After checking out of the hotel we were able to flag down a cab to take us to the shared taxi rank. The minute we got out of the car, we were mobbed by people wanting to know where we were going. I guess three white guys with bags make a pretty good target. One guy, who the others seemed to respect did all the negotiating. I told him we were going to Bissau, and wanted to hire a whole taxi to go there. He said no problem, wait, and got a taxi with a funky furry purple interior to take us there. I wanted to know how much, but he insisted we get in the car first.
That’s when I found out why. Once we were in the car, with the driver, he got in as well, and we began negotiating. Basically, it appeared he didn’t want all the other drivers and touts hearing what we were doing – probably because in local terms we were severely overpaying and he didn’t want someone undercutting him. The journey was well over three hours, and eventually I negotiated a price of 35,000 CFA, or just over $20 for each of us. Not bad for a private car!
The drive to the border was extremely uneventful, and our driver was very helpful in getting us over the border. Unfortunately he was from Bissau and didn’t speak any French or English, so it was a bit hard getting our point across. Eventually, as he got more comfortable, he did speak some French which made things much easier.
Clearing the border was no problem with the visas we’d obtained in Ziguinchor, and after about 30 minutes we were on the road to Bissau:
In one small town we stopped, and negotiated some oranges from a couple of local girls:
Wildlife on the drive:
Once we got to Bissau, our driver had a very difficult time finding our hotel, the Coimbra “Spa and Suites.” The quotes are because they claimed to have a spa, but I never saw it open, and what they called suites were really just big rooms where the internet didn’t work. Matter of fact, the only place the internet ever seemed to work was in the reception area. Not a huge deal, however. I was pretty exhausted, and when Jordan and Dan went out exploring I hung around the hotel and chugged an energy drink while resting a bit. After a bit, I did walk down the street and see the church on the next block:
Fantastic sunset from in front of the hotel. This is one of the busiest streets in Bissau, and yes, mostly dirt road:
A bit after sunset, we wandered through the pitch black dirt roads to O Bistro restaurant, a supposedly good Italian place. The lasagna was actually surprisingly very tasty:
The profiteroles dessert was great as well:
Changed rooms twice (yes, common theme in my posts) and eventually got a room with working AC and internet…a luxury in this hotel. It was rather comfortable, and I managed eight solid hours of sleep before getting up to meet Jordan and Dan for breakfast…the breakfast room had very interesting art:
After fortifying ourselves with tea/instant coffee and bread (I think Jordan might have braved the cold hot dogs on offer) we set out to explore the city a bit. One of the first areas we wandered was the Porto Pidjiguit, or old port. There was a monument here shaped like a giant fist, where in 1959 the Portuguese killed over 50 striking dockworkers. The fist monument was in memory of the resistance to the Portuguese which started here:
We continued walking, and were soon in the old town. Dirt roads, pastel colonial architecture, but things were extremely run-down:
The Grand Hotel…not looking so grand these days:
We continued walking past the old fort (still home to army troops, and thus definitely no photos allowed) and were soon in the main square:
Independence Monument with the Presidential Palace in the background:
After a bit of a wander, we stopped in at “Papa Loca” which was advertised as one of the better cafes in town. Run by a nice Lebanese gentleman, they had good pastries and coffee which fueled us for a bit more of a walk. Next up was the National football stadium:
Major street in Bissau, walking back to the hotel:
I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Bissau, but it met most of my expectations. There wasn’t too much to see or do, and while it did in some ways feel like other former Portuguese colonies in Africa, it also had a west African vibe that felt different. The poverty was rather striking, as were the decades of civil wars and coups that have plagued the country. Infrastructure was some of the poorest in West Africa, and there was a near complete lack of English and French spoken. However, the people we did meet were super welcoming and friendly and very glad to see tourists there!
The hotel was kind enough to give us a late check-out at 3pm, and despite having had trouble locating our reservations the day before they had sorted it all out and the “complimentary” hotel shuttle to the airport was exactly as advertised. Soon, we were in the luxurious airport and ready to continue our adventure.