From the blog

Risks in rainforests while traveling as a businessman

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Travel in a remote place in Africa ; experience the ultimate

last Ivorian Army Post, the region of Man, Ivory Coast to Guinea Border

Following morning I am up, as usual before dawn. The Captain and his Army command awaits me and assists me to inspect my car. It looks like a mud hole has swallowed it, there isn’t a single spot that has not got the distinctive, red color of the jungle soil on it. The soldiers must have seen my worried look, and they quickly proceed to fetch some water in the nearby jungle creek.

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guineaforest.021

My biggest concern is the engine which is covered by mud. I wonder how we made it through last night’s carnage.

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guineaforest.020

While the soldiers are giving the car a rinse, we receive a visitor. When I arrived the night before, I hadn’t the slightest idea where I was or how far the border with Guinea would be.

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guineaforest.019

Now, I can see through the morning mist we are just 300 meters from the physical border post that separates the two countries, Ivory Coast and Guinea. I meet a new soldier, and I receive the information he is a Guinean border guard. Nor do I notice the reason for his arrival, thinking it is a social visit.

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guineaforest.018

Finally, I thank the Captain of the Ivorian Army for the hospitality shown to me. A long way lays ahead of us. We start our vehicle and commence our journey once more.

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guineaforest.017

Finally, I thank the Captain of the Ivorian Army for the hospitality shown to me. A long way lays ahead of us. We start our vehicle and commence our journey once more.

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guineaforest.014

A barrier separates the border, and when we arrive, a grumpy Gendarme appears, a hostile appearance, we begin to guess what lay ahead of us. In stark contrast to the Ivorians, who showed politeness, hospitality, the Guineans show the exact opposite.

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guineaforest.013

Encounter at Dusk, Odienne, Ivory Coast

Another episode of my journey to come soon

Realizing that we are in Sekou Toure’s country of terror, although now his former security chief runs the affairs, we enter the mouth of the dragon. Never before have I met such an open displayed hostile display of dislike

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guineaforest.012

We are to produce our papers, passport, license, permits, the whole lot. The first Official in a blue uniform is indicating Police. Questions about our motives for coming here follow, everything they want to know.

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guineaforest.011

Only when we bring out our last trump card, our connection with the President’s office, suddenly their grim asses turn into forced smiles. They are expecting to make a kill from the foreigner. To suck his blood, to drain his resources.

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guineaforest.010

Bribes, extortion are the keywords here, in spite of regularity in our papers. I have flown to Guinea several times before to the capital Conakry, but now I am on the jungle border, far away from civilization.

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guineaforest.009

It takes one hour before I finally make it out of the Police office, totally exhausted. Tired of the interrogation, tired of the country and people, tired with myself for bringing me into this hellhole in the first place.

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guineaforest.007

But, it has not finished yet, as when things start to go wrong, they can all go wrong, and this is my day. Thinking I have completed the formalities, an Entry stamp in my passport, only to be told to visit the other side of the road, and pointed to a run-down shack on the hill adjacent to the station.

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guineaforest.006

As it turns out, it is the office of the Gendarmerie Commander of the Border Guard.

I wait for half an hour in the office, a little chair, and table in the room, no additional furniture. I wonder how many before me have come here to this office to this degrading, taunting procedure.

Guinea Forestiere

Monsieur Commandant takes his time before he appears, and I will never forget his grimace as long as I live, so help me god.

When he enters the room, the assistant hands over the passport to him, he then disappears.

Not one word spoken, the colossal statue finally sits down, grabbing the passports and opens them to look at the Visa. Still, he has not spoken a word. His face is the most horrible, gruesome, Killer looking mask I have ever encountered.

Not one word spoken, the colossal statue finally sits down, grabbing the passports and opens them to look at the Visa. Still, he has not spoken a word. His face is the most horrible, gruesome, Killer looking mask I have ever encountered.

For here, in the middle of the rainforest, the law is in his hand, and he knows it and lets us feel his supremacy, with every second, minute that passes.

Finally, after taking 10 minutes to study my Visa and noticing my previous Visas for Guinea, he utters his first words. In French. It does not sound right, as I expected. He simply put it to me that I have to return, through the mud and the hellish road, twelve hours for 40 km’s through the forest, and nearly 3000 km to get back home. I shudder at the thought.

