Guinea, AFRICA

Indiana Jones and the K.A.H.

(8 minute read)

...well, I wasn't ready for that...

Doukie.

Jon wanted another detour...

A detour to Doukie. What a name...

Remote. Again.

Where Jon wanted to go:

A "hotel".

A hotel with a bucket and a cup “shower”.

A hotel with squat toilets to crap in.

A hotel that charges twenty five euros a night.

That’s almost forty bucks.

For this part of the world it’s nothing short of outragous.

It has to be a stitch up.

I hate being stiched up.

Jon promises me it’ll be worth it; he’s read something somewhere and reckons it’s a go-er.

Well, I'm out of options anyway; there’s nothing around for hours and hours, it’s pretty late in the day already, and we got pretty lost on the way here...

I begrudgingly unload the bike.

We’ve made it to Doukie just in time to fit in an afternoon hike. Our fearless leader, hotelier and hiking guide is an overflowingly talkative old midget named Hassan.

He's so bloody energetic, he must be on something...

His english is solid – a massive plus.

He tells us we should go on the “Indiana Jones” hike. He's positively busting.

"Why do you call it the Indiana Jones hike?"

"You will see" he gives us a big, gap-toothed grin.

Well, not going to argue. We head down a dusty beaten path surrounded by scratchy dry scrub and bushes that are giving me a severe exfoliation on the calves.

Not far down the trail we steeply descend down through gaps in massive, smooth, cool, grey rocks. Rocks the size of buses propped up on their arses.

There are trees growing in places that no one told them it was impossible to grow. Random cracks and crevices in the rock walls are home to massive trees - just clinging on - whose roots hang down to us on the floor below like massive vines. Some of the trees look like they’re just floating in mid-air.

With the massive tall rock walls all around and the trees reaching for every bit of sunlight in the canopy above us, there’s not a whole lot of sunlight left for us down below and the atmosphere becomes heavy and cool and damp.

It feels like we’re in a secret.

We speak in hushed tones.

Picture cred: Jon Blackburn

For hours we hike about in these hidden places.

Streams of water come and go under dark and mysterious caves.

The labyrinth just keeps going and going and going.

Sometimes the rock faces open right up like a cathedral, and other times you have to suck in your gut to squeeze through the narrow gaps.

Forty bucks is nothing.

This is priceless.

I’m like a kid at christmas, champing at the bit to run off on my own and soak in the dark beauty of it - all by myself.

But we’re out of time; the sun has given up on us.

We climb out into the real world as suddenly as we'd descended in.

The sky feels too big.

Back at the campment there’s a massive pot of pumpkin and peanut curry and rice waiting just for us.

It’s one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.

I hoover four heaped bowls of it, go for a fifth, and realise that if I do I'm probably going to break something.

After a bucket shower in the pitch dark I slide into clean sheets.

I do feel like a kid at Christmas.

This is going to be awesome.

The next day I’m woken up to some honey on bread and a thermos of nescafe.

That’ll do just fine.

Hassan wants to know if we’re ready for the “K.A.H.”?

"What’s that?"

"The 'Kick Ass Hike'!" Hassan wets himself laughing.

Today’s fearless leader duties have been handballed over to “cousin Mohammed”.

Cousin Mohammad doesn’t talk very much.

It’s already hot - the sun is only just getting started - but Cuz Mo, I shit you not, is wearing jeans, a jumper and a beanie.

It’s weird but it's also not uncommon - in fact, it’s weird and it’s extremely common. For reasons I don't understand it's very popular in Africa to wear all of the clothes you have, regardless of how filthy hot it is. How they survive it, I'll never know.

Anyway. We’re off on the K.A.H.

We walk past “Hyena rock”, which should be called pride rock, and then we walk past “viagra rock”, and take appropriately inappropriate pictures.

While we’re dicking around, Cuz Mo hears a barking dog.

"Shhhh..."

The dog barks again. Far off.

“Gorilla!”

Gorillas!? Are you friggin serious?? Holy shit!!

We walk on in the direction of the dog barking, till across the other side of the valley we spot a troupe of Baboons silhouetted against the morning sky.

"Gorilla!!" Cuz Mo points.

I think he's disappointed that we're disappointed.

I've gone from " barking dog" to "GORILLA!?!?" to "baboons"

We watch the baboons bark some more.

Bummer. Still, pretty cool to see baboons, and who knew they bark like dogs? There you go. Learning things.

We crack on.

Then the ground just disappears. Gone.

Over the edge of the precipice it just drops off - an insane and nauseating distance - straight down to the savannah below.

The cliff if so sudden and sharp that you can stand right on the very edge of it and feel the dizzy sickness of being scared shitless.

Looking to the side, the cliff, which seems to be leaning out, stretches away like an immense wall to a misty vanishing point. Looking ahead, you can just make out the paired cliff on the other side of the valley through the haze.

