Travels with or without Thimba

(unable to upload any photographs, so just text!)

Travels with or without Thimba
After Thimba’s suffering in the Fouta Djalon Mountains I stayed at the Tata hotel for three days. Luxury, airco, great apartment and even greater pizza’s!. Took time to clean out the car of (most of) the red dust, and got my clothes and bed linnen laundered. The route from Labé to Kindia and further on to Conya and to the Guinea-Sierra Leone border is potholed, but o.k..  I need to fuel up. The first fuel station has no diesel. The second one has, so I ask diesel for 600.000 francs. When the meter reaches 420.000 it stops. Empty. The Military Toyota pick-up waiting behind me is far from amused, and drives away aggressively.
The border crossing is again unique. On the Guinean side relaxed and more or less efficient. The Sierra Leone side is housed in a far too big new building donated by the EU: too many desks, too many officials, too many hassles! They even want me to pay for an import permit for Thimba, of course at my own discretion! After the border: Sierra Leone! Imagine, driving your car into Sierra Leone! Few people do, and I’m doing it! Lots of heads turned in villages, people waving and giving thumbs up! A few checkpoints, but they’re ever so friendly. At one checkpoint it’s “Hey, come and see this!” and they all gather around the car to ask questions about Thimba, the car, my travels, and me (usually in that order!). There’s a new road to Freetown (again, thank you EU), and I drive the last stretch to Bureh Beach (45 km south of Freetown) with 100 km/hr (well, that’s what the Land Rover indicates). I park the car right up on the beach with a view of the ocean. WOW!. I’m not much of a beach man, but this is fabulous! Quiet, relaxed, no hassle, and run by a couple of locals who call themselves the Beach Boys (what else?). Camping is 3,50 euro. Yes!

Travels without Thimba
I decide to put Thimba on a plane back to Holland, if that can be arranged. It takes a lot of internet research, calls, mails, text messages (THANKS MEES!!) to come to the conclusion that it’s practically impossible. After three days Bureh Beach I move to Freetown (staying at the Catholic Mission St. Edwards) to be able to talk to the agent myself, but it results in nothing but miscommunication and unanswered calls. I enjoy the days in Freetown, however. Andrew, of the mission, takes me into town, shows me the highlights and the slums. It’s a great city and on all my walks I feel completely comfortable and safe. I take a few motor taxis to the Liberian embassy, too  far to walk. They charge me 150 USD for a visa. Extortionists!
Now that it’s evident that sending back Thimba is not going to work, I create a new space for her on the front passenger seat, and I am going to travel on with her as far as Accra (Ghana) at least. I hope that it will be easier from there, KLM and Lufthansa having direct flight from there.. The test was yesterday (Freetown to Makeni) and today (Makeni to Bo, including 50 km of piste). She was still very uncomfortable, but at least I got her to lie down, even during the the bad piste. It took some very forceful corrections (not my usual way of dealing with her), but it worked: don’t try harder, try different!

Sierra Leone
Last year only 8.000 tourists visited Sierra Leone, and most of them stayed at the beaches. It’s hard to imagine that this beautiful country and friendly people were only recently involved in one of the most cruel civil wars. I am having a long conversation with Mohammed, the manager of the hotel in Makeni where I’m staying. He’s a 38 year-old American-Sierra Leonian (degree in chemistry) who spent the war years in the USA. Perhaps that’s why he talks so openly about the after-war problems. When I return to my room I write down the following:

- education: people are not used to think  long term (and education is!). How do I survive the next day is what counts.

- Young girls: as soon as they’re 14-15 and have breasts they are supposed to bring in some money or gifts. I was “offered” a young girl: “Do you like her?” She can’t have been more than 13!

- There are programs for the amputees “Short-sleeve or long-sleeve” was the choice you had for your hand cut off, or your arm.  But here’s a whole generation traumatized by this insane war. And no psychological help to speak of. One of Mohammed’s employees saw her husband killed in an indescribable brutal manner and afterwards raped for days on end. She now has a “rape-child” to take care of, and the rapist is still living in the village. How do you cope with that?

When the war was over and the question was raised: “what was it all about?”, no one had an answer. Perhaps that’s the most disgusting and intriguing of it all.

And to end in a positive mood, with an idea that really would get this country going forward: confiscate all these luxury NGO Toyota SUV’s tomorrow!

p.s I met Martin, Max and Philip again in Freetown, and I’m sure we’ll meet again! I also met Jonathan, a biker from the UK who is taking it very slowly towards Cape Town. I still owe him some money, so we’ll definitely see each other again soon. Maybe linking up to cross Nigeria and DRC. Looking forward to that!

2 thoughts on “Travels with or without Thimba

  1. peer

    Hoi Gee,
    Wat een avontuur! en wij maar denken, dat het hier zo spannend is met de Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen.
    Mijn werk als campagneleider zit erop. 4 maanden buffelen en 5 kilo afgevallen (was toch al de bedoeling, haha)
    Vervelend te lezen dat het reizen met Timba zo problematisch is. Nog vele veilige kilometers.
    broertje Peer

    1. Gee Post author

      Hoi Peer,
      En waren de verkiezingen succesvol? 5 kilo afvallen is geen probleem, teken dat je hard hebt gewerkt :-)

      Lieve groet uit Ivory Coast,



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