Freetown to Conakry

The 317 Km journey was always going to take longer than 6h 22 mins that Google Maps said, I had read that the journey should take somewhere between 8 and 10 hours, so with that in mind I left the guesthouse at 0615 and paid for a tuk tuk to take me into the Old Town where I could hopefully find a shared taxi to take me to Conakry. When I arrived at the street where Lonely Planet suggested there should be a line of taxis waiting, I found none, after asking around I was put on a bus and told to get off at the Peace Market however after crawling in traffic for five minutes I got off, found another tuk tuk, explained my intended location and eventually made it there, somewhat later than intended.

The price for one seat was 90,000 Leones (roughly £9) however as with all shared taxis you can pay double to have the whole front seat to yourself (what a luxury). Shared taxis tend to be old French estate cars that fit three people in the boot, four across the back seats and two on the front with babies and small children not counting as passengers so for the length of the journey I thought it was worth the extra expense. We left the taxi depot just after eight and immediately hit traffic, attempting to leave the city, two hours later we had just cleared the outskirts. The majority of the route to the border town of Pamalap was paved and of a good condition so we made fairly decent progress to get there by midday although we did seem to have half a dozen unnecessary stops.

taxi rank
Taxi rank
Shared taxi
Shared taxi at one of the many stops

The border was a simple and straight forward affair where I was sent into three different offices, had my passport stamped twice, finger prints taken and then I was out the other side and into the Republic of Guinea and country 82. A far more pleasant experience than coming into Sierra Leone. I changed my remaining Leones in Guinea Francs and then we made our way towards Conakry, the capital of Guinea, stopping in Pamalap (the border town) for some lunch.

Sierra Leone and Guinea border
The border
Pamalap lunch
Rice and fish for lunch

To say the road from Pamalap to Conakry was in a poor state of repair would be a huge understatement, it was honestly one of the worst roads I have ever had the misfortune to drive along, especially when you’re in an overladen estate car and not a 4×4. We spent the vast majority (probably 80-90%) of time in first or second gear crawling over potholes and huge diverts in the road, it was this section of the journey, if nothing else, that made me thankful I had opted for the whole front seat. Along the route there were a number of check points, the first was just outside Pamalap where they wanted to see my luggage to see how much money I was carrying and if I had any drugs, not wanting them to find my strip of Paracetamol I talked my way out of it by saying I only had a very small bag (at least that’s what I intended to say in French), the guy seemed happy enough and we were on our way. I wasn’t as fortunate at two other checkpoints where they simply refused to return my passport after ‘checking’ it despite mine and the co-driver’s efforts so on both occasions I had to pay 10,000 Guinea Francs (£1) for it to be returned, monetarily its not a great deal but the fact that they feel they have to exploit foreign travellers and clearly get away with it (they are the ones enforcing the law) is rather sad.

After numerous other stops, including one to fix the gearbox (with some wire…) we made it to the outskirts of Conakry at half six, it then took us an age to get closer towards the centre including one off-road section in an attempt to avoid traffic, finally I got out of the car a couple of Km away from where I was staying as we were just stuck in traffic, not moving and I was by now very much in need of a shower and some food. I gave directions to a motorbike rider where my guesthouse’s address on Booking.com took me however once there I could see no sign of said guesthouse. After a couple of minutes wandering around I found another rider who I asked to phone the number provided on his phone (to save me the cost of an international call) and eventually managed to get some coherent directions and a rider who was able to take me to the correct location. Just after eight I finished my journey, very tired, hot and in need of a good rest.

Shared taxi 3
Fixing the gearbox
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