Between the bugs and the abrupt temperature change last night I ended up being very thankful for that smelly blanket. Sometime very late the rain stopped. It was then that it got cold, but worse the mosquitoes came out. Probably the worse I've seen yet (well maybe not as bad as places in Alaska) but still bad - especially with no repellant, nets, blankets or even hair! Not much of a surprise but I didn't get much sleep. I got up at around six and watched the village come to life as it started to get light. Everyone else was up at about the same time, but because this is West Africa and nothing can be done in a hurry we didn't actually get moving until shortly after eight. It also might have something to do with when the border officials were willing to come on duty.
Last night bad roads quickly got worse. I have never seen roads this bad, I wouldn't drive a car I owned, even a four by four, on them - and this is a major road for Guinea! In the first hour and a half we all had to get out and push / pull / lift the car out of the mud six times. The puddles (lakes?) were deeper than the cars clearance so it didn't take long before the inside of the car was flooded. At one point everyone in the car was amused (and more than a little envious) when I zipped off my pant legs so that I could wade into the knee deep mud to help with the car. I know this all sounds exaggerated but I don't think it would be possible to exaggerate how bad these roads were. For the first hour and a half it was definitely faster to walk (which I did for a bit - since with 16 people in the car it was certainly more comfortable).
After four hours we made it to Koundara. The town itself isn't very exciting. The main thing I noticed was the number of vultures, there everywhere in town - not exactly a glowing welcoming committee. The countryside leading up to and surrounding Koundara is fabulous. Lot's of dense vegetation and sudden rock outcroppings and mesas all run through with streams and waterfalls. We stopped to grab something to eat for fifteen minutes and it took and hour and fifteen to get everyone back. While waiting for everyone to return the driver told me that we should be in Labé by seven or seven thirty tonight...
The countryside continues to be beautiful. The roads still suck, but somehow we managed to keep from getting stuck. The going is still very slow though. Much later that when we were waiting for a small ferry I remembered something Andrea (ex peace corps that I met in Basse) told me. She had read it in a guest house's guest book, and it was something like: when traveling in West Africa always remember WAWA, West Africa Wins Again. It's true, no matter how bad things are going they can be worse; no matter what you are prepared for something unexpected will happen; just remember WAWA. So as I was sitting on the ferry just noticing for the first time that you can see the Southern Cross and thinking about the nice dinner I was planning on when I got to Labé and now wasn't going to get since it was already 10:30 and we still weren't there, I had to laugh and think WAWA. A little later after pushing the taxi out of the mud on the other side of the river I asked one of the locals how far to Labé, I near cried when they said another five or six hours but instead thought WAWA.
Then it was an hour ride from the ferry village to our first drop off point. The good news was that five people were getting off so there'd be a lot more space. The bad news is that the driver discovers he's left the spare tire at the ferry village (I never did figure out how since we didn't have a flat). So we drive back to get the tire, then back again (think: WAWA). It was about this time I my mind shut down (and after more than 15 hours of being packed in a car and bruised from bouncing around I think it was justifiable). About 7:45am we pull in to the Gare Voiture (bush taxi station) in Labé. Nearly a straight 24 hours in the taxi. Thirty-nine hours after departing on the evening ride from Diaoubé. And almost forty-eight hours after leaving Tambacounda on what I thought was going to be a good day's journey to Guinea. Two unplanned for nights, a million bug bites, some great stories, and lots of fantastic scenery later I was in Guinea, barely conscious, but there.
First priority was a hotel so I could get some sleep. Since the previous two night accommodations hadn't cost anything I decided to splurge again and went to the Grand Hôtel de l'Indépendance. Turned out to be not much of a splurge, but I got a large room (slightly dank and mildewy) and my own bathroom (I have to go ask them to turn on the water when I want to use it though). The I decided to have a small breakfast and some tea at which point I felt almost alive so I went for a walk. Walked around the market area, over some hills and through downtown. Labé is definitely not a beautiful city, but it has a lot of vibrancy and life to it, yet no hassles (probably because there doesn't appear to be any [other] tourist). After an hour the lack of sleep hit again and it was all I could do to make it back to the hotel before falling asleep.