Labe–15 Nov. 2006

We’re now in the noisy dirty city of Labe. We are staying a nice hotel (hot water, shower, nice setting, 1 km out of town). I don’t think they have the typical budget tourist hotels here. The city is large. We just left Dalaba which was a few thousand people. Quiet, slower pace. And a bit higher and cooler. We had planned to spend a few days in Dalaba doing some riding and vistiing some of the smaller nearby villages. But Louisa has a problem with one eye and we wanted to come the hospital here in Labe. It turns out there is an opthamology center with the hospital. They seemed to know what they were doing, so we’re hoping the diagnosis is correct. According to them it’s not serious.
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We did spend about ten minutes this morning talking to a corner street vendor. A man and his wife. They were very friendly. Louisa was the one involved in the conversation, but it gave me a chance to take some photographs of the passing traffic. People here don’t want there photos taken in general. The best information we’ve got so far is that is it mainly why should you take my photo; it benefits the taker, but not the subject. But the nurses and doctors in the clinic were happy to have their photos taken as long as I send copies. My street technique now is to use my tiny camera and keep it covered in my hand, then quickly take a picture using the screen to view. The large camera is a non starter. The guide books said this was to be expected in Guinea, but Mali should be different.

The men in Labe are mostly wearing western clothes, jerseys, T-shirts, and shirts. Some of the officials and people like doctors are wearing khaki pants and shirts. The women run the whole gamet (sp.)–traditional shirt and top of matching large print to full on western. Very few short shirts and bare shoulders, but occasionally. Mostly short hair, usually in corn rows. Some scarves, once every couple of day, full on chador. Except for the occasional beggar, all clean and neat. Tennis shoes to flip flops. Some camo wear.

To get from Dalaba to Labe, after waiting 45 minutes for the taxi to fill and no new customers had shown up, we realized we needed to hire the whole cab. Around $15 for the 50 mile ride. Was a treat after being squeezed into normal shared (bush) taxis. Squeezed means a minimum of 3 in the from seat (four if they pick someone up along the way), four in the second seat and three in the third row. The vehicle is usually a Peugeut 504 wagon. Small children don’t count, so we had 15 in and on our vehicle on our previous ride. Two children in our second row, another child in the back and two standing on the rear bumper holding onto the rack. And they have to deal with swerving around pot holes. And these vehicles are old and very well used.

The poverty is evident, but there are signs of prosperity. Private cars, lots of motos. Here in Labe, the motos are used as taxis. One Peace Corps volunteer told us that Guinea is the most corrupt country/government in the world. But people don’t generally try to cheat us. We get street food at the same price as everyone else. Not sure about the taxis. Suspect we get nailed for our bikes and luggage–about $4 extra. Most things are cheap. Our Dalaba hotel was $6 each per night with breakfast, dinner, and bottle drink at dinner. Our fancier hotel here with bidet, etc. is about $20 with breakfast.

We’re now up at about 3000 ft. Runs from jungle like to more like California foothils, but more variety of plants. Plenty of fruit growing, but they work hard to get manioc, corn, and rice. Also seem to hauling cooking wood from long distances. In Kindia young boys were hauling heavy loads of wood on there heads down a trail that almost required us using our hands at times to decend.

For now.

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