Labe


Labe? Labe? Labe? Are you going to Labe?

In an empty car park under the unforgiving sun of West Africa, it is never an easy task finding five more passengers making the 250km that separate Gabu in Guinea Bissau heading to the hill town of Labe in Guinea.

Collective taxis ply this part of the world, and for the driver it only makes sense to depart once you get the taxi full, that is two people in the front and four at the back. It is easy on popular routes, but not many people were going in this direction or perhaps it was just one of those days.

I arrived at the car park on a Wednesday morning, happy, energetic and with low expectations about departing anytime soon. It was all good, this is Africa! There is no time or plans to be made, only sketches and preferences.

As I arrived, there was no car going to Guinea. Just wait. Wait one hour, wait two hours, and wait three or four. Until midday, until the afternoon letís say. There the car turns up, an old Mercedes for six places. Fine, now is just a matter of finding the passengers. Wait one day, turn up the next day and only leave the day after. That is after a lot of shouting to every car arriving, asking them if anyone is going there. Labe? Labe? Labe? Hundreds of times. Labe? Labe? Labe? And then some more of Labe? Labe? Labe? I went to bed and it kept going on in my mind, that is Labe? Labe? Labe?

Numb from waiting, it was on Friday late afternoon when Carla made the magic number six after a lot of arguing about the price. It was beyond belief when the battered Mercedes roamed its engine only to make a few meters to the petrol station. If you ask me, the longest diesel, oil, air and water stop I ever had. It could have been done before.

And then there was the road. Or a long way full of holes, stones, mud, animals and rivers. 250 km that was. 20 hours give or take a few minutes.

But credit to the driver and my fellow passengers, we made it, so enough moaning for a white man in Africa. Because nobody else was, and at the end of the day is what makes this continent magical. It is the survival, patience and determination in adversity. A crash course on how to face life.

Anyone going to Labe?

H Corizzo

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