Guinea

Kankan

 Currency = FrG  
Ł1 = FrG 4200  
US $1 = FrG 2400
1 Euro = FrG 2900  March 2004     

Once the capital of the former Mali Empire and known as Guinea's second city, Kankan is also a spiritual home to Guinea's Malinké ( Mandinka ) people. Even as far away as Sénégal and The Gambia, the Malinké see it as a sort of capital, many having relatives here.

 Arriving at a tiny and crowded taxi garage, we found our way by smaller taxi to the
Hotel Caleo .. described in The Rough Guide as having spotlessly carpeted rooms and an excellent restaurant. Well the room was carpeted, although 'spotless' in Africa is perhaps a relative term ! Nevertheless it had a small TV, a comfortable bed, a bathroom of sorts ( sans light ). When all the mosquitoes had been suitably blasted by management with their spray can of insecticide, the cockerel next door had been threatened with some harsh and ancient Anglo Saxon dialogue to respect the fact that it was 10pm not 6am .. and to shut up or else ..... its sheltered and quiet compound provided a comfortable and peaceful night's accommodation.

Whilst waiting for the fumes to clear from our now bug-free room .. we chatted to a travelling sales team .. promoting Valentine cigarettes .. who were  staying in Kankan for 3 days to supply the local tobacco retailers. It was whilst scrounging a packet of these new-brand-to-me cigarettes and unsuccessfully attempting to get a free T-shirt, that the manager approached and asked  if we wanted something to eat. Drooling somewhat .. although Alaghi's stomach was a tad tender after his dodgy lunch .. we enquired as to what he could offer. "Chicken and chips, OK ?" He replied. "Fine" we said .. and that's exactly what we got .. a whole chicken each !!

The good restaurant turned out to be the TV viewing room for locals with an affinity for alcohol .. styled more in the fashion of small bars found in southern US states, than anything I had seen in Africa before. But the chicken was scrumptious, the chips were tasty, the locals were friendly, the coffee was rich, the beers were cool .. and so were Alaghi's soft drinks.

 Needing to walk off this excess of consumption, we headed out into the blackness .. no street lights on a moon-less night .. and found the town centre. Consisting of a large brightly lit supermarket selling everything and anything you could possibly need. High outside was a TV around which 50 or so locals were clustered watching a football match. Treating ourselves to fruit yoghurts and soft drinks, we relaxed in their forecourt café, watching the busy nightlife.

Being a university town, this busy nightlife consisted of hordes of students, male and female, roaring around posing on brand new motorcycles, or  proudly pedalling equally new and shiny push bikes, round and round the roads adjacent to the supermarket. Students, whose parents could afford university fees, were obviously privileged and their pristine new bikes and cycles were  lovingly tended. Most still had their manufacturer's plastic covers on their saddles.
Neither quiet nor fume free .. the evening was bursting with young life and exuberance.

Apart from a steady queue of customers for the ice cream machine .. an ever-increasing crowd of street urchins had gathered within grabbing reach of our table. Rarely have yoghurt pots, water bottles, disposable plastic spoons and drinking tumblers been so valued or in demand !
Merely putting your item down on the table, looking as though you might have finished with it, produced a mass crab-like sidling movement of competitive scroungers. Keeping them at bay in order to actually finish, was a task in itself. Eventually, singling out one little girl who was constantly being elbowed out by her rougher male rivals, we gave her these prized possessions. Although thanked by an angelic smile, the planning of our donation to the most worthy cause was completely ruined when she gave them straight to the most evil-looking little thug that had previously been bullying her .. and walked up the road with him, laughing conspiratorially !!

Retiring early to bed, facing the prospect of a 6am start at the Bamako taxi garage in the morning .. we slept well and rose at the appointed hour. Having breakfasted well on bread, fruit, jams, tea and coffee .. we paid the bill ( FrG 30,000 for the room, FrG5,000 for breakfast ) and walked the short distance to the garage, intent on getting seats in the first transport of the day.
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Surely we would be early enough this time ?

RECT