After my bike trip to Ethiopia, I wanted to return to Africa, but this time to West Africa. After a lot of reading, I settled on Guinea as the place to go. It had a mountainous region in the Fouta Djallon. It was French-speaking, predominantly Muslim, and relatively unknown. It seemed like an interesting place. My arrival in this interesting place was not without its drama. My bicycle (in a box) got lost and did not show up on my flight. It eventually arrived, but by then, I had been absorbed into a murky world of official corruption. It was the endemic corruption in Guinea that became the theme of my trip.
I spent nearly four months in Guinea, either riding my bike or hanging out in whatever town I found myself in. It was a strange time marked by rumor and fear. In Conakry, I spent time with Indian shopkeepers, who existed in a web of corruption at the mercy of any official or soldier or police officer that walked into their shop. There was fighting along the borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone, and pictures of burned villages and burned bodies filled the newspapers. There were checkpoints every few kilometers along the road – some staffed by armed soldiers, some by boys with machetes. They all wanted money. Into that, I rode my bike.