The air is tense, my patience is wearing off, but I know this is what he wants. He will take it all from me, my pride, my dignity, my money, the whole lot. Only to wait for a mistake, and he is the King of the jungle.

I force myself to be calm instead, to squeeze out a smile, propose how to get around this obstacle. My Visa is invalid, he insists. And who will prove him wrong, here? I take a deep breath, sigh, and start to draw all the diplomacy skills I have learned in 20 years plus living in these parts of the world.

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guineaforest.005

I am explaining the difficulties of getting here, the previous night, the breakdowns. All have zero effect. He does not move one fraction from his opposition to me continuing my journey. Throughout these tense moments, I know, all he is negotiating for is a bribe, money. But, it was not time yet, the ice has yet to break, you either make it or you cut it, depending on your survival skills.

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guineaforest.004

When it comes to my companions who are natives, they are trying as hard to speak in his dialect, to convince him, to soften him. They don’t want me to say much, because he is a racist, and he hates white people, it has become apparent.

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guineaforest.003

We have entered the third hour, and his stance is stubbornly negative, he wants to show this white victim, that he is superior. My companions have not proceeded to flash the last card, the trump up our sleeves.

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guineaforest.002

The Chief of staff s office warned us to expect problems. They know their people. Gendarmes posted in these remote parts typically have a history, a dark secret.

The notorious Torture Camp in Conakry is full of beasts of officers who killed, tortured thousands of people during Sekou Toure’s reign of terror. Trained by the East Germans, K.G.B., and Chinese secret services, these individuals had no emotions.

The notorious Torture Camp in Conakry was full of beasts of officers and lower ranks who killed, tortured thousands of people during Sekou Toure’s reign of terror. Trained by the East Germans, K.G.B., and Chinese secret services, these individuals had no emotions.

After the death of Sekou Toure’s, the camp was closed, and the officers transferred, the farther, the better. Now, I was facing such a character opposite me. No regular Policeman acts in such a way, with open hostility, all his frustrations and hatred pointed at me because he does not seem like me.

In the middle of all this, he gets up, speaks no word, and disappears, leaving us alone in the office, with no result in sight. Stay calm and relax. Someone whispers to me.

We decide to change our tactics now, as things could get out of hands. A concise ability to evaluate situations is one of my significant advantages, and I am now ready to go for it.

By the time he appears again, after thirty minutes, the questions are changing, now directed at my companions, and this will change the outcome finally. My companion’s family is well to do citizens in Conakry, with far-reaching influence in all social and governmental circles.

A Doctor of Medicine, Madame Bangoura, is the head of the national AIDS campaign and heads the Medical research, with all its responsibilities. Her offspring is sitting near me, never mentioning this fact until the right moment comes.

And this is the ice breaker; it has reached the threshold, his voice has thawed up, he speaks softer now. He understands that he will not succeed in his original plan. Now, a change in tactics is necessary. It comes in the form of a proposal: How much I am willing to pay for a new Visa.

The ‘Visa’ costs 25000 C.F.A. Francs, a mere 10 U.S. Dollars. It is a bribe. When we agree to pay, we see a transformation that leaves in me an impression never to go away. His grimaces turn to a grin. He begins to talk as if nothing has happened, nothing ever was wrong.

He even offers me to visit him in his Bungalow up the hill, from where he forced himself down to see his victims. I am disgusted, but I manage a smile. And I promise to visit him next time I pass by here. Needless to say that next time will never come.

We leave, tired, confused, and now it is the Customs department that expects us.

Against the odds we finish quickly, pass through. We claim we have no money on us, not mentioning my ten thousand dollars in my back pillow. So, finally, after three and a half hours, we are on our way. Getting close to lunchtime, I don’t feel the urge to eat.

I will find some Bananas on the way, a safe way of keeping your bowels intact in such locations. Finally, when we leave, we are stopped by some unidentifiable official with the same beige customs outfit, and I am told by my companions to carry on, not to stop — another attempt to extort money from me.

The road ahead is still long and leads me to a further unknown destiny, the town of Nzerekore. But before that, we face more difficulties, for there is no safe passage in Guinea.

Next: On the road to Nzerekore,

Excerpts from a journey to the unknown, by Heinz Rainer.
AfricAsiaEuro.com

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