“I don’t need to go in the cabin, I’ll go on top with everybody else.” I was met with a confused, surprised expression. ”Yes?”
I turned away before they could agree, grabbed the metal cage which burned my skin from the heat of the sun, lodged my foot on top of the huge wheel and climbed up the side of the truck. I threw my backpack upwards for one of the twenty people to catch. Next they saw my white face and blue eyes; something that is very rarely seen in this part of the world.
I was at the border of Guinea after three months of hitchhiking from the tip of Spain, through Morocco, the Sahara desert, and Senegal. Crossing borders is usually pretty painless for a young British female with a big smile, but when the officer has no pen and doesn’t know which book to write down details in, it becomes a little more tedious.
We finally started the long journey towards the capital city Conakry. I had no idea how long it would take. My limited French (and local African tribal languages) and their lack of English made it difficult to find out. Chances are that nobody knew anyway. There’s no such thing as time in Africa; everything just happens when it happens. Night was coming quickly so I laid down flat on the open top of the truck; the bunches of large packages making it awkwardly uncomfortable.
As the truck crawled slowly over the bump-ridden sandy road, I shivered in amazement at the night sky above me. It was like somebody had placed a huge telescope above us so that we could see all the stars that were ever in existence. The branches of the gigantic trees sprawled so closely to my face, silhouetting against the light of the full moon and the stars. I laid there in awe at the beauty I was witnessing.
Wack! The trees branches were too low, or the truck was too high. My face felt scratched. After that I learned to guard my face, especially when the driver lost all patience, slammed on the accelerator disregarding all the bumps, and sped up and down the winding hills.
Sleep evaded me that night, as it did the following few days by being too distracted by the sheer beauty around me. Tiny villages made up of less than ten mud-brick thatched-roof houses occasionally dotted the roadside, co-existing gracefully with the nature which stretched to the horizon in every direction. Rounded hills were coloured with plants, bushes and trees of every shade of green, blue, red, and yellow. Fresh, unpolluted air brought the trees alive, forcibly encouraging them to grow so much larger than nature intended. The deep orange sun gave life to everything, teaching me the true meaning of Mother Nature. Yes, she deserves capital letters.
The danger of this adventure added to the excitement. There were so many moments where a strong jolt of the truck caused one of us to almost fall from the top. We all laughed nervously each time that happened. After three days and three nights we made it to Conakry, bruised and battered by our long journey. I was exhausted, but it had been worth it.
Not only did I have a breath-taking view of Guinea’s awe-inspiring nature, but I also had the chance to break some stereotypical boundaries. Everybody thought it was hilarious that a young white girl wanted to hitch in such uncomfortable conditions. She has a choice; surely she has money for transport? For me, to experience Africa you have to live the way Africans do. I have continued my trip with the same mind-set. Let’s see what more comes my way!