I’ve done a fair amount of hardcore travel in my time, but nothing could have prepared me for the journey for Bissau (Guinea Bissau) to Labe (Guinea).
Firstly, there was the simple journey from Bissau to Gabu in the north, a smooth four hour journey. There we waited for our transport to fill up for Labe. A few hours past… a few more. Still not full. The heat was unbearable and we had little choice but to wait around the station. We waited, and waited and waited. I couldn’t understand how a seven seater mini-van took so long to fill up. Turns out – it took 22 hours for the fucking thing to fill. We bought our tickets at 1 pm on Monday, and didn’t leave until 11am Tuesday! But that was the good part…
It turned out the wait was merited. There was 21 of us! 16 adults and 5 kids, all crammed into the mini van like sardines. It was the most uncomfortable thing you can imagine. Unfortunately for me, the most heavy set African mama choose her seat right next to me. At the same time I was glad to be leaving… but the fun was only just beginning!
The road got worse the instant we left the station. There was so much pot holes, the 40 km trip to border took 6 hours! Then, in eye shot of the river that separated us from Guinea, we broke down. After a hour and half of baking in the sun, the repairs were made. The next bit is the best….
There was no bridge, only a basic car ferry. The men of our group had to get into a wooden pirogue (a hallowed out tree) and cross the river. Then, we had to physically pull the car ferry 150 meters to the other side! A large metal chain was used, with us laboriously heaving it with all our might. Only to do the same again (this time with the actual van on it!) to reach the other side. It was extremely arduous and we got back on our vehicle caked in dirt and sweat. FUN FUN FUN!
Across the river, we had to deal with a corrupt Guinean immigration officer, trying to extort a $20 bribe from us, the only blancos he’d obviously seen in awhile. I was tough in my position and didn’t give him a penny.
On the Guinean side, the roads became nothing more than lumpy dirt tracks. The route was barely functioning and very dangerous. We passed several broken down and over turned vehicles. It was hell. Our vehicle was so packed I couldn’t even find a place to put my feet flat on the ground. As for the fat mama beside me, her left cheek alone cut of the circulation to the right side of my body. It actually became more comfortable to seat on top of two stacked lonely planet books!
Apart from the screaming shitting babies, the smell of sweat was unbearable. To top it off, a young girl decided to vomit all over us from motion sickness. I started to go crazy. The constant bumping and heaving made sleep impossible. We traveled like this for 11 hours Then guess what? ANOTHER manual ferry crossing. Then ANOTHER 7 hours on the unforgiving terrain. It just went on and on and on….AHH!!!
The whole 44 hour trip was a fucking nightmare. Not recommended.
We got to our hotel in Labe at 7AM this morning, caked in mud, sweat and vomit. The first thing we did was order a beer…