In fact I’ve seen nothing bigger than the old overloaded Mercedes Minibuses that ferry people around and not even many of them, no large trucks and lots of bicycles often with two or even 3 passengers.A lot of Guinea Bissau is wetlands.
Sure, Traffic levels increase in the Capital, but this ain’t no London or Shanghai. My Visa for Guinea-Conakry is the goal and it’s quick, easy and 30000cfa for a month single entry. Yep, I’m feeling the pain right now, but rolling through these tiny Hamlet’s is fabulous.A few huge Rivers with Modern bridges need crossing.The Police Checkpoints are so sleepy and just call you over to say Hi. Sure I ain’t Anywhere near the first but it sure feels like the road less travelled and you get this feeling by the number of double takes and once you’ve said Hi then the people of Guinea-Bissau become pretty loud and lively. It’s a shame I speak less Portugese than French but it definitely feels good here. There is always a little Salvation. I’ve caught up with my VW mates and another English Fella in a 5year Old Fancy VW camper arrives with a Swiss Backpacker he found on the Gambia border. He’s from Brighton and we all get on famously. All discussions revolve around how we’ll make the crossing into Guinea-Conkary without getting stuck. 1 x 4wd , 1 x 2wd and one bicyle. The four wheel crew have decided a diversion through a national park that has Chimps and Hippo’s is the choice, some of the roads don’t even show on maps. “Come with Us” is a bit hard to resist, I’m loving the company! It’s a Last minute yes from me and yet again, I’m in the back of a camper, dodging potholes. Strange thing is the thermometer shows 46c but it feels mighty nice in here. And if It felt that perhaps the ‘real’ Africa started in perhaps Senegal this little gem of a country feels more ‘real’ and I’m not entirely sure what I mean, but yep, red dust, heat, shit roads and as always people just getting on with life and as always with a real happy vibe. Right now I’m thinking get to South Africa, buy an old camper and head North.Africa, as promised is relatively expensive. £6.50 to pitch my tent in the office of this Hostel.Could it be that good? I know one thing heat ain’t fun! What I do know is the big wide smiles that take a few moments to get going sometimes are priceless. Can’t deny I’m feeling a bit guilty not cycling but the company is too good!

I love Fish

Yet another country Im fairly certain I’d never heard of before is Guinea-Bissau.

First Job of the Day. Breakfast and Coffee. Baguette with noodles and some hot(ish) sauce.It’s possible I heard of it somewhere in the back of my mind as the place in Africa where the recent Ebola outbreak began.

Guinea-Bissau Embassy, Zuiganchor, Senegal.It’s all sorted now. What interests me right now are two things. Is the Visa as easy as they say to get?

What a great way to start the day with these 3 smilers trying to sneak up on me.It is, Zuiganchor is the last Senegalese city/town before Guinea-Bissau and has the reputation of being amongst the easiest visa experiences and strangely perhaps, 4xCheaper than Dakar. It’s so simple, take that bumpy track, Dodge the young lad just managing to stay on his feet as he tries to control 4 goats which are far bigger than him. “Just look for the flag monsieur’. There it is.

Slow going off the Main Road.Oh yes and when you feel eyes burning the back of your head, spin around quick and you’ll find 3 young boys not moving a muscle but crouched in the dirt ready to move as soon as you turn around.

Termites last seen in Aussie.The flag just gently fluttering over a tiny office in a compound shaded by Trees and enjoying perhaps the last of the cooler morning air before the anticipated 42c temperature predicted today arrives is being watered by a Friendly gardener who has no problem me wheeling my bike into the compound and just 3 small steps and your into the Embassy.

Last shop in Senegal. Could be the biggest choice available in a while? Rumours are Guinea-Bissau aint so wealthy.A fella in a beautiful blue sorta silky outfit with a big gold ring is the hurdle and it’s an easy one. Passport, one passport photo and one passport copy plus 40000cfa which is about £50 and a one month multiple entry Visa is mine and he’s even happy putting the Visa over the top of a page wasted by a second unneeded Gambian exit stamp that had used a whole precious passport page. The whole process. 20 minutes.

Decision time. Turn right down here to paradise or stay on the sealed road.Both the exit from Senegal and entry process into Giunea-Bissau are ridiculously easy, and friendly. It’s not even computerized.

I met this Overlander in Gambia. He’s lightened my load and taken my dry bag to the beach to reduce my weight.Good old pen and paper and yet another border where no-one is vaguely interested in what I have in my bags.

These are Caju. Sweet and Full of energy. It’s needed. The People of Guinea-Bissau are a little reserved I would say, perhaps even a little shy, but very friendly!First thing to notice about Guinea Bissau is the many signs in Portugese and locals using the language. Yep, this tiny country of about 2 million people was once a Portugese colony and is right on the corner of where The Northern Part of West Africa turns east and gets hot, sweaty and tropical.

This is pretty much the view left and right.The road which is a main road is sealed, it’s a little lumpy, but nothing quite as bad as expected, just a lot thinner and virtually no traffic.

But the slightly raised road runs through a lot of wetlands.And here is the second question. My Swiss & Welsh mates in there VW camper have told me of a beach that they describe as Paradise and is 30 miles of unsealed road ahead away and has reports of not being easy for 4wd, yet alone a 2wd VW camper or a bicycle.

And occasionally it reveals itself.It’s irresistible. They are even thinking of staying for a month. It’s an awful road and a lot of pushing is needed and 42c is uncomfortable.

It’s 7hrs to make that trip but it’s been so worth it. Fresh water is a 3km walk away along a deserted stunning beach.

The Iconic Africa shot maybe? I tried them on my head. At least 10kg I reckon.The only company is from the maybe 20 villagers who fish here and everyday bring us fresh catfish (we think). It’s costs nothing! No money will be accepted and all we need to buy are veggies and make a trip every other day to the village for beer, Fags and whisky and water!

What a great Free-Camp spot and even when we left the site with everything left outside. Nothing was touched. It feels very comfortable here.Shower? Nope, Washing up facilities? Nope but we do have the Atlantic which I can confirm is enough to freshen you up in the heat and doubles as my washing up bowl and bath and if your lucky like me, you’ll see Dolphins going by.

One of many Visitors.Everyone is Friendly enough but give us plenty of space. It’s Absolutely stunning and we are all in agreement with that this is a top 5 of all time place to visit. Truly unspoilt. And some interesting moments. Pascal told me just the other day a snake fell out of a tree and slithered away leaving them a little nervous. It gets madder, then another falls just 6ft away from us with a mouse in his mouth!

Truly Unspoilt. Not easy getting here but well worth the effort!The Snake which we think is a Brown Tree Snake is allegedly poisonous but not confrontational and after he had slithered off at top speed, we watch the mouse which must be suffering from the shock (He has fallen from the top of coconut tree height) and we clearly saw the snakes fangs in his neck, but slowly, after maybe 15minutes, he’s found his feet and disappeared into the undergrowth!

Look East.What a moment, as is watching Dolphins go by or Vultures circling or pigs snuffling in the undergrowth. Or the Fisherman making the early morning catch, or the ladies fixing the nets or the kids playing on the beach. And the best thing is 3 fellas who would never have touched fish before are now converts. Battered fish and chips or fish cakes….

But Cycling back to the main road is not appealing.I’m a little sad to say I only made 3 days, but rainy season is coming and I’m sad to leave but very VERY happy we were there. Guinea Bissau. Small and so far perfectly formed.

Can’t deny I wouldn’t mind my own VW Camper.Guinea-Bissau. Very in Love here.