Joining up with Kofi and our driver in Moria, we drove back to our guest house in Fintonia. Once we joined the main road we came across some familiar places. The previous year Kofi, Matt Cushing (Gray’s colleague) and I had come back from Guinea this route in torrential rain. There was a dodgy bridge along the way that had been worn away by the many trucks and termites. Although the supports were solid concrete, and two metal railings crossed the gap, they were lined with planks of wood which had seen better days. Uncertain whether the bridge could support the 4WD’s weight, we had used an alternative route with dipped down into the stream then up a steep slope the far side. Going north was no problem; you dropped down the steep side and go back up on a much shallower gradient to rejoin the road, but going south you had to face this steep rock face. In the rain I had been terrified we would not make it and be stuck on the river bed with the water levels rising fast, but with much slipping and sliding we had made it up and continued on our way. of course the upshot of that had been that as we were congratulating ourselves at our good fortune, we came round a bend to discover the tree across the road which made us overnight in school storeroom.
In the dry season again we had had no problem that morning going north, and I thought being dry season the vehicle would grip up the rock face and get back on the road more easily than in the wet. Nope. Maybe the power of the engine was less, maybe the tyres were more worn, or maybe the rock surface was too shiny and smoothed by all the vehicles that had already passed over it, but no way could we get up the bank. The car would hover on the rocks while the engine overheated and whined at us, and the driver had to abort and gently slip us back onto the riverbed. We tried a couple of times but the car was seriously heating up. We looked at the bridge. Maybe we just had to take a chance at crossing it, but the contemplation of what would happen if the planks failed was daunting. I did not want to see our transport fall headlong onto the river bed some 7m below, and I feared for the driver who could get seriously injured in the fall. But there appeared to be no alternative. This was the only road south to north for miles around. I mean miles. The next road west was near the coast, the one east was in Guinea heading into even more impenetrable forest. Any diversion would take hours.