Fouta Djalon, Hassan and overwhelming kindness

Trip Start Oct 04, 2011
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Trip End May 01, 2013


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Flag of Guinea  , Pita,
Saturday, December 10, 2011

I thought I'd return to Guinea or La Guinee as everyone refers to it. I feel that I've done it something of a disservice by focusing on its awful roads, crooked authorities and lack of toilet paper. In fact, there is an awful lot to be admired in Guinea.

The first things is the astounding scenery. On the whole West Africa is a pretty flat place so as you travel about it the sight of inclined jungle covers hillocks, escapements, canyons and rocks is arresting. Guinea has lots of these features with pretty Fulla villages nestling beneath impossible rocky slopes.

There is little tourist infrastructure. In the magnificent Fulla trekking country Hassan Bah and family are basically the tourist industry.  "I am in many books," he said, quite matter of faculty and accurately as we walked the dusty road to his family compound at Douki. "How do you find your David Cameron?," he said before quickly adding: "Doesn't he look like a gay?" He charmed me instantly. He had a easy manner, boundless energy and interest in everything. He was 55 and about 4ft 5in but swung off ropes and clambered up trees in the bush like a energetic child.

With him we wandered amongst slot canyons, through thick bush, splashed in rivers and  scaled cliffs on locally made ladders of branches and vines. Hassan was a tireless guide and at each little community we would see Fulla women rush to greet him and press new infants into his arms for inspection. He was a local celebrity. The women welcomed us to the neat round thatched huts with geometric ash patterns on the walls which comes off on your backs and loaded us with sweet local mandarins and limes.

Exhausted in the evening the family brought Islamic tea, ground nut sauce and cassava. At breakfast; local honey, thick and dark like treacle. The peace was only broken when one fated morning a sheep disturbed some of the bees, too which we were indebted for the honey, two of three erroneously found there way to us in the hammocks and in a crazed manner went repeated for Sarah's hair. Later we found out the sheep was killed. Africanised monsters no doubt.

For three days we rested after our walking adventures, joined by a affable chap and graphic designer living in Berlin called Tom, in the peaceful hill town Dalaba. An old spa resort high in the hills with great views and lots of shacks selling fine cups of locally grown, roasted and brewed espressos for 10p a cup. Each evening we sat with all the young people of the town on some warming dark granite rocks overlooking the valley as the sun set whilst playing cards or scrabble. Or we drank cool beers and ate freshly plucked and cooked chicken with Koffi, our Togolese host. It was hard work.

I told myself to stay on the positive side of Guinea but I must relate that on the way to Douki, at a sleepy dusty place called Pita not only did the bound up roof goats get some revenge by pissing all through the open drivers window but we had a altercation with a drunk policeman. Staggering up to us he demanded quite reasonable  "L'eau," however he wasn't interested in the water we offered. "Respectez Les Europeans," he slurred to a small crowd before demanding "L'argent," flustered I ignored him. "Mon frere, mon frere" he bleated plaintively following me about. I looked about me, the whole village ignored him. Taking this as a good sign so did I. After a while his bleats ceases to penetrate but as we pulled away in a brilliant blue 70's taxi he was still muttering "Mon frere, mon frere..."

People from Guinea are on the whole the kindest hearted I have ever met. The free lifts, coffee stall chats, offers of assistance, directions, free coffees, smiles and greetings are more numerable than even a friendly continent offers. And no hassle, no ripe offs, no bad characters out of uniform. Such a place deserves more tourists, deserves some roads and electricity...

There is a bright political future for Guinea since last summer when the first free and fair multiparty elections were held and there is an openness and easiness to discuss politics of which people never dreamed off.

We'll be back after 3 weeks in Sierra Leone to the forest region of Upper Guinea and I'll let you know again how she fairs.

Rob Spackman 28th December, Freetown

INFO FOR TRAVELERS:

We stayed with Hassan Bah family in Douki, get here from Pita. Everyone knows who he is and he walks out to great the share taxi daily. Whilst everyone loves there time with Hassan it is not cheap. He charges in euros to beat the rampant inflation in Guinea and 20 euros a day may seem reasonable with food and guiding BUT he charges for the first day regardless of what time you arrive. Negogiate this. Market day in Pita is Wednesday/Thursday this is a goodf time to go and come as there are lots of cars.

In Dalaba we stayed Chez Koffi,  or Auberge Seydi 2. Only 60 000 GF a night and lovely comfy place to stay. Market day Sunday in Dalaba so good day for onward travel.
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Comments

Shawn Reed on

Hello! I am a Peace Corps Volunteer is The Gambia, not too far from Guinea. I am thinking of heading to Hassan soon, as some of our Peace Corps have recently been able to hike with him! They loved his company and the experience as much as you did, and I would like to do the same! However, the contact information they had for him has not been working for me. Think you could email me his contact information? I am planning on going in late February and should get a jump on it! LiwanagReed@gmail.com THANKS!

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