Monday morning and Mark takes us for a bird sighting walk around some of the island, they have some beautiful birds and they are easy to see when you walk through the bush. After breakfast we clear out the back of the car as the boys are going tree shopping, it is beginning rainy season and so time to spruce up the camp. I stay behind with Binta to make a second Gambian dish called Kyankatang. It is made with smoked fish and ground nuts, there is much pounding involved and the result is delicious. I even have the staff’s approval. Late afternoon finds us in the pool and Simon and I decide that since we have not stopped speaking about the job offer maybe we should accept it. So we go to town to email Geri saying we will return after our visit to Guinea. Simon has been taking photos for two days now and finally arranges the group shot, we join in on the second one, a good memory for our time there with the guys at Bird Safari.
Tuesday morning and we are on the move, saying goodbye to all at the camp we head off for the border and Nikolokoba National Park in Senegal. In Basse the border town we fill up at the petrol station, not a job you would want, as the pump attendants have to use a hand pump. 80liters of diesel can take some time so we found a man selling Boabab ices and enjoyed them while waiting for our diesel. Then a man came along selling bread, he is from the Sierra Leone refugee camp just outside Basse, and we bought some sweet bread (like brioche) from him.
No problems at the border and into Senegal, interesting road down the side of the park, deep rutted ditches and soft clay soil, not somewhere one would like to be when it rains, the ditches are big enough to lose Jenny in and unlike the potholes, I am not exaggerating.
Last village on the road is Medina Gounas where we were signed out by customs and police with no difficulty, what a pleasant surprise today is turning out to be. The last village is not on the border and we have roughly 30km to go, we finally get to the park gates just after dark. The gate closes at 6pm so the park guards agree to let us sleep by the gate where their compound is. It starts to drizzle and we plan to go to bed without dinner but God is looking after us. The guards motion us over and we share their food bowl, it is a delicious meal (and not just because we were hungry) of meat and rice so we enquire as to what this local dish is called. Why, meat and rice of course! It has started to drizzle and we hope the heavy rain holds off, we go to bed early as we want to get going in the morning, this is not a road you want to get stuck on.
As we slept by the gate there is no need to go into the park, that and we do not have enough CFA (local currency) anyway. So off to Guinea, no trouble at the border, this is something we could get used to.
Picked up some travellers along the way, some only wanting a short lift, one man wanted to go all the way to Labe, the town we were heading for. This turned out to be to our advantage as we did not have any Guinea Franc and could not afford to pay a ferry we came across so our visitor lent us the money, otherwise we would have to negotiate another route and we were in no mood to do that. Our traveler also bought us lunch at a local food stall; we took this as a thank you. We finally parted in Labe after a small squabble about money, booked into a hotel after having to deal with a money changer who wanted to charge us 25%for accepting smaller bills. So off to the bank tomorrow me thinks.
Thursday and we change our money at the bank easily and at a better rate, so much for moneychangers, moral of the story? Don’t always change money with the first moneychanger you come across. Labe is a big market town with many interesting stalls and a covered market you can loose yourself in. just about everything is available and we spend the day snooping. Friday we do some emailing and buy insurance from a very professional set-up. Then off to Mamou and Darbola where we leave the tar road and take a good (as in obvious) piste road to Faranah. We had to stop mid way as it got dark and so we bush camped. Guinea does not have any campsites and so bush camping is the only way or staying in small hotels.
Saturday morning we get woken by the voices of people walking by on the way to a nearby (1km) village, we are parked just next to the pathway. Expecting an audience we were please to find that people just walked by as if you were not there and returned your greeting before simply carrying on their way. Back on the road we reach Farahan and the tar road to Kissidogou the town where PLAN international have their offices and our girl Saran lives, we sponsor her. Met at the plan offices by Albert, Maurice and Sheriff, we make plans for tomorrow and they take us to a hotel. The Savannah is the most expensive in town but not great although a good deal better than any other is.
Kissidougou is a bit of a aid organisation mecca with all the big names there driving around in new Toyota Landcruisers, Toyota have definitely corned the market in Kissidougou.
Sunday and the big day arrives, we have been looking forward to meeting Saran and her family for some time now. Expecting just the family we are overwhelmed when the whole community turns out to greet us with singing and dancing. The have hired musicians for the day and we went through cycles of singing, dancing and resting. Simon and I were introduced to the community and given the traditional welcome of Kola nuts, later we were given a woven basket, calabash and live chicken (one definite way to confuse a white man, what to do with a live chicken when living in a hotel).
It was lovely meeting Saran, she is a quiet, serious little girl who I think did not really want all the fuss, and she clung onto Simon or myself most of the time. We were taken to see some of the schools PLAN had built. After a short rest at the hotel we went back to the family and stayed up dancing until late, Simon showed off some of his dancing skill much to the delight of the crowds. We were well fed with chicken and chips as they believe this is what wealthy people eat, by the second chicken we were feeling somewhat humbled by all their generosity and excitement at having us there. Rain ended the day with us going back to the hotel, the family wanted us to sleep over and had prepared a room for us but this is against PLAN rules and we had to decline. As we were leaving Saran’s Mum rushed out with a pot filled with chicken and chips so as not to send us away hungry. A lesson there I think!