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Entries about overlanding

Should I stay or should I go?

Taking My Hardest (Travel) Decision So Far

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I’ll admit it right off the bat: This is a case of traveller’s first world problem. The fact that this is my hardest decision I’ve had to take as a traveller just shows how easy, convenient and possible it is to travel – even in challenging places such as West Africa – once you’ve got used to living out of your backpack despite all the uncertainties that follow this particular lifestyle.

The Ride

The Ride

Dan, the Australian overlander who I’ve been driving around with for the past two weeks have given me an offer that’s hard to refuse. He’d offered me to join him all the way down to South Africa. I wouldn’t even have to pay half of the costs of gas, just pitch in whatever I would be able to. Saying “no, thanks” to that sure is difficult.

Central Africa

Central Africa

The dilemma is that I would probably have to rush through some of the countries here in West Africa. That is, I would have to give up how I’m currently visiting West Africa – the region I came down here to experience in the first place. The point of spending a year in an area many other travellers blast through in three months would slip my grip. This, to see Central and some of Southern Africa – regions that I’m confident that I would otherwise come back to on a later date anyway.

The choice I’m facing is – in other words – between giving up my current style of travel. Abandoning the hope of seeing and experience everything I came down here for, versus getting more countries under my belt and visiting Central Africa in a way that would be far cheaper and more convenient than I could ever hope for.

Guinean Public Transport

Guinean Public Transport

There are other pros and cons to this offer, of course. I would not only have to give up the pace of m my travels. I would have to change for moving around with locals in public transportation to driving a new fancy jeep. I would have to become part of a team, instead of travelling solo as I prefer. Also, rushing down the through Central Africa, will probably make it less likely that I return in my pace. Simply because I would prefer to visit new places rather than semi-known locations.

I would have to take out around €2,000 to finance extending my trip another three months. But that isn’t something I worry too much about. Having completed my master's, I would come home to “grown-up money” while still having the expenses of a student/traveller. In order words, it would be relatively quick to pay off the loan.

I'll just keep doing my thing

I'll just keep doing my thing

Instead, we’ve postponed the entire decision. Dan and I have parted ways for a while now. I’m heading into Sierra Leone and Liberia, while he’s going to spend a month working on his car, relaxing and taking a break from travelling for about a month. This means that, for the time being, I can continue to move at my own pace. We’ve then agreed that come December we’ll see how far we have travelled. We both expect to have reached Ghana at that point. However, depending on my progress, I’d possibly still visit Ghana before Burkina Faso. If that’s the case, Dan would go east and then south towards South Africa, while I would continue my own trip and head north to Burkina Faso at the end of December.

So my plan right now basically comes down to hoping that Dan slows the fuck down, get stuck somewhere or simply begins to travel slower than he’s previously done. At least so slow, that I don’t have to rush anything to catch up with him. Because if we both are ready to leave Ghana at about the same time, I’m hopping on a jeep to South Africa…

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Posted by askgudmundsen 13:48 Archived in Guinea Tagged travel public_transport africa travelling guinea west_africa overlanding decisions central_africa Comments (0)

“Want a Ride for the Next 10 Days?”

Okay, that wasn’t precisely the way the offer was phrased, but it might well be the most accurate description of what has happened.

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Overlanding Africa

Overlanding Africa

So, apparently, I’ve been an overlander for the past few days. You know, one of those people who’ve spent a little too much time and money on their fancy car, then decides to drive around a continent or from the northern tip of Europe to the most southern point of Africa in it. Let’s just say, that the luxury of home brewed morning coffee and a nice leather seat in a 4x4 (which I don’t have to share with fellow passengers) is a big step up from what I’m used to. Even though it does require a bit of camping. “Backpacking” – if you can call it that in West Africa – is usually a matter of catching overcrowded public transportation and sleeping in damp, dirty and very basic accommodation. Running water and 24h electricity are luxuries I usually can’t afford – both are now installed in the Jeep I’m currently travelling in.

The main(!) border into Guinea

The main(!) border into Guinea

It all started with a bit of bad luck. Leaving Guinea-Bissau and heading to Guinea, I arrived in the border town of Gabu in the early afternoon. I knew it would be a longshot, but I hoped to find a car heading into Guinea on that same day. I did manage to locate the shared taxi, but even after three hours of waiting no other passengers heading in my direction had shown up. Instead, I had to wait another day and head to a hotel. Here, someone had parked a very nice Jeep out front. Clearly another Western traveller. My initial thought was straight out of low-budget travel’s A-B-C: “Sweet, I might be able to get a ride across the border for free and save €15.”

The Jeep

The Jeep

I got up early the next morning, primarily so I could hover around not too far from the Jeep. I definitely didn’t want it to leave before I had a chance to talk with the vehicle’s owner… To my luck, the owner was a cool Australian named Dan, who started the morning offering me coffee – and about 2 seconds before I could ask if he would possibly give me a ride across the border, he asked if I needed a lift. It almost – almost – makes me a bit ashamed looking back of how cynical I approached the situation.

Making friends

Making friends

Anyway, we crossed the border. We got asked for a few bribes. Got asked for a few more bribes. Didn’t pay any of them and were finally stamped in and cross the border. Overlanders and Westerners travelling by their cars, in general, get a lot more hassle from officials than I normally do. Being on public transportation, it’s the drivers' job to pay bribes, not mine. If asked, I can always just refer the police/military/militia/customs officer to my driver. Then it’s his job to pay the bribe for getting through the checkpoint. For overlanders, there are a few tactics to avoid paying. Not understanding the languish and playing dumb is one, which works if you're sure all your paperwork is good. In that way officers can't get money out of you by imaginary offenses like driving in sandals, passports that are not valid at night, having no permit to be on a specific road, or what else their imagination comes up with. Another tactic is to make friends by offering coffee, tea, cigarettes, etc.

The map's getting useless

The map's getting useless

After getting through the border, the roads deteriorated drastically. It’s no coincident that Guinea is notorious for having some of the worst roads in West Africa (that’s saying something). So we didn’t get all that far and had to overnight in the first larger town we reached on the Guinea side of the border before we could continue the next day. During those two day’s of travelling, we got along very well, and just agreed that move on together. First to a town called Mali (yes, it’s different from the country), then to the next place and so on travelling further and further. The days went past and we kind of just figure out where we would go from day to day. So far we have done so for a week, and we’re currently heading further into the rain forests, mountain plateaus and waterfalls of northern Guinea. So it’s going to be a few more days before we part ways.

Oh, and I’ll promise that the next blog entry is going to be more about those rain forests, plateaus and waterfalls...

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Posted by askgudmundsen 02:20 Archived in Guinea Tagged waterfalls military travel overland 4x4 police africa border backpacking travelling jeep guinea west_africa overlanding conakry bribery guinea_conakry overlander bribes fouta_djalon mountrains Comments (1)

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