50 km after entering the border, we had setoff really early to see if we could make it to Conakry by the end of the day, again distances mean nothing when roads are in a terrible condition.
After a few hours we really hadn’t made much progress so I decided to speed up a little, this is risky on roads which are unpredictable and difficult to read as one stretch for a km may be fairly ok and then you are greeted by a deep hole.
We had passed a gate which was being guarded by a few soldiers, they seemed friendly enough after checking out our passports and Carnet du Passage. By the way, this is the first time that a country has been interested in seeing this document.
After saying goodbye the road started climbing up and then a long steep decline with holes in the road everywhere you looked, I am normally quite a decent driver on tricky roads but stupidly at this moment I didn’t slow down and went with the momentum of the decline, the back wheels hit what sounded like a hole and before I knew it the back was sliding left and right, on the left hand side was a deep drop and so I veered off to the right knowing I wasn’t in control but had to avoid the worst scenario, Maggie smashed into some bushes and was stopped dead by hitting a tree. Reka and I had both strapped our seatbelts on so we were both ok and had no injuries although it was a bit of a shock!
When we looked at the damage it was clear that the front right side had taken a serious knock, the bull bar had been bent back, the front lights smashed and worse of all I could not turn the wheel. Trying to reverse Maggie out of the bush was pointless as the wheel would not straighten.
It was 11am and the sun was beginning to pierce through the bush, we discussed the situation and we decided that I would go and find help while Reka would stay with the vehicle.
The checkpoint was a few km’s away so I walked uphill and got another chance to see the road that had been my downfall, it was just as bad walking it so that was some kind of strange consolation. 30 min later I had reached the checkpoint and I tried to explain my problem, no matter how many times I showed my best charade acting of driving and then crashing I could see that these guys weren’t too fussed, one guy went back to sleep in the shade of his makeshift hut and another put a beret on and said he would join me in 15 min…he never did. It was pointless wasting my time there so I walked back to the accident.
By the time I had got back, Reka was busy cutting away some of the bushes that were impeding getting round the sides and underneath Maggie, it wasn’t easy in the heat but it had to be done, I took out all the tools that may come in handy such as the jacks, the spanner set (thanks Dad!), the wheel nut remover, the saw and a few bush blades, honestly these were all very useful to help get Maggie out of the bush.
A couple of guys on a bike stopped to see if we were ok and then a taxi also stopped and before we knew it, several guys were then helping us remove the logs underneath the vehicle, clear the debris and assess the situation.
We could see after jacking Maggie that the front axle was badly bent and the guys that were helping us knew that without a mechanic there was no way that we were going to be able to move. One guy offered to go to the nearest village and find a mechanic for us but he said that the village is 100km away and so it could take some time for him to return, we didn’t have much of an option stuck in the middle of nowhere with a vehicle that couldn’t move.
I paid the guy enough money for him to fill his fuel tank enough for a few journeys and some money as a thank you and he then left with all out hopes in his bike. It was then a waiting game and as the sun got hotter and the flies started to surround our sweaty beings, we played a few hands of rummy to pass the time and a van that was carrying a dozen or so passengers also stopped, they all got down to make sure we were ok and have a look at the problem, it was very clear that Guinean’s have a good soul as everyone was worried and wanted to help.
Approaching 5pm we were getting worried that the guy on the bike might not return, I ended up hitching with a car that was going to the village as a form of backup and squeezed inside an already packed vehicle, after 20 min I then saw the guy who earlier promised to find a mechanic biking back towards Maggie and Reka, by the time the car had stopped the bike was gone, I thought it better I walk back to Maggie and hope for a lift along the way, I was unlucky and ended up walking for an hour before the guy on the bike picked me up and took me to Maggie.
By the time I got back, it was getting dark but Reka told me that the mechanic had with brute force hammered the axle back into shape and was in the process of fitting the wheel back on, amazing what he did in the space of an hour and a half with a small toolkit but these guys are experienced bush mechanics and with little resources are able to get cars moving again.
When we finally were able to move Maggie out of the bush it was now dark but it was a relief as the thought of sleeping there was not a nice one. The right headlight was bent and shone into the sky rather than the road but we were able to move again.
We talked about the plan of action and decided to get to the nearest city Boke and find a hotel there rather than sleeping on the roadside again. The drive was slow and we were worried about doing any more damage to Maggie by driving too fast on what was some awful roads, by 2 am we had reached Boke, we noticed many people on the streets but were too tired to realize that we had just missed the party of bringing in the New Year!