Into the Jungle – At the Border

We said our farewells to Hugo and set off down the road out of the village.  I’d been pondering what it was like to cross the border into Guinea.  Was it like so many places where the two huts were a few yards apart and there was a little no man’s land in between?  From the meeting room where we had lunched, I could see the road wind down through the houses to where it was obvious there was a stream hidden in the trees and I imagined that was where the post would be, but when we drove down and back up the other side, I realised the village was set back from the border.  It was in fact another kilometre or so before we reached the police post on the Sierra Leone side.  The rainclouds had all but cleared now and the sun was beating down on this point.  Haba and the other drivers took our passports and the vehicle paperwork into the small brick police station at the side of the road while the rest of us sat quietly in the cars.  The most senior official came out and walked to a small open wooden shelter covered with reed thatch adjacent to the road, and Haba beckoned us to join him.

This high tech border post needed only three pieces of kit; a tatty old ledger, a rubber stamp and an ink pad.  He took some time moving the date on the stamp to today’s date.  Carefully and laboriously the man wrote all our passport details into the ledger, rolled the stamp across the ink pad and firmly marked our passports with the exit visa.  Amongst the several American, the couple of British, the Ghanaian, Nigerian and several Sierra Leone passports, I was processed about half way through and walked back towards the vehicle.  The track headed across a small stream from here and I imagined the Guinean border post was just round the corner, obscured at present by some shrubs, and I also imagined the process would be as long and laborious round there.  Apart from this hut and an old abandoned brick shack on the other side of the track, there were no buildings in sight.  I was just surrounded by farm land interspersed with scrub.  It proved that borders could be very artificial artefacts of human life.  This was to be proved in spades over the rest of the afternoon.

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