So far, September has invited one adventure after another here in Guinea. I returned to Dubreka to help with more training at the beginning of the month, just in time, in fact, to join-in on the trainee excursion to the Soumba waterfall, my favorite part of training from last year. After a busy week in Dubreka, I returned for a few medical tests to Conakry, then taxi'd back up to the Fouta with two other volunteers on our way to Doucki, the most beautiful and probably most renowned tourist site in Guinea. On our way, we stayed the night in Dalaba with another volunteer, and enjoyed getting used to the chilly night weather of the Fouta again, admiring the views and the pine trees!

The next morning, we headed to Pita, the largest town south of Labe and also the only the place to catch a bush taxi towards Doucki. Pita is a nice little town on the main road to Labe, and has, as its claim to fame, a soft serve ice cream machine that works during the rainy season. Ice cream for breakfast anyone?

We left for Doucki shortly after having our fill of delicious Pita ice cream, and arrived two hours later at the complex built by the guide, Hassan Bah.

Hassan loves Peace Corps volunteers. Having built his first guest hut with the help of a PCV, Hassan's long history with the Peace Corps leaves him smiling and excited whenever new volunteers show up to explore the natural wonders of Doucki. Our first day in Doucki, we were getting settled and awaiting the lunch Hassan's sister-in-law was preparing us, when the guide himself came to tell us our game-plan.
"So you will eat your lunch, then we will leave for a hike at 2:30! That ok? Today we'll do an introduction hike, then tomorrow we'll try the kick-ass hike! First, you will eat some very good RAS."
"RAS?" we asked.
"Rice and sauce!" Hassan loves acronyms. If you can say it in letter form- to him it sounds all the better. As we began our first hike towards the jungly "Indiana Jones" trail, the letters started flying.

"It's very slippery! Baby steps! BS! BS!" Hassan warned us.
"SS, here, side to side, don't rock forward, like this, SS!"
"Watch out ahead there's a big CP!"
CP? Cow poop.

The Indiana Jones hike led us to cavernous rock formations surrounded by trees and vines that looked like- well, a set from an Indiana Jones movie. At the hight of the rainy season, everything was extremely wet, from the slippery ground to the rocks covered in slimy moss. At one point Hassan led us up to a vine and proceeded to show us how to scale the side of a rock while we "pasted" our feet and climbed.
"See, watch me. I go one, I go two, I go three," he began as he numbered each of his steps up the rock face. "I go four, I go five, I go six ..."
I decided to give it a shot. I got two steps up the rock.

There were lots of occasions to swing on vines and climb up boulders; it was like a magical playground for adults. We meandered around the Indiana Jones area for about three hours, when finally it was time to hike back and wash up before dinner- some good old RAS. That night, as we relaxed in hammocks under one of the huts, Hassan provided us with his own weird brand of entertainment, showing us his handstands, juggling with one arm, and making "calls" in a strange high-pitched voice to the United States.
"Hello! Obama? This is Hassan! Yes! How are you? I know! I hear about this Romney guy! He is a crazy mormon! He has five wives! He is like some of these muslims here with four wives! They are all HPGs!"
"HPG?" we had to ask.
"Hot pants guy!"
"Hassan, how many wives do you have?"
"Just one! I have one wife! I am not a HPG! I'm a CPG!"
Oh, a cool pants guy.

The next day we woke up early and set out on the most famous and most challenging of Hassan's hikes, "Chutes and Ladders." About 10 miles total, the hike begins with a several hour descent past amazing rock formations, down cliffs, and through waterfalls, until you hike around a rock face that resembles the "Cliffs of Insanity" from The Princess Bride, and return back up the rock through a waterfall-filled crevice with the help of wooden ladders. We all began energized and in a good mood, Hassan encouraging and entertaining us along the way.

"See that rock? The one that sticks out?"
"Some old volunteers, they named that Viagra Rock! You see why?"
Yup, we saw why.

"Hassan," we asked at one point, "what exactly does Doucki mean?"
"It means, a branch from a fruit tree with many fruits on one branch."
"Oh. That's interesting. You know in English, Doucki means something else."
"Yeah, I know. Doucki means Poop!"

We continued our descent with lots of encouraging "TYTs" (take your time), "FFs" (feel free!) and were warned whenever there was a "PP," (pocho patcha, a phrase in Pular meaning a place where your feet stomp in water). Every time we hit a place with PP, Hassan would apologize profusely, sometimes in song:
"Pocho patcha, very sorry, pocho patcha, feet are wet..."

We had lunch along some rapids, right before we began the strenuous and frightening ascent up the cliffs. Climbing by waterfalls, we very carefully scaled a series of nine wooden ladders that would take us to the top of the cliffs. As we moved carefully and hung on for dear life, we tried to ignore the fact that local Guineans used the very same ladders, not as recreation, but as a mode of transportation to get from one village to another. Catching our breath and balance at the top of each stick ladder, Hassan would congratulate our efforts, with lots of "Good Jobs!" and "You see? No problem!" Many gorgeous views, slippery rocks, and tired feet later, we made it back to the huts ten hours after we had set our that morning.

"Can we take our BB, now, Hassan?" we pleaded.
"Bucket bath! Sure!"

Clean and relaxed, we later relished our delicious peanut sauce under the stars by the light of a lantern.

We woke up early enough the next day for a short hike out to a spot to watch the sunrise, then said goodbye to Hassan and his family as we met our taxi to go back to Pita.

The real purpose of the Doucki adventure was a "scope out" visit for a potential Girl's conference later this year. And though "Chutes and Ladders" might be a little too intense for some of our students, we agreed that there were many other hikes and activities that the girls could benefit from if we brought them to Doucki. Hassan loved the idea, and even agreed to a hefty discount on his normal tourist prices, so as soon as we arrived back in Labe, two other volunteers and I got to work on a budget and grant proposal for a Girl's Outdoor Leadership Conference in Doucki. After two days of intense planning, I finally headed back to site to regroup and recharge (but mostly just to clean my house). I'll be leaving again in just a few days, this time out of Guinea for another adventure to France and Italy.

As I sat at the taxi station to head back to site, watching the usual Guinean confusion and logistical nightmare of filling up a taxi with nine people and their luggage, I couldn't help but smile. This month I've biked through rice fields, been swimming in waterfalls, trained new volunteers, admired breathtaking views, scaled the cliffs of Doucki, shared meals and days with my neighbors, developed a grant proposal for an exciting project, and soon I'll be off to Europe. It's only the 15th, and it's more than a Peace Corps volunteer could ever ask for.