Looking down, you can see vultures and eagles, tens of them, playing in the updrafts beneath us.

Beneath us!

Bloody hell, it’s immense!

Where the Dickens did all of this come from??

Guinea’s showing off and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

No one gets to see this stuff.

I'm already happy to call it a day. I could sit right here and just soak it up, enjoy the show.

There’s something really special about these sort of places. Something about being really high up and looking over the edge that I can’t put my finger on. Trouble is that when I’m close to the edge I have a weird urge to jump off to see what it would be like.

Not a great idea.

There’s still more to see.

Cutting a hole into the cliff face is a tiny, trickling stream that meanders its gentle way diagonally the long way down to the plateau below, it makes a perfect path for us to follow.

The view from the bottom of the cliff is, if anything, even more impressive and imposing than the view from the top.

“The wall” stretches off in both directions as far as you can see

Rich golds and blacks and whites all swirled about like an icecream.

Picture cred: Jon Blackburn

We strafe the cliff side on a well-worn path that then becomes a goat track, which slowly peters out to nothing...

Before we know it we’re bush bashing and obviously lost.

Now crawling on our bellies like an army crawling under barbed wire.

Bugger this.

What the fuck is Cuz Mo doing?

Surrounded by dry, sharp, scratchy, thick shrub I know for sure that this is definitely not part of the plan.

It’s bloody hard work.

The sun is out and baking and the humidity in that fog is heavy enough to make you pour with sweat.

Hours...

We're never getting out. We're gonna to die in here...

Then, a stream.

Mo seems pretty chuffed with himself like a man who's just saved his own bacon.

Thank fuck that's over.

We take the chance to have lunch.

Sitting on rocks in the middle of the stream we chow down on bread, and - of all things - some spaghetti.

The air is thick with butterflies that don’t mind coming in to land on you. The water is full of tiny fish that go mental for any morsels of food thrown to them.

Cuz Mo heads downstream a bit and strips off to nothing and gives himself and all his clothes a good wash in the stream.

Turns out that under the jumper, jeans and beanie were another two shirts and a pair of long johns.

Unbelievable.

How is he not dead??

He’s giving us a confused look, like we’re missing a great chance to do some laundry.

No thanks Mo.

It all seems quite idylic, but the serenity is being ruined by swarms of little bastard insects.

These fuckers are actually pretty cute; imagine a tiny little wasp, all black, about the size of a grain of rice.

Doesn’t sound too cute, but they are.

Tenacious little fuckers too; unlike flies they won’t go away at the swoosh of a hand. They don’t give up so easily.

And they have an obsession with eyes.

The little fuckers make a beeline right at the corner of your eye, and land it every,single, time.

Deadly accurate.

Christ knows what they want to do in there.

I can feel them squirming in my eyes, trying to dig their way under the lids.

I can only guess it's an attempt to lay eggs in my eyeballs, or something equally horrendous. Take a shit in there. Or eat something.

Once they're in there there's no deterring them.

Takes a while to dig the bastards out.

Unpleasant to say the least...

They're tenacious, but they're not tough.

Most of the time in digging them out you smush it to death.

Un-pleasant.

The only defence is to move; despite their accuracy, they’re useless when aiming at a moving target. So it’s no problem, till you have to stop for lunch...

Mo takes an hour to do the laundry, and then puts all of his clothes back on again.

Up the stream and back to the cliff face we go.

Dogs barking again. I still can't tell if it's baboons or actually some wild dog...

“Baboons!”, says Cuz Mo.

Wait... I thought baboons were "gorilla"?

They sound much closer.

I’ve seen enough wildlife doco's to know that baboons are mean bastards, with big fuck off teeth.

I grab the biggest stick I can find and keep walking.

We eventually spot them, jumping through the trees.

Chimpanzees...

Or monkeys? I don't know the difference...

If baboons are "gorilla" and chimpanzees are "baboon", I wonder what "chimpanzee" means?

Anyway. What goes down must go back up, it seems. There’s a narrow cleft in the cliff where another stream has slowly chewed its path through for god-knows-how-long. It’s less of a stream and more of a series of small waterfalls. It being the dry season there’s hardly any water at all.

Where the rock face is too steep to deal with without a grappling hook and a pickaxe the locals have built “ladders”. These “ladders” aren’t really ladders at all, but more like a bunch of skinny bamboo like branches tied into stacks with vines.

That’s it.

As big as goal posts.

High enough to kill you if you fell off one or, at the very least, Put a dent in your day.

There's no cross bars to step on, you just stick your foot in the vines tying the stack together, and hope they hold.

Pretty fucking dodgy.

Picture cred: Jon Blackburn

We climb and climb and climb. All the way up the cleft and to the top of the cliff again.

It's a flat walk back to the camp, through small herds of cows with ringworm.

Door to door was seven hours worth.

Kick ass, indeed.

I love this shit.