Conarky marks my last stop on this unbelievable West African hopper itinerary I found randomly on Skyscanner. After 6 days in Burkina Faso, 1 day in Sierra Leone, and 1 day in Liberia…all connected by direct flights by reputable world class airlines, I finish off today with 1 day in Guinea. Weird to consider I was only 340 miles away in Guinea-Bissau less than 8 weeks ago. But then again I was also in Côte D’Ivoire only 3 weeks ago and that country is also right next to Liberia and Burkina Faso.
My life has always been weird. It’s weirder I haven’t gotten used to that yet.
After arriving at 4:30pm in the afternoon after an hour in the air, I showed proof of my e-visa that I had obtained online last month.
I had earlier elected for and paid $50 for their transit visa, which is applicable if you show proof of onward travel aka that you’d be in Guinea for less than 3 days. You can pay online with a credit card (as long as it’s from a reputable major bank such as a national U.S. bank) and I got my approval within an hour of submitting.
Once he saw my printed QR code above, I then got stamped by the officer but instead of proceeding forward to baggage claims, I was instead asked to walk back a few steps to the Visa on Arrival counter on the side to get my passport full-page sticker.
There a woman took my passport, the above piece of paper with the QR code and scanned my fingerprints. After 5 minutes, my sticker was printed and put into my passport!
Flashing my newly minted visa to the officer, I was then allowed to walk straight to baggage claims. Then I headed past customs and across an elevated walkway to the actual arrivals hall.
Right outside I was finally picked up by a driver named Baté to take me to another driver (who wouldn’t give me his name) waiting for me at a gas station by the Prima Center Shopping Mall. That driver was hired by a local named Cellu Ba, whom I was referred to by another fixer named Armstrong, whom in turn was referred to me by Ginger Herrick, whom I’ve known personally since and had traveled with last year in Mali (thanks Ginger!). Whew, that was a mouthful of degrees of separation.
On the bright side, unlike the grueling roundtrip 1.5 hour drive each way from ROB airport to Monrovia both last night and this morning, or the inconvenient sea ferry from FNA airport to Freetown 2 days ago, Conarky is thankfully only a 20 minute drive from CKY airport.
Our first stop from the airport was Grande Mosquée de Conakry, large enough to be considered a national landmark.
This would be the highlight of my time in Guinea. Giving the local security guard the equivalent of $30 with my leftover West African CFAs, he took me inside on a private tour and turned on all the lights.
It’s pretty obvious which direction faces Mecca:
But to make this visit even more memorable, this security guard ran outside to get a key to let me walk up to the top of one of the minarets!
Not being satisfied with stopping here at the midpoint of the climb, I decided to go all the way to the top much to the guard’s chagrin.
The panoramic views across Conakry from the minaret is stunning. Even the guard who tried to keep up with me said to me with the little English he knew: “Thank you.”
The mosque also sits directly across from the Conakry Botanical Garden:
I then headed back down and reunited with my driver, where we drove another 5 minutes down N1 highway to visit the Monument du 22 Novembre 1970, erected to mark the defeat of the attempted but failed Portuguese (Operation “Green Sea”) amphibous coup in 1970. My driver had a hard time finding this one, even almost paying the entry fee into a recreational park next door thinking that was the way to get in.
I then directed him back around to the coastal road to enter the monument grounds the correct way. Photos are not allowed here, but that rule was loosely enforced.
Then we continued past the Palais du Peuple, also viewable from the N1 highway and located right next to the monument.
Another 10 minutes drive southwest took us to the end of this very linear capital city: the “center” or “downtown” area of Kaloum. I made a quick visit to Cathedrale Sante Marie here…
…which is right by Palais Sekhoutoureyah, where the current President of Guinea resides. And if you have the time, the National Museum of Guinea is also a short walk away.
With not many reliable food options available for dinner, I then opted to play it safe and dine at Noom Hotel while writing this blogpost . . .
. . . before returning back to the airport for my 2:25am Royal Air Maroc flight to Casablanca to make my connection back home.
Once we arrived at the airport, my driver had followed me all the way into the departures hall asking me for more money even though I gave him 20% extra on top of what was owed, after which I was asked to pay $200 in cash at check-in if I wanted to bring both my bags in the cabin as a carry on (I declined).
Then after obtaining my ticket I was subsequently asked by five different airport security officers if I had any cash to offer them, including the two checking my passport to enter the airport, and then by another three checking my passport to allow me into security checks. The honest part was no, I actually had no cash on me to give to any of the aforementioned people (including at check-in as I felt $200 wasn’t worth it and I didn’t want to go outside to the nearest ATM), that I’m a firm believer that if you’re going to give to one in the same space you might as well give to them all (and therefore leaving none or net negative for you), but also I found surprising how I had not already experienced this at all in any of the airports in West Africa from Mauritania to Mali to Senegal to Guinea-Bissau to Côte d’Ivoire to Burkina Faso to Sierra Leone to Liberia.
I had been informed repeatedly by locals and friends whose families hailed from each of those countries that being asked for money at the airports would happen at all of those places but the honest part I never had been asked at all until tonight. I guess there’s a first time…for everything?
On the bright side, unlike the rest of most of West Africa, the VIP Lounge here in Conakry does accept Priority Pass!
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- At time of posting in Conarky, it was 25 °C - Humidity: 99% | Wind Speed: n/a | Cloud Cover: clear