Wednesday, September 19, 2007

C’ est l’Afrique!

Conakry, Guinea, 20:21 hrs, 18th September 2007, Hotel Central, rue de la Republique. I’m listening to Café del Mar as I write this – thank you Black Stilettos’!

Showered, packed, a couple of hours and I am off again. And the last 48hrs have not been without some drama.

Bamako International, Mali and the first signs of something not quite right when the airline refused to interline my baggage all the way to Conakry.

My connection is through Dakar, Senegal, where I have a window of 90mts to go through immigration, get my bag and check in for the flight to Conakry. Sitting in Bamako it dawns upon me that my flight is running late, an hour so far. Worst case scenario is that I miss Guinea entirely, having an additional day in Dakar – not too bad.

Dakar, an hour behind schedule. Walking into the terminal I find ground staff looking for more souls such as me… boarding passes already issued, I am impressed at the efficiency. But wait, our luggage? ‘We’ll try and get in on, but the flight is already late’ which translates into that our luggage is not gonna catch the flight even though we will.

A minor exaggeration on my part, and I am escorted across the terminal to retrieve my bag. That in hand I arrive at the boarding gate to hand it over to the boarding crew. I’ve done my best, the rest will happen as it does. The bag could get placed on board, it could be left behind. I am tired, it’s been an exhausting day and I am fatigued.

Conakry…. Immigration and then a block. That visa is questioned for a date has been over written twice, thrice….. It’s a scam I think; the embassy issues the visa for a little grease, doing so in a way it allows the immigration guys to also create a situation to encourage more greasing. I decide to sit it out’ but then, from behind me a voice asking of me; my client, bless the dear man, he’s driven across to the airport to pick me up. He enters the fray and soon enough we are out and at the carousal… my bag, it’s here!

My hotel, one of the worst I’ve been in, but, good enough for the single night I will be here. Guinea lacks infrastructure, it is one of the few countries on my tour that I actually look upon with some sense of distaste. Even Freetown for all its poverty has a spirit to it that I cannot find here.

Buildings look shabby, the roads are dirty, and hotels are few and way too pricey. The US$50/- per night here is robbery when the amenities are looked at – large rooms, but badly furnished. Peeling paint, an occasional creepy crawly running across the floor. Hot water on tap, rust colour… Fortunately I am made of hardier stuff, I am OK.

This day spent tramping the market place, looking at the competition, talking to the wholesalers, updating myself on the market.

The hustle and bustle of the market place never ceases to amaze me. It’s not a place that I go to in my own country, and yet I find myself doing so many thousands of miles away from home.

As I type this I can hear the rain again…. Me thinks it best I change my clothes, don my pair of boots instead of the comfy casuals I had intended to wear.

But wait, I must speak of my first glimpse of Senegal… it looked exotic as we flew in from the west heading in from the sea. The city struck me as a well planned, well developed one and I am looking forward to my visit there. Senegal, Dakar, the Western most point of the African continent…. One evening I shall keep, to go stand at the edge, watch the sunset into an ocean that I know stretches all the way to South America with nothing in-between.

So, two new things to add to my life’s experiences – a new country and another continental edge.

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