Sunday, 14 January 2007

Millionaires at last!

Waking up early again (but not woken by cockerels for a change!) I wandered outside to the restaurant and had a coffee in Hotel Philao's courtyard. There was a chevre roi, very tame who came over looking for scraps. Gianni joined me and we waited for the truck driver who said he'd come back before 9am to see us. He didn't turn up (we found out later he did come but at 10am), we left Philao having paid in a mixture of CFA & Franc Guineen and headed for the town & the bank.

We knew the exchange rate was something close to 8,000FG to a euro. We found the bank immediately and handed over 150euros each. After a bit of scrutinizing of our notes, he offered us a rate of 8,190FG which he said was the rate on 18th December! Fair enough, we changed the money and waited ... we were called into a small room with a table, and stacks of money. The largest note in Guinea is 5,000FG, about 60c! We were millionaires, we had 1,224,000FG each or thereabouts!!! But the problem was how to hide it! We decided we had no other choice than to put it in my small day pack and for the rest of the time in Guinea my day pack was closely guarded by the pair of us!
After wandering around the market & calling home, we bumped into N'Sira. We were thrilled to see her again and asked her how to get to Sobane, a beach village next to President Conte's beach 'Bel-Air' plage. We had a laugh about trying to find a truck to get us there ... She was heading in the same direction, wanting to see her mother near Tougnfili before heading home to Conakry. We asked her cousin to find us a taxi to take us to Tougnfili and refused any money from her for the 80,000FG fare; an hours drive down a relatively new road (financed by the Chinese) and met her aunt & carpenter brother in Tougnfili who helped Gianni and I get a taxi to Koukundinke. N'Sira said goodbye at that point. Gianni has since seen her in Conakry when he re-trod the same path back to Varela in mid-January 2007 before the violence began in Conakry with the strikes, he managed to get over the Guinea Bissau border despite it being officially shut due to the problems and along the way everyone asked him where 'the French woman was!!!!'.

We 'felt' the road all the way to Koukundinke for 18,000FG each, the bottom of the car was practically worn through; with 6 of us in a saloon car and two on top, there were a few occasions where I thought we'd see the road in the car. Everyone piled out at Koukundinke, leaving us to argue the fare for the two of us to Sobane, we eventually paid 32,000FG which another driver told us was a fair price.

Arriving at Sobane, the 'Complexe Village Touristique' was deserted. Such a shame, fantastic location, gorgeous beach and with the sun setting at low tide it was incredible - we felt immediately at home and managed to get a bungalow for 90,000FG and meals organised at 25,000FG. We settled in to discover that they didn't have the money to get the generator going .. it wasn't a problem, we were used to torches & candlelight now!

The following day, we were incredibly lazy, swam, slept on the beach and chilled out .. there wasn't much to do. We were still exhausted from the truck ride, the guys at the hotel were amazed by the journey and thought we were mad to go on a truck, they'd never done it! We walked down to Sobane village and back along the beach with a village dog who'd adopted Gianni.
We now had the problem of getting out of the hotel. The main road between Boke & Boffa was 5km away, we asked about transport to Conakry or Boffa, there was a minibus in the village that went to Conakry every other day; but it wasn't due to leave the day we wanted to move on. It was decided the night before that we were going to pay Mamadou, the manager to take us on the back of a motorbike to the main road and hopefully pick up a lift from there. He'd have to do the journey twice, whilst one of us waited on the road for traffic.
I got up the next morning and went out to see if Mamadou was around at 7am as he'd agreed. No one was in sight but a very flash car was parked by the bar; I waited watching the endless little red birds around, smaller than a wren and quite tame, waiting for some breakfast .. One of the guys appeared half an hour later, I asked him to find Mamodou so that we could get going. He arrived, very apologetic but explained an army officer and his wife had turned up the night before and he'd arranged for us to get a lift with him to Douprou and possibly all the way to Conakry.The officer arrived whilst we were drinking coffee with his wife not far behind, Camara was very friendly and keen to help us out asking Gianni if he could swap wives!! We headed for Douprou along an unmarked piste and discovered that he'd be spending the day there. So, he found us a taxi and organised the price of 36,000FG to Boffa for 3 seats between the two of us to give us some extra space, his wife growled at him during most of the journey!

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