Between a rock and a hard place

The next stage of our journey presents a dilemma. We have to get from Guinea-Bissau, where we are now, to Sierra Leone.

The overland route would be by far the most attractive option, but the violence in Guinea-Conakry, which lies between our starting point and our destination, rules it out. There is a very long overland route which bypasses Guinea, but which takes you through Liberia and Ivory Coast which, like Guinea-Conakry, are both on the UK Foreign Office’s blacklist of places to avoid (being on this list invalidates travel insurance, so if you fall ill or get shot or blown up, you will be skint as well as dead). There are no flights from Guinea-Bissau, so that leaves flying from Gambia or Dakar, Senegal as the only options (and you take your chances with West African airlines).

To get to Gambia or Dakar, however, is not easy. You either have to go by land through the Basse Casamance region of Senegal, where there has been a low-level but dangerous rebellion for years and where a 9-year-old girl was murdered by bandits a week ago and where gunfights between rebels and soldiers are common. Or you have to endure a gruelling two-day road journey east through Guinea-Bissau, up into Senegal and around Gambia to Dakar. We have done this journey once, and the idea of doing it again makes me suicidal. It too is not without risks, for the roads are atrocious and littered with overturned or burnt out vehicles.

So there is no easy option. The road up through Casamance is also on the FCO’s blacklist, although if we can make it the 18km to Ziguinchor tomorrow we can then ask in town whether it is safe to go overland up to Gambia. If it’s not safe, we can go by boat to Dakar (safeish if the boat doesn’t sink, as it did a few years ago). We have decided on the latter course, which means 18km of danger – approximately half an hour. Ziguinchor itself is quite calm and well guarded by police.

I will post again when we get to Ziguinchor. I have been reading Ryszard Kapuscinski’s Another Day of Life, where he got caught up and regularly fired on in the Angolan war of independence, as reassurance. This would have been a cakewalk for him.