Hotel of Horrors… or Gaol in Gaoual

Day 27… Friday 28 April

Early start with another border crossing to contend with into Guinea.  The road we took was very peaceful though a wood with lots of termite mounds.  Hardly Na passing car.  Border crossing very quiet – stamped out of Senegal by a friendly officer.  Getting into Guinea was a 20 minute drive to the border crossing point and another confusing process.  We were ushered into a building by police officers who led us to a desk with a sleeping officer.  I said Bonjour loudly but there was no response.  Both of us stood there wondering if his colleagues were going to wake him up.  It was clear they had no intention of doing so.  We were invited to take a seat.  The officer woke up from his nap and stamped our passports and visas.  He was clearly the boss with his booming voice and orders flying around the hot airless room and by clicking his fingers or shouting down the phone.  He was pleasant with us though.  Carnet dealt with in a separate building and we drove up to another barrier where a police officer started shouting at us to turn the vehicle around.  His colleague led us back into the building where we had just had the carnet stamped and realised we had done that process.  He took us back to his boss to explain and we were let through the barrier.  At a third barrier which was down and no one appeared, we drove through but were soon stopped.  The officer took our passports and we were led into another building to be told by the officer that an offence had been committed by not stopping at the barrier.  Google Translate was used on the officers mobile phone.  Allen was suitably apologetic and I think this helped as no fine was issued.  Fingerprints and photos taken in yet another building by which time I was frazzled and it was the hottest day so far (42 degrees Celsius).  With the border crossing finally done, the hotel intended was an abandoned building – the first time the iOverlander app has let me down so we took the decision to drive another 2 hours further south to the next hotel.  A nice bunch of chaps arrived at the same time who were also guests and we all sat waiting in the shade for the hotel owner to arrive and check us in.   Very overpriced room but no other hotel around so we had no choice.  Room of horrors – dark as the lights did not work, cockroach in the bathroom, mattress very old and full of fleas (my back got covered in bites).  We even had a resident frog whom I am sure I heard splashing happily during the night in the water bucket in the bathroom.  The noisy air-con worked for a short time but the room was then extremely hot and uncomfortable.  Utterly exhausted by the morning with no sleep.

Allen’s perspective…

Another border crossing, another day of confusion. The Senegalese and Guinean police were both smartly dressed, but hopelessly inefficient. Between the sleeping officers, others playing with their phones, chatting with friends, or just shouting very little seems to actually get done. I stress again how this could all be done in one portacabin with about three or four staff.

I’m getting more adept at dealing with police officers yelling at me. The best was a chap who was I think trying to tell me to turn the car around, but between his nonsensical yelling, stupid flailing hand gestures, and his general manner I was at a loss. After a couple of minutes and doing a 50 point turn I parked the car up somewhere which he seemed mildly agreeable to.

But the icing on the cake was the point Rachael mentioned above, where I had to ‘apologise’ to a senior police officer via a Google Translate conversation. Side note… they can’t be bothered to clean their offices but they’ve got smartphones and YouTube! Anyway, when he first accused me of the ‘offence’ I turned to Rach and said that I have no idea what to say. It was comical in a way. The offense was driving past a barrier in which all of the officers who were supposedly manning the thing were all sitting in the shade looking incredibly bored.

Once we got through the border we were fortunate enough to get an Orange sim, so we weren’t entirely disconnected for our trip through Guinea. It was quite a modern store, all very neat and tidy, air con, and very friendly staff. That was a real treat having 4g and not relying on hotel wifi. I know people might say that it takes away from the trip, but when you’re trying to find accommodation, check routes and distances, and find petrol stations it is essential.

When we arrived at Gaoual it took a little while to find the hotel. We struck up conversation with one of the guests who luckily managed to harass one of the local boys into jumping into our car and showing us a local store where we could buy some water. All very overpriced but it worked out and he got some change out of it, and street cred for being seen by his friends in Greta.

Just a shame our accommodation was such a tip, but it’s Africa!

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