Conditions being somewhat basic we decided to return to Hotel Tata and then take an extra night at a luxury lodge in Senegal.
“You can’t leave without doing the Indiana Jones hike though,” said Hassan, and so early on the final morning, we hiked down through a couple of villages and into a crevice in the rock.
We found ourselves standing in what appeared to be the set of all of my favourite childhood films: Indiana Jones and Tarzan.
The cliffs rose above us and there was thick jungle and vines hanging all over the place.
We tramped around, sliding through crevices, crossing bits by hanging from vines, crossing small waterfalls and even having a short dip in a natural jacuzzi.
It was every boys adventure playground fantasy and I can’t wait to bring Gulliver and Alfie here in a few years.
We returned to camp, spying some monkeys then went on our way arriving back to Labe in the mid afternoon. As Hassan’s place was a dry zone, we were eagerly looking forward to a beer – plus we were starving – so we stopped at a restaurant on the outskirts of town. A Guinean guy owned the place and he spoke with a slight American accent. It turned out he’d lived in upstate New York and is now a gold and diamond dealer, hence the fancy cars out front.
“I’ll give you the best meat balls in Guinea,” he declared proudly.
When several plates of chicken and chips arrived with no balls in sight, Frederick muttered “well, I suppose this is when we say: this is Africa!”
We returned to the welcoming hotel Tata and relaxed exhaustedly for the evening before the long drive to Senegal.
All was good in the world. The difficult rocky section felt much quicker, the police waved us through with barely a couple of minutes chat and then we were on the good road that would take us all the way home.
Then we had a blow out. Khadri got the jack out and took the wheel off. He put the spare on, let the car back down and…well bugger me, the spare was flat.
We were in the middle of nowhere, 50km from Koundara. A passing motorbike told us we could probably blow the tyre up in the next village about 5km away. Khadri assured us if he drove slowly, we could reach there – there was a little air in the tyre. I guess we should have said no, but there was barely any shade and so we went for it. About 2km before the village, the second tyre shredded and we ground to a halt. And you know what? This provided what may have been for the guests, one of the best moments of the trip. It’s very often those unexpected moments that become the highlights – just as I’ve written on my website under the tour section.
Khadri jumped on the roof of a passing dix-sept place with the wheel and we were invited over to a nearby shack manned by what appeared to be soldiers.
They turned out to be forest rangers and were guarding a large area that they said contained giraffe and chimpanzees. We sat whilst they cooked, then all ate rice, fish and palm oil. Carol and Tess played cards with them whilst Mart and Frederik saw plenty of birdlife.
About three hours later, Khadri returned with a new tyre and we continued to Koundara. It was by now too late to reach Senegal but I had a plan B. Three weeks earlier I’d spotted what looked like a nice hotel near the border. I insisted upon changing the second ruined tyre and then we reached the hotel as darkness fell. After a long hard day, it was nice to have cold beers and the ubiquitous food of African hotels, chicken and chips. It wasn’t quite as nice as I’d imagined from the outside, but perfectly adequate and everyone was happy. A small crowd had gathered to watch football in the dining area and we sat outside under the stars in the cool evening. Although the room had a fridge (minus mini-bar), air conditioner and a plug socket, none of those things actually worked.
It was good roads and smooth sailing into Senegal, up around the edge of the Gambia, a bank break in Tambacounda and on to the Wassadou lodge on the edge of Niokolokoba national park.
I’d stayed here almost three years ago and it’s one of my favourite spots in the country. This time, we spent two nights and relaxed all afternoon taking in the view high on a bend in the river Gambia.
Monkeys and baboons roosted in the trees and a couple of hippos yawned in the distance. In the morning, we took a boat trip. The light was perfect as baboons jumped around in the trees. Frederik and Mart were happy with the birdlife which included the fin foot and Egyptian plover which are much sought after by birders.
Another hippo put in an appearance and then we returned for breakfast and to spend a lazy day reading and watching monkeys.
Tess relaxes with a great book!
It was the final day of the trip and despite a few moments (travel in West Africa is rarely easy) everyone seemed happy and satisfied.
Despite it being a long journey home to Abene, it’s beautiful, especially the new south bank road from Kolda to Ziguinchor.
We grabbed a quick lunch at Hotel Hobbe in Kolda and took in some classic Casamance scenery before Ziguinchor. Reaching Zig, people were thirsty, so I took them to “One foot in the river” for a quick drink and fresh grilled oysters, all whilst sat on land made of shucked oyster shells by the slowly flowing African river.
It was good to be back, but I can’t wait to go and do some more trekking in Guinea – who’s in?