Leaving Guinea required some patience. The border was closed, at least according to one immigration officer. I found him lying on a wooden bench under the shade of a mango tree. Several metres away a bamboo pole acted as a barrier across the dirt track. This was the end of the road for Guinea. And whilst the country waited to hear the results of its Presidential elections I apparently would not be allowed to cross into Sierra Leone.

Several hundred metres back, beyond the ramshackle dwellings and stalls that made up this border town of Heremakono, the immigration Police seemed only to happy to bid me bon voyage and provide an exit stamp in my passport. Why was I now being told the border was closed?

I decided to sit down, pull out my journal and wait. After an hour passed I started to wonder if there was an element of truth in this explanation. Perhaps there was. Much more likely is that I was probably expected to have lost my patience and settled on the African way of getting things done – pay a bribe. There was only an hour left of light in the day and 10km of no-mans land on a muddy track lay towards the border with Sierra Leone.

I was contemplating either a bribe or finding somewhere to sleep in the town when it appeared that the novelty of this tight-fisted white man with his bicycle must have worn off. The nod came and the bamboo pole was lowered.

I had anticipated something like this after leaving Labe several days previously. The elections had fortunately passed quietly, but a military presence remained clearly evident on the road. Instead I found nothing but a continuation of waves and greetings in Fula as the road undulated through the green forested hills of the Fouta Djalon. Forested is perhaps not the right description. Many of the slopes have been cleared for cultivation and firewood, thereby leaving a wasteland of slashed tree-trunks. Unless land is placed under some National Park status or given special protection, people living in palm-thatched huts with no other source to cook their food are given a free reign to hack away at the vegetation around them. Guinea is no different from dozens of other poor countries in this regard.

Road to Southern Guinea 

Returning home from the fields 

Once I dropped out of the Fouta Djalon mountains the road diverged in two directions – right on what I guessed would be an increasingly busy road towards the coast and the capital, Conakry, and left towards the south of the country. Conakry sounded as appealing and scenic as Dakar, and given the uncertain political situation and the fact that I had no need to go there, the decision wasn’t very difficult to make.

Two days later I was at the border and back on a dirt track, making my time in Guinea shorter than I’d originally thought. I’d by-passed the waterfalls the guidebook had made much mention of, but I wanted to be involved in the distribution of mosquito nets that was taking place in the south of Sierra Leone. First there was Freetown to contend with.

Goodbye Guinea 

As I write this Guinea is yet to announce it’s new President. No candidate won a clear enough margin of votes, thereby necessitating a second round of voting.