From Guinea to Guinea – neighbours though worlds apart

After a few stumbling, rambling, intense months through the most inaccessible and non-touristic places I’ve been to it is time to move out of this continent. With lots of love and new experiences adventure continues in other parts of this old blue planet of ours. West Africa did sure leave it’s mark on me.

Guinea-Bissau may share name with it’s neighbour and somewhat a similar beauty in it’s landscape. But that’s where the similarities come to an abrupt end. You need to imagine travelling east from Guinea-Conakry around the whole globe to end up in a country like Guinea-Bissau. With a national monument of Che Guevara, beaches, rum and creole as a national language, this little pearl on the African West Coast have a much stronger reminiscent to another former Portuguese colony, Brazil. Bissau even has a carnival each year during the month of February…

So, arriving after a short few hours car trip to a sacred haven where women were wearing shorts, nightclubs had dress codes, calypso live music band played in the streets, and well, barbecued pork – felt light years away from the traditional Muslim countries we so far had passed time in. And, to be honest, a slight relief. For the first time along the way we met travellers. Real travellers, or tourists sure, but still, other people! After our social desert storm we drank the company of English speakers like we had been on the verge of starvation. They were on one bus ride, crossing West Africa by land for three months which made their group dynamic and fairly interesting. I could see the convenience of travelling like that, everything planned, organised by someone who knows better and not having to drag your bag up and down the streets, into cars, buses and taxis all over this continent. When I get older I will happily travel a bit more convenient. Cause after this, god knows I need vacation!

However, back to Bissau. Such a cute city we decided to stay for a week and linger around. Small colourful colonial houses with balconies and bougainvillea lined the sandy streets. More like a big village than an actual capital Bissau was easy to navigate. The unproportionally big market made for day excursions with no end though nothing really was bought. Just a maze of shaded stalls for hours of hours. The best food was served for a whole daily budget of 20 euros in an Italian owned restaurant where I had home made ravioli with Gorgonzola cheese, panacotta, red wine and an espresso. There is nothing in this world like a proper Italian coffee. Even in Bissau. They wouldn’t let us in to the biggest night club since our flip flops were not proper enough. Explaining that we really don’t have any other shoes apparently entertained them to the extent they didn’t believe us. Were we that poor? The Bissauans themselves seemed well off. Some of the governmental buildings were brand new, hotels were being built and there were no homeless people on the streets. No kids with tomato cans sent out to beg for money to avoid the school beating if their share were not filled. We walked around with amazement how well off Bissau seemed to be just to be informed of the three coups d’etat in the last year. The shootings on the streets and the murder of the temporary leaders of the country. Things are not always what they seem to be, are they?

So we learnt a little and we laughed a lot, our trip together were coming to an end and we spoiled ourselves those last days with expensive days by the pool of luxury hotels, A/C and big dinners. To be fair we had used our water heaters and metallic cups to supply us with home made food best we could for weeks. Boiled eggs, canned tuna, pasta and cheese cubes only lasted us so long though. Well, it was time to leave this little tucked away paradise and start on the next adventure. From Manchester to London to Kuwait I finally ended up in Manila. And now, vacation.

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