Thursday, November 18, 2010

3 Days in Guinea-Bissau

3 days is not enough time to see Guinea-Bissau.  Due to transportation constraints we were stuck in Bissau and missed out on visiting the Archipelago World Heritage Sites- hopefully I will have the opportunity to come back!

I loved my short time in Bissau- I got to speak Portugeuse again, drank Guarana every day, and everything reminded me of living in the country outside of Rio de Janeiro- especially the red dirt.  Even the toilets in the hotel had signs posted to remind users to not flush the toilet paper.
Former Presidential Palace

I went for a couple early morning runs and saw a couple remarkable sights- the former Presidential Palace that was destroyed in the war, the markets alongside the road- mostly selling shoes and food, the new National Assembly building recently built by the Chinese and so on.  All the little kids were excited to see me run by- I was a novelty, like they hadn't seen many toubabs, especially running through their neighborhoods.
Catholic Church near the port- Doors were always locked

Along side the road young men would wait with wheelbarrows for an opportunity to unload and carry stuff.  During my last run a pickup truck pulled up to a group of guys with wheelbarrows and started to offload the carcasses of of several butchered cows, which were then wheeled off down the dirt back alleys to some restaurants or smaller butcher stands. 

Most of the cars on the road were taxis, older Mercedes D190s painted blue and white.  These are tough old cars because the roads in Bissau are in very poor shape.  The majority of people traveled by foot or blue and yellow vans.  There were a couple modern gas stations in town, but on the outskirts of town fuel was sold by the bottle or jug.  I think that most of the fuel was for generator use as the town did not provide electricity for the use for the average person.  If you wanted power you had to buy a generator and few people could afford one or the fuel required.  Light after dark is a luxury in Guinea-Bissau.
Roadside fuel stand

Only the street vendors were eager to talk to me.  The day before Tabaski they claimed they needed to make a sale because of the coming holiday, but nobody knew the name of the holiday.  The next day about half of them were out selling again on the holiday.  The vendors said they rarely saw any foreigners anymore and business was very slow.  The rest of the people I saw just kinda watched me walk or run by but didn't stare too long.
Leaving Bissau was interesting as well.  The airport doesnt have any computers so they kept your etickets and made a manual roster for all passengers.  When we got to the security checkpoint we were wanded, groped, and then passed through a metal detector that wasn't plugged in.  The bag scanner wasnt plugged in either and a couple people at a desk behind it searched your bag.  Since it was Tabaski they also had a donation sheet so you can give them money to help them celebrate.  When i asked what they were going to buy, one young lady responded "Bebidas" or alcohol and made the universal gesture for drinking.

The pilot stuck his head into the terminal 45 minutes before the scheduled departure and counted people sitting in the lobby.  Since we were all there he told us to load the plane and we took off early and got to Dakar in an hour (flight was scheduled to take 1 hour and 35 mins).


  1. You are so lucky to get to see all of this! I know it can not compare to getting groped by airport security but ... hey still very cool the things you are being able to see and do. ( Minus the airport groping!)