[ Bissau, Guinea-Bissau ]
Greetings from Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau–the fifth (undisputed) African nation on my itinerary. Getting here took me thirteen days, all of them in a tent or outdoors one way or another. I abandoned the map and the beaten path, and met village chiefs, migrant cashew farmers, national magistrates, mid-scale marijuana distributors, martial artists, charcoal producers, and boy scouts. I have heat rash on body parts that should never, EVER have heat rash on them. And most of these things–except, intentionally, the prenominate body part(s)–have been photographed for your edification and amusement.
Yet, as fantastic as photographs are for telling stories, they also have severe limitations. (Even if they don’t, this particular pseudo-photographer does.) And that brings me to my first night out of Serrekunda, the topic of this post. Perhaps I could snap a few images to set the stage, but I couldn’t tell you the whole story of that evening visually. Besides, I was too busy experiencing things to photograph them all. But anyway, beyond basic stage-setting photos, I have no idea what I’m doing. How do you photograph a lack of inspiration? A desire to remain immobile one day longer? The tedium of riding when you want to stand still? Because those are the thoughts and moods that defined my day. I was tired! No one would notice anyway! What the heck am I doing?!
You get the idea.
And so I left town slowly, starting late, stopping often. Another of Fast Ali’s crazy-good shawarma sandwiches powered me through the insanity of the central market and eventually onto the coastal highway, heading south, without the slightest idea where I might be headed. I stopped to eat. I was hit by a thankfully-slow-moving service van that was beyond indifferent towards my right-of-way; I was momentarily happy to realize my creative stream of English-language profanity was intelligible to the “driver.” No injuries to self or cycle were forthcoming.
The coast comes in and out of view, and I ride down to a fishing village, hoping for a camping spot. No luck, but nice views.
It’s getting late, maybe an hour to sunset, and I’m alone on the road. At a bend in the deserted highway a woman mans a small cart, selling fresh fish and fixins, currently to a Rastafarian. Maps.me indicates a possible trail down to the beach, shortcutting the highway for a few miles and stealth camping seems likely, so I ask the Rasta-man for some 411.
“Sure, you can camp out there, just mind the snakes after dark. It’ll be hard pushing your bike through the sand to the next town, though. It’s a footpath. Why don’t you just spend the night with us instead? We live in the last compound before the road ends; right on the ocean. You like fish?”
And so it goes in Africa. Of course I said yes. We chatted for the mile or so down to the compound where he stays with a decade-long eastern European Gambian import. Her story is ongoing, harrowing, and frustrating, and at her request (for good reason) I can’t really share it here, but…I had a long, wonderful evening in just the sort of Pynchonesque setting that makes life, for me, worth living.
It set the tone for the entire ride east to Basse, the subsequent amazingness of which shall be documented, however inadequately, in subsequent posts. Or at least that’s the plan.