Thursday, 25 December 2008

17: A Christmas Coup

Following an enjoyable two-day journey from Bissau to the border town of Gabu, I was eager to cross into Guinea (Conakry) and explore the Fouta Djalon highlands. As I ate my bowl of porridge on the morning of December 23rd, shortly before crossing the border between the two Guinea's, I had Radio France International on in the background. The first story on the eight o'clock news focused on Guinea and through my miserable French I was able to make out 'Conte' (the dictator for the past 24 years), 'dead', and then there was something about the military too. In fact, they kept repeating 'militare' every few seconds. This didn't sound like good news, at least for me. In the larger scheme of things there would be many people who would be relieved to hear of the passing of the dictator, there might now be room for hope in a country that has suffered greatly from the greed of those in power.

Going outside to get a better reception, I switched to the BBC World Service as the skinny-looking vultures clattered about noisily on the tin roof of the hotel. The story was the first item on the news and although everything was reported to be calm in Conakry and throughout the country, the military had indeed seized power. Guinea has been on the verge of implosion for quite some time now and with things having gathered pace there would no doubt now be potential for power struggles. In light of this news and without internet or phones to find out other information, I pulled out my map and chose an alternative route to Mali's capital, Bamako, via eastern Senegal.

So now I'm back in Senegal, in the dusty town of Tambacounda. A young captain in the Guinean army has declared himself president and promises to have elections in two years time! I just received an email from Polish Peter who wasn't able to make it to our proposed rendevous in Guinea either. It's just another day here in Muslim Senegal. This morning I cleaned my clothes, then Rocinante, and then I phoned home and heard what was on the menu for the day. I should at least have waited until I wasn't so hungry to call. But still, I'm sure whatever I get will be fine, hell, I might have two plates of rice. In any case, all the raggedly-dressed and snotty-nosed boys coming up to me as I type, begging for money, helps keep everything in perspective.

I propose a toast for change! Merry Christmas!

Tambacounda, Senegal
Trip distance: 9402 km

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Julian,

It's your cousin Steven here. When I went home for Christmas (I'm living in London now) my Dad told me about your epic odyssey. I've just been reading your posts and it sounds incredible. What an amazing thing to be doing. The photos, too, are great although I can imagine fail to do justic to what you're seeing every day. Anyway, I hope you've had a nice, if slightly alternative, christmas over there and enjoy the new year celebrations. I've just signed up to the blog so you'll have six readers from now on!

Bonne chance,