Guinea-Bissau is the red headed stepchild of West Africa. Most people have never even heard of it, it doesn’t have much representation abroad including in the United States and it is difficult to get there and to get out. That said, it is an enticing place to visit in the dry season (right now) with its vast wetlands and it possesses the only archilpelago in Africa called Dos Bijagos. Guinea-Bissau’s capital is aptly named Bissau and is where I spent my time in the country. I stayed in a place called Terrassos Ruby on a dirt road which was a converted mansion that was actually OK despite the neighboring buildings falling apart and consisting of just decrepit old buildings and shanties.
Bissau is an interesting place. It is distinctly Africa with disorganized chaos, colorful markets and searing heat. But it’s unique in that the people are as friendly as they come and barely even approach you at all and the city itself of Bissau was one of the safest feeling cities I have ever been in.
In fact, walking the streets at night was pretty surreal because there are no street lights-at all. There are no lights anywhere; on restaurants, buildings, homes, etc.-it was very strange. Walking through the dirt roads of their capital city makes you think you are walking through hell because you can’t see anything including the puddles that I stepped in and all the water pot holes in the dirt. Although I did finally manage to find my way to the only social gathering place in town.
It was the main square if you will, but I won’t because it was basically just a dirty small roundabout but it did have the only two outdoor cafes in town and the only place that had been recommended by Lonely Planet as the other places had been deemed unsanitary or just plain disgusting. So I took their advice and the food at Cafe Baiana was OK-good enough to eat without any repercussions later.
The rest of the scene at the square consisted of the usual African sites of UN and NGO workers chatting it up with the local prostitutes, stray dogs and cats and a random hodgepodge of people from all over that just kind of ended up in Bissau. One final thing about Bissau-it’s expensive, much moreso than any other African city I’ve been to-at least in West Africa.
From Bissau which has a grand total of zero sites that you should go out of your way to find, you can connect to Guinea which is what I aimed to do initially but the word is that it would take three days to cover the 300 miles distance because of godawful road conditions (I can verify they are attrocious), river crossings and assorted other incomprehensible reasons to delay. Therefore, I decided it was best to fly and in West Africa, all roads or at least skies lead to Dakar which is where I am now again awaiting my early morning flight to Conakry, Guinea where they no less than two weeks ago had a coup to unseat the government. So hopefully, that won’t be too much of a problem and I can check it out and pass safely into Sierra Leone overland. I am not sure if I will spend the night in Conakry or just pass through and head down to Freetown tomorrow. It will be a game time decision. There is currently a curfew in Guinea and the possibility of violence breaking out at anytime so I will probably try to make it all the way down but that is a decision for tomorrow.