Volunteer’s Trip 2022: Departure – Sunday (2nd October 2022)
Departure from Heathrow and arrival in Conakry
The Airport run: The calm before the storm.
The calm before the storm – its 5:30am and 12 weary eyed volunteers arrive at the URBOND offices, excited for the trip ahead. Doug and Kingsley, veterans of previous trips, were at best the only volunteers prepared for the long day of travelling ahead. Everyone ascended to the main offices to pack the sanitary provisions collected by Catarina and dental products courtesy of Patrycja and Basia. With the toothbrushes toothpaste weighing in at a hefty 29 kg the additional suitcase deliberation ensured – on the positive side if any of the volunteers were to lose their toothbrush there were plenty of spares!!!
The journey to Heathrow had been easy but the dreaded check-in process now loomed. It’s tricky enough travelling alone, add 12 people and this can be a slow but nonetheless interesting ordeal. Early starts, 7am this time, and 12, misbehaved volunteers is never a good mixture – herding cats comes to mind!!! Each volunteer had their own interpretation of Air France’s 23 kg baggage limit ranging from 25 to 33 kg much to the amusement very kind lady working on the check-in desk. One by one each volunteer stepped up each practicing their negotiation skills.
Following negotiation 101, courtesy of the class of 2022, it was time to navigate security, with just enough time to grab a quick coffee before boarding. With spirits running high amongst the group, helped along by Kingsley’s ever constant humour, the volunteers took their seats ready for the first leg of the trip- destination Charles de Gaulle. True to form Kingsley roasted the person sat next to him whom shall remain nameless for obvious reasons.
Doug, who had the misfortune of being sat in the row opposite Kingsley, was relieved to see him fast asleep for both the London-Paris and Paris-Conakry legs of the flight. After a short 8 hour flight the plane approached Ahmed Sekou Toure International Airport in Conakry. Andy bravely tuned into the airplanes onboard cameras opting to watch the plane land, an interesting experience but definitely not for the feint hearted!!!
As they stepped off the plane the humidity hit them like a train, but finally they had arrived in the Republic of Guinea. Their fingerprints were taken and then they had to join a separate queue to have a photo visa printed and stuck into their passports. After the bags were collected, they made their way outside to find URBOND’s Representative in the Republic of Guinea, Mac Amara Bangoura, and Mariam Bah who is in charge of URBOND’s Marketing, Communication and Fundraising in the Republic of Guinea.
All the fun and chaos of Conakry was waiting for the volunteers in the airport’s car park. All they could hear were car horns going off every 30 seconds and a constant stream of cars flowing in and out of the airport. One thing that never changes in Guinea are that the people are always extremely well spirited. With the bags loaded in the truck, the volunteers jumped into the mini van and the one and a half journey from Conakry to Dubreka began.
The traffic was still heavy at that time of night. The volunteers touched down on Guinea’s Independence Day, in which they celebrate the countries separation from the French colonies in 1958. Towards 11:30pm they arrived at the HB hotel, in the region of Dubreka, and with their bags unpacked they all went straight to bed ready for day 2 of the trip.