Hit by a Motorbike in Kankan, Guinea


“…Trying not to break, but I’m so tired of this deceit,

Every time I try to make myself get back up on my feet,

All I ever think about is this, all the tiring time between, and how,

Trying to put my trust in you just takes so much out of me –”

BOOM. Flattened by a motorbike.

Kankan Street SignMonths ago, I found myself living in a town named Kankan in the West African nation of Guinea. Previously, I’d been searching for work in neighboring Senegal, and was connected with a professor with knowledge of both countries. She stressed, “Senegal is fun, but if you want a real adventure, go to Guinea.” I obliged.

The professor connected me with old colleagues who would help me craft a volunteer project. Shortly thereafter, I found myself in Kankan, living with a Guinean family, teaching Spanish to university students and Physics to seventh-graders.

My teaching schedule was loose – occupying twenty hours weekly – leaving me ample time for exploration. Kankan was big, so I bought a bicycle to get around. During my free time, I’d take long rides into the countryside, seeking out small villages and a friendly face. Sometimes, I’d cycle the newly constructed highway to Bamako, Mali (I’d never actually cross the border), despite strong headwinds and uninteresting landscapes.

But, more often, I’d choose the crackling, sunbaked road to Kissidougou, which careened through a forest of mango trees, housed an errant, howling monkey, and a frequent cropping of clay-straw huts.

The road to “Kissi” was beautiful, and always presented a hearty mix of adventure, African kindness, and the generally unexpected. Once, my rear derailleur got caught in the spokes, rendering my bicycle inoperable. Minutes later, a troupe of Guinean cyclists, carrying huge bushels of sticks on the back of their rigs, pulled over and motioned me aside, removed a heavy sack of tools, and began working my bike back into order. Another time, I befriended two military officers (always dressed in laughably gaudy uniforms of baby blue) and conducted police checks — or, more accurately, bribe extraction — with them on passing cars. In a third instance, I engaged in a screaming match with a Ghanaian driver who had edged too close to my bike.

The ride always brought something new that made me feel alive.

HitByMotorbike 5

I didn’t have the road to myself. The road to Kissi bore long-haul trucks, rusty cars, fixed-gear bicycles carrying freight, and roaring, oblivious motorcycles. It wasn’t particularly busy; maybe, I passed ten drivers per hour. However, it only takes one for accidents to happen.

One day, with just one of those roaring, oblivious motorcycles, the adventure was raised to a whole new level.

On my way back to town, I stopped into a village to take pictures. In my experience, Guineans didn’t like to be photographed unless explicitly asked. My camera framed a few huts amid spiny leafless trees and a passing cow as my finger lingered over the shutter button. Just before fire, a villager ambled towards the shot. Knowingly, I took the picture anyway.

Kankan Village Picture

The man started to shout. I apologized, got back on my bike, and quickly fled. I pedaled briskly to avoid his continued tirade. I switched on some music: “From the Inside” — Linkin Park, live in Texas.

Energized by the song, I pedaled harder. I turned a corner, now just 100 meters past the village, as the words continued to pound.

“…Trying not to break, but I’m so tired of this deceit,

Every time I try to make myself get back up on my feet,

All I ever think about is this, all the tiring time between, and how,

Trying to put my trust in you just takes so much out of me –”

— BOOM. Flattened by a motorbike.

The bike came from behind and really hit me hard. I was thrown from my saddle and rolled more than five feet on the pavement. I had a large bump protruding from my forearm, which I figured to be a snapped radius bone. I was still alert — perhaps in shock. I had blood all over my arm, and massive scrapes on my leg.

I looked up and saw a red-shirted guy on a motorbike speeding away. He did not stop. He did not look back.

Could this have been an accident? Could he have hit me and not realized? Why was this guy still driving, fleeing hastily into the blurry distance? What the hell just happened?

“HEEEEEEEEEEEY!” I screamed in a full-on avalanche of fury, curdled blood, and carnal rage. The man still did not look back. There was no one else around.

Breathing hard, I picked up my bike and tried to put it all back together. I took it slow, preparing for the blur of unconsciousness. I poked at my arm, assessing the damage. And I pondered, still furious, what I was supposed to do next. Did the guy hit me on purpose? Do I tell someone? Do I need a hospital? Did I really deserve this?

My mind spun in circles and didn’t come up with much. Minutes later, I realized it was over. The guy was gone. There was nothing to do except get myself home. I could be mad — but why? It was over. I wasn’t hurt too badly, and I would never find the guy again. I did something wrong and, in a demonic twist of karma, paid the price. That’s life, and I was living.

Road to Kissidougou

Instead, I let out a feeble smile. Sometimes, it feels good to get hit. That day, on the road to Kissidougou, I was yet again faced with something new. And this time, if slightly macabre, it made me feel more alive than ever.

Author: William Wolf

Will is a 24-year-old travel writer from Philadelphia, with a background in Mathematics and Industrial Engineering. As a teen, he was a meekly described “internet poker professional.” After finishing his university studies, Will took his poker earnings, boarded a plane to Kenya, and began a 26-month trip around the world. Now 23 months into his trip, Will has backpacked through East Africa, South America, Scandinavia, West Africa, and the Middle East. In Istanbul, 16 months in, he ditched the backpack, hopped on a bicycle, and pedaled it to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, through Turkey, The Caucuses, and the Stan’s. Currently, Will cycles from China to Malaysia – the final phase of his trip. When not traveling, Will is found playing hockey, applying cream cheese to bagels, and falling in love in Colombia. Additionally, he runs www.WillTravelLife.com, which chronicles his adventures.

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8 Comments

  1. This is a wonderful article that made it very easy to imagine myself in Guinea. I’m happy that you (Will) were able to see past the act and look at it simply as part of living your life! Following your stories are always so fascinating :)

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks a lot April! Appreciate the love :)

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  2. Great article, Will! Gruß from Konstanz

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks buddy. Snowing out there?

      Post a Reply
    • Bryan, my one and only.

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  3. Wild Child. Looking forward to your next article! Your bio made me smile.

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Hit by a Motorbike in Kankan, Guinea