[ Bissau, Guinea-Bissau ]
The ride from Basse to Bissau took five long, sweaty days. The sweat resulted in heat rash, and the daily hours-long exertion under a pounding sun combined with insufficient nourishment to produce a few embarrassing outbreaks of road rage on my part. When you have to remind yourself not to scream profanities at random strangers (many of them children), it’s probably time to take an extended break.
Despite the challenges, this segment rewarded me once again, with fantastic cultural experiences every bit as engaging as those in The Gambia. I spent the first night in a traditional Jola village in Senegal, twenty kilometers shy of the Guinea-Bissau border. The next day, after an amusing border crossing, and an 80km beat down on cratered gravel and sand roads, I arrived in Gabu and spent the night sleeping on my tarp, under a cellphone tower, dodging vulture poop and mangoes.
The third night was spent in another village reminiscent of Kot, Nepal–getting drunk on boxed red wine with the village elders and sleeping on a clay porch near the pig pen (there are suddenly lots of pigs since passing into Guinea-Bissau). And the final day, at the limits of my strength, I witnessed (a) a horrific, fatal crash on the main highway with two instantly dead (b) a huge Cultura Balanta gathering under a centuries-old baobab, with at least 250 soon-to-be-inebriated Balanta folks in tribal attire dancing, singing, playing drums, and otherwise making merry. That night was spent in my tent, behind the under-construction home of a Balanta family, just 30km shy of Bissau.
I have to say that the traffic along the main highway here is the most frightening I’ve seen, anywhere. The Land Rovers and Range Rovers and Mercedes sedans speed by at 150-200 kph, on narrow, pot-holed tarmac, with no regard for villages, livestock, or their own well-being. The accident I saw was a Mercedes sedan, which swerved and rolled several times before smashing into a thicket of trees. Locals were on the scene seconds later, but there was no way to extract the bodies from the twisted metal, and any help from Bissau was at least an hour or two away. Sobering.
The ride into Bissau itself was easy enough. Lots of slow moving traffic, and me screaming threats and profanities at taxi drivers who didn’t give me right of way or tried to force me to ride on the gravel shoulder. I easily found my room–shared with two long-time U.N. workers–and settled in for some rest and lots and lots of photo editing and posting. This is the last of that effort, which I hope you’ve enjoyed.
Tomorrow morning I pick up my visa for Guinea-Conakry, and Wednesday morning first thing I’m back on the bike and heading further into Parts Unknown (speaking of which: RIP Mr. Bourdain, you’ll be missed).