Vine bridge, Guinea, West Africa

Richard crosses the bridge

Vine bridge, Guinea, West Africa

Stephan climbs to the bridge entrance. There’s a similar entrance on each end

West Africa is a land of amazing contrasts! Bridges are a good example. You may remember that we ‘fell’ through a log bridge a few weeks back. That was a first for our co-drivers, Jason and Adam, as well as for all the passengers. We’ve also crossed plenty of modern concrete bridges—no risk of falling through those. And on occasion, we’ve detoured through a stream (it is the dry season) rather than cross a bridge that is being constructed or repaired.

Vine bridge, Guinea, West Africa

One person crossing at a time

But we visited a very rustic bridge not far from Nzérékoré, in southeastern Guinea. It was made entirely of vines and bamboo. It was fascinating to see its construction up close, and to have the chance to cross on foot—one at a time.

The bridge is brilliantly sturdy and I’m sure it could carry more people at once, but we respected the villagers’ instructions. Our guide—the bridge is in a forest and was about a 45-minute walk from where we parked the truck—said the bridge is as old as anyone can remember. I’ve read accounts that say it was built more than 100 years ago.

Vine bridge, Guinea, West Africa
Vine bridge, Guinea, West Africa

In addition to providing safe passage across a river, the bridge has spiritual significance for the people. Two years back, it was closed for renovations and repairs. That year the overlanders weren’t even allowed to approach the bridge. I heard differing comments about why. Some say that repair work is done by spirits, while others say it is done by trusted elders who don’t want the secrets of construction shared. Keep in mind that my French is fairly sketchy, so the ‘real’ story could be something entirely different.

Path to vine bridge, Guinea, West Africa
Painted toes, Guinea

Word gets out when foreigners are around. By the time we got back to the truck there were several people selling avocados and other fruits. I bought 10 large avocados for about $3. They were nicer than any we’d seen in the markets. Too often the fruit we buy turns to mush within a day or two. These weren’t ripe yet and several cook groups managed to use them over the coming days.

I also got a fun pic of a woman’s toes. She’d painted them along the lines of the Guinean flag. Fashion in the forest!

Selling fruit, Guinea, West Africa

Avocados for sale

Vine bridge, Guinea, West Africa

Ellen is dwarfed by the sheer size of the bridge

 

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