Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Now in Conakry, capital of Guinea

Just reached Conakry, capital of the French speaking Republic of Guinea. The guidebook says the bush taxi from Freetown (Sierra Leone) would take 8 hours, the bush taxi attendee said 6 hours and a NGO we got to know said we would be lucky if it takes 9 hours or less. It took us 11 hours through bad and very sandy/dusty dirt tracks in the savannah. The track was not as bumpy or muddy as the Monrovia-Freetown route but it was extremely dusty. Twenty people squeezed in the mini-van meant for half the number - two of us bought 4 seats to give ourselves more space. But all of us and everything we had were covered by a thick layer of sand and dusty. We got completely orange in colour! Everything was dirty.

The border crossing was ok. We are now very used to African corruption. All police checkpoints throughout Sierra Leone and Guinea - not just border crossings - require bribes. I lost count of the number of times bribes are paid. It's almost like a road toll. Fortunately, the amounts are small - about 20 to 50 cents each time, and they are generally friendly. But bribes are bribes. No wonder Africa has remained poor till today.

We are now at a nice hotel by the port of Conakry. Tomorrow, we will do two things apart from visiting a few not-so-exciting sights here: 1) Get the visa for neighbouring Republic of Guinee-Bissau, and 2) Buy air tickets to fly to Senegal or The Gambia.

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