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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
I finally tear myself away from the amazing hiking in Doucki, and continue to wind through the mountains. As hard as I try, I can’t find a river crossing with a ferry – even when my map says there will be a ferry I somehow wind up at a crossing with a bridge. I’m looking forward to taking the Jeep across a rickety old ferry.
Market day is always a highlight in remote towns, and people travel in from far and wide to sell a few things and buy a few things. Early in the morning the best fruits and vegetables are on offer – everything from papaya and huge watermelon to cucumbers and carrots. Rice and potatoes always make a solid showing, though I’m yet to see much variety of vegetables – no broccoli, cauliflower peas or beans. When I arrive early enough I snap up whatever lettuce and tomato I can find, which I’m loving on sandwiches. French is widely spoken, though in the smaller villages lots of the sellers only speak a native langue, and we converse through hand signals or someone else translates for me.
I can always just hold out a handful of small coins and the seller will take the correct amount and give me change when needed. The people here are extremely honest, and always smile widely.
I have learned just a few words in a couple of native languages, and it always makes people light up to hear me say “Hello”. Immediately they unleash in their language, and laugh and smile when I say “I speak a little” repeatedly because it’s really the only thing I can say.
Speaking of sandwiches, it seems all of these former French colonies have not lost the art of bread making. Every single village has multiple bakers, who daily bake a kind of delicious baguette. At first I was buying a couple at a time, but they’re so good fresh I would always eat them right away, so now I usually buy about five for a few dollars. That way I can eat a few while they are hot and fresh, and keep a few for lunches and breakfast.
Markets also always have the same plastic, mass produced stuff from China. Buckets, cups, bowls, etc. are always the same, as are cheap tools and electronics (mostly adapters and chargers for cell phones). Thousands of used clothes are on sale, clearly having come from the first world. I don’t know for certain, but it looks like they have been donated, and now people are selling them for money. It’s always strange to see a branded T-Shirt, or even a smart-ass saying in English plastered across the chest of a local – clearly oblivious to what it says. It’s nice to be able to pickup shorts and t-shirts for 50cents a pop whenever I need them.
The ubiquitous African flip-flop is always for sale in huge numbers, and they appear to either be extremely cheap Chinese plastic ones, or ornate hand-made African ones that look extremely uncomfortable. I’m yet to find the middle ground, so for now mine keep getting repaired with duct tape.
In virtually every village I drive through children yell “White man” in their native language and smile and wave. When I stop, they come running over enthusiastically, just to see what’s gong on. Many hold out their hand for a candy or money, and braver ones will even directly ask me to give them money.
On a side note wifi has been virtually non-existent in Guinea, so I have broken down and bought a smart phone. It’s my first ever, and for $20 for a brand new touch-screen Android phone I can tether to with 3G, I think I did alright. Cell phones are pervasive here, with everyone using texts and some voice, as well as money transfers (yes, possible with an older “dumb” phone too) though internet is too expensive for the locals. That means I must be about the only person using 3G on some of these remote towers, so it’s extremely fast – often as fast as internet I have used anywhere in the world.
I’m going to keep roaming this beautiful country