It feels like its been a very long time since we were in Labe uploading the last blog, the last few days have been a rollercoaster ride.
We spent 4 days in Labe filled with bike repair, washing, sleeping and dodging 2 political marches.
The first was a pro-democracy anti-government march through the town centre. 2 days later the military ruler of Guinea, Captain Moussa Dadis Camarab, came to Labe itself. He arrived in a massive show of military might with hundreds of heavily armed solders and a military fighter jet flying overhead. As we cycled out of Labe to a town 90 miles south called Mamou we encountered another march but decided not to hang around long enough to see what was happening. All the marches we saw passed without any incident or violence but after reading the news now we are in Mali it’s obvious that that was not always the case.
As I said after 4 days in Labe we had eventually managed to find enough open shops to fix most of the bikes, I had new cables and pannier racks but Ian still needed a new back wheel. We just had to hope that the cracks in the damaged wheel rim didn’t get any worse. Thankfully there were tarmac roads all the way to Bamako that were kind to the bikes
It felt good to finally leave Labe and be able to ride at a decent pace once more, but before the end of the first day our high spirits were smashed as we came across a recent traffic accident. A lorry had skidded off the road during a rain shower and had rolled onto a ditch, there were a large number of men climbing over the wreckage of the upturned cab. Loaded with our 1st aid kit we stopped and offered help when we herd that there were 4 people trapped inside the wreckage. The wreckage looked unstable and with so many people trying to work on it we decided to hold back and see if we could do anything for the victims once they were free. We felt impossibly helpless just watching as the lorry was eventually righted with a painful crash using a length of cable attached to a second lorry. 3 people were brought out in quick succession, they were carried out and all we could really do was run alongside the group and look for anything obvious. The first was loaded onto a waiting motorbike and taken away before we even got close to them. The second was an unconscious woman who had no signs of injury so far as we could tell, she was loaded into a waiting taxi, a third man was at least awake and again with no visible serious injury had been very lucky. Only after the 3 were taken out did we hear that a forth had been taken out dead. It was the single most tragic thing I have ever seen. As we ran just to check the crowd parted to reveal a child, no more than 2 years old with a massive head injury, there was nothing to do.
That night after making camp we both felt numb, I found my thoughts falling back onto the events over the following week eventually with a strange sense of pride for the Africans who helped. Without any emergency services to fall back on, locals and ordinary passers by had done all they could to help. Some fought through the wreckage while others became stretcher bearers. Ordinary cars and taxis were unloaded to become makeshift ambulances and passing Lorries became heavy lifting gear. Everyone did what they could even if that was just laying out branches on the road as a warning to other drivers about the accident. There are allot of problems in Africa, not lease the lack of emergency services but the community spirit that we saw that day was something the Africans truly can be proud of.
After the demonstration and the accident the rest of our journey though guinea was thankfully fairly uneventful. We passed though yet more spectacular scenery and covered good distanced every day. We are now in Bamako in southern Mali staying with some more members of the Peace Corps. Yesterday we finally managed to find a new wheel rim for Ian’s bike and are looking forward to cycling through Mali to Sikasso to pick up a care package from England!