Dakar – Dalaba (Sunday night, Monday morning)

[I know – two tin cans short of genius………]

‘Driving at night is better. You can see the other traffic better.’ Impeccable logic from le taxi maitre as he steers his smooth 505 along the dirt road to the border. However, his assertion is based on one important assumption: everyone’s lights are working. Case in point: for some reason we are continuously driving on the wrong side of the road, only swerving to the other side (perfectly driveable as far as I can see) when there is oncoming traffic.

A motorbike.

No: another taxi with only one headlight working. We get out of his way just in time and luckily for all of us the road is so bad that nobody can go really fast. The passengers behind me have gone quiet as we negotiate our way through a beautiful, slightly eerie, dreamscape.

A forest. An endless forest, lit up by our headlights and the other occupants of this stretch of dirt road. We could be skirting the Niokolo Koba National Park, which reportedly is in a bad shape: neglect, infested with poachers, not making any money. The Park is located in a corner of the country that absolutely nobody in Dakar cares about.

The forest opens up a little and lo and behold: a village. With restaurants and drinking spots and I even spot a terrace… Should have dumped me here for a day instead of that Dive called Manda! Anyway – it’s the border, announced by a bunch of young men wanting to change CFA francs for the Guinean currency. One to ten, the rate is good but I have a brick of banknotes with me from the last time.

It is 1am and the folks on duty at this awful morning hour seem to be more concerned with rushing everybody through. My passport is stamped and I’m summarily sent on my way.

‘You have to walk through customs and then we’ll be there on the other side,’ the driver says helpfully and so I wander past the lively terraces on my way to the customs people.

‘Hey! Bram!’

Now who the hell could know my name in the middle of absolutely bloody nowhere in the middle of a forest while I am walking on a sand road to a border post? Moussa sits beaming behind a glass of Coke at a table.

‘All is going well. We’ll get to Labé before you!’ Bold claim, I say, as I wish him luck.

We drive through the same densely forested no man’s land. Time aplenty to ready myself for reminders of one of the former Guinean regimes. There have been four: the tyranny of Ahmed Sékou Touré (1958 to 1984), the inept military dictatorship of Lansana Conté (1984 to 2008), the chaos of captain Moussa Dadis Camara (2008-2009) and a transitional government until the election of professor Alpha Condé in November 2010. Yes, the country has been dealt a dreadful crop of leaders over the years. Among the vestiges of these former regimes were: violence, corruption, harassment – especially of travellers.

Well here’s the first surprise: the border crossing into Guinea is entirely uneventful. Closely followed by a second: we are still driving through that neverending forest, but now add swirling fogbanks and…a perfect two-lane tar road! ‘Dadis’ road,’ remarks one passenger, after the erratic captain who manhandled his country during the year he was in power. Interesting, because like all the leaders before him he has been taking very good care of himself. Here’s the house he had built in N’zérékoré, the capital of the region where he was born.

(photo by yours truly)

Occasionally we divert onto a sandy side-road. That’s where they are still building the bridges but other than that I cannot believe how smooth the ride has suddenly become.

Can this last?


2 Responses to “Dakar – Dalaba (Sunday night, Monday morning)”

  1. Jon Says:

    Enjoying your not-so-mini overland adventure

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