Ten minutes after I had taken a canoe across the border between Guinea-Bissau and Guinea from Pitche to Foula-Mori, I became a millionaire. I changed 105.000 CFA and was now holding a bunch of 1.5 million Guinea Franc’s in my hand. But to put things into perspective, the biggest bill in Guinea is 10,000, for which it is possible to buy not more than 10 onions, meaning 1 onion costs 1,000. In other (Swedish) words: en lök kostar alltså en lök.
The scenery south of this border was incredibly beautiful. The road followed a valley where a small mountain range started to form. Exposed and soft rock formations with horizontal cracks created a great backdrop for the small villages with round huts and mango trees.
I stopped at a small mountain when a family waved at me, and later camped there. The man of the family had three wives, all of which lived there with him. He had built each of them a house, and every second night he “rotated” so that no one would get jealous of the others. He seemed pretty happy with this arrangement. Their houses were very esthetical and well-made. I even made some drawings in my diary about their interior and exterior design. One of them had a carefully managed garden attached to it, fenced off with woven walls. Inside they planted chili, onion, cassava, hibiscus and spices. There was an area covered with flat stones on the ground where they had their bucket showers. I would also like to live like that – with round shapes instead of 90-degree corners and being able to shower in my own garden!
Some kids from the village showed me a natural slide on a big rock which they slid down on using flat pieces of plastic and metal, or even fresh leaves – lovely! It made me laugh when I thought about the organized playgrounds with plastic slides that we have in Europe, and all the safety regulations and standardizations etc. involved in planning them.
Here’s a photo of man “in charge of charging” at a local market:
When I approached the Fouta Djalon mountains in Guinea, the main road got quite bad. Steep hills, deep holes and up and down like a roller-coaster. On these kinds of roads you can peel an onion by putting it in your handlebar bag, but things might get a bit messy so I don’t recommend it… The road was coated with powderish red laterite soil and every time a car passed, the trailing dust cloud added another layer onto your already sweaty and sticky skin. This way, a fake-tan can be achieved in a couple of hours. I found a good camping spot where I swam naked in the river while cleaning every inch of my body. I noticed later that my laptop screen was broken; it must have happened when I took a fall earlier during the day because of the layer of soil that hides the structure of the road.
This night was also the beginning of what I would like to call “the termite terror”. I woke up by a strange sound from under the tent, and I could feel the floor moving slightly (!). I went outside to have a look and found a colony of termites that were eating away my precious tent floor, about the size of a plate. I got so angry that I poured petrol on them and set it on fire. After this incident, I’ve had countless similar occasions. It seems like termites live at every site I choose to put up my tent. If you cover an area where they reside, then they will try to remove this cover, especially if it creates a pressure on them (like from the sleeping mat and bags). What I find most interesting is that if you touch this area, they sense that something is wrong and warn their friends to come and defend the nest by creating a high-pitched sound that in academic circles is referred to as “head-banging”. If you look closely, this is actually what they do – they bang their heads to create vibrations that can be heard from a long distance even with the human ear!
This campsite, although my tent among the termite houses might look like a bad idea, was fine because the ground had been burned and the termites had long since left the area:
It was nice to gain some altitude and have slightly cooler days. I had heard many good things about the Fouta Djalon mountains, but since I mostly stayed on the main road, I think I missed out on the highlights. And due to bush fires and dust-carrying winds, the views were nothing special. But the landscape was pleasant to cycle through with green valleys and hillsides covered with yellow grass. I saw bamboo, oranges and coffee growing in the area. To my amusement I also noticed that the mangoes were starting to ripen, so a mango break from now on became part of my daily routine.