We exchange fare well with Agustin with his wonderful children and extended family who made my stay in Ziguinchor a memorable. The family security dog wouldn’t agree ease with this depart, he chased me for about 2km till he was fetched back with Augustin. I was introduced to Augustin with friends who run organization which support ecological projects; Ecofunds.
Like most Senegalese, Augustin is ambitious educated in Europe in business and Agro forest economy studies he come back to give back to his community, he set up several firms including travel agency which according to him become quite successful to the point of collaboration with airline company to manage direct flight from France and Dakar to Ziguenchor. His flight were always full put the government running flights into risk for those incidents he lost his business license, at the time I was in Ziguenchor the government was unable to provide flight for couple days. Ziguinchor, is separated from main Senegal landmass by narrow Gambia and Gambia river, this region was more exposed to christian missionaries and less to islamic therefore enjoyed the luxury of education.
I cycle out through the growing city, 15km I arrive at uncrowded border just peasants parking their big sacks of peanuts, I stump out Senegal at the immigration officer siting under the mango tree.
Senegal come to the end, my first Sub-Sahara country after the cycling in North, Western and North East Africa. It goes with the excitement of seeng cycling in the black Africa but also it reviling harsh reality of this continent. The country have done far better in comparison with others in the region; with minimum resources, straggling democracy brought several reforms through governance which put the system into motion at least with stability. There are good progress and achievements in education field but has yet to copy up with speed of population growth, create suitable environment and jobs.
Arrived at the boarder post the man on football ti-shirt ask for my passport. Just to make sure who he was I ask if he is immigration officers. The colorful man found me ridiculous, he told his fellows that ‘I think the house is disco!’. Well, I could imagine for him he couldn’t understand how come for his fellow black dude wonder who is who or ask direct question. The office was quite casual with atmosphere of celebration, everybody was running his own initiative from the road to the back of the counter. I was stamped after threatened to be returned to Senegal.
Later I found out Guineans particular these one the former Portuguese colon (or overseas province) fancy a lot with clothes and shoes. Although there is no a lot here, the busiest sport I saw in the markets is second hand clothes sections. Despite the fact that the country is stricken with extreme poverty, the sense of beaut and colors are still precisely. Girls just like Brazilians like to express themselves through dressing. I found out the dress code to be suggestive for the country which is not modern.
I stop at Sant Domingo, camped at the village with German man who found his second home in the middle of thatch roofed and mad houses. I find it quite ironic consider my understand of German culture with their altruism character, well I can’t generalize!. I camp out for few two days,
explore the market day which was tremendously colorful with some products which I have never seen
. Most of this product are of cause food products, about 80 % of daily activities here is to find and prepare food often one meal per day. These food products are all natural most grow themselves in the forest therefore I assume the price is determined by collecting time. Wondering in this market which isn’t very different from the one in the village I grew up, I thought to myself the wealth and and rich of poor man is his food and freedom, these are all natural food. In the developed countries these will be only for rich man.
Nature determine life here provide all the nutrient by seasons.
It is hot and humid I sat down and watch the market
, my mind wonder in different conners to put together the situation in front of me. I think this system could be fine 100 years ago or so, today we have grow into different sophistication. The village is growing or has been growing though the population in Guinea Bissau like most part of Africa is quite stretched out populate sparsely (Gunea-Bissau has about 2 millions people in the area of 36,125 km square). With no clean or running water, access to basic health care, function latrines, balanced diets, etc. In my though I find it to be a sot of misery and hard situation to be exposed on. My friends finished the shopping, anyways there is no much to buy; Neals bought new cup for bucket shower and bar soap. I walk away my head occupied with thoughts of what could be done to alleviate the situation. But why? ; a moral question or human responsibility?
It was already 11 am Neals was ready for a beer I guess that is good remedy to sustain life here but it could be to better for me.
I find my remedy to go through this is bicycle, my hunger and un-sastification transformed into physical pain as I pedal through the hills and valley under the sun, endurance and tolerance is secret, motivation and hopes are tranquilizer; combined at the end of the day bring internal calmness and it is 172km; I’m in the Capital, Bissau.
Along the low laying woodland (main cash nuts trees) and rice valleys it chains of villages. Lot of smiling faces and enthusiastic children who most shout ‘Branco’ ‘white’ at the first sight bit older would call out ‘Pretu’ ‘Black’. More older enjoying their palm wine by the road side which boost their