Let’s start with some statistics. Over 25% of the Worlds bauxite reserves, aluminium ore, are in Guinea. An impressive figure based on the fact that it is the Worlds’ 78th largest country, so not very big at all. Most foreign visitors I met were hunting for one natural resource or another, including gold. Being mineral heavy makes Guinea one of the richest countries in Africa, yet adult literacy rate stands at just 41%.
A relatively stable country, but coordinated unlawful barricading of roads combined with targeted attacks on the wealthy occur almost weekly and almost always on a Thursday. Unsure why a Thursday, but that’s the way it is. Top tip – on these days it’s best to say in situ and avoid main thoroughfares.
Travelling in Guinea is arduous and time consuming, nor for the faint hearted. Ancient battered and bruised seven seater cars, are the mode of transport here. Loading luggage is a skill, as the cars are often doubled in height with various packages. Often a sofa or motorbike is precariously added to the top, and maybe some more passengers. Meaning the centre of balance is no longer where it was designed to be. But this is Africa – no health and safety concerns here! After having waited up to three hours to sell all nine tickets, the arguments over who sits where now starts. Remember the car has seven seats, but ten of us need to get in. The worst seat is the shared passenger seat, squished between the driver and another passenger. Not only is the seat insufficient for two, there is no leg room due to the gear stick. Over the eight hour journey every change into fourth gear means a whack in the thigh.
The journey itself is fraught with challenge, namely being no road surface and drivers playing chicken with oncoming traffic to score the best bit of road. So slaloming at speed on untarmacked roads, in an unbalanced car with a bruised thigh is how I spent a few days of my time in Guinea.
Despite having travelled extensively this is actually the first country where I was requested, and not particularly kindly, by a senior police official hiding behind sinister sunglasses to pay for my visa (again). All occupants of the car crossed his palm with silver. I got stung for US$1.14 in local currency. And yes the decimal point is in the correct place.
I seem to have painted a most bleak picture of Guinea, which is not my intention. I enjoyed my time here with beautifully scenic countryside. Plenty of hikes to waterfalls through the lush greenery, in the central highlands. Plus extremely friendly people who I become very closely acquainted with during my numerous car journeys. A challenging destination, particularly with bare bones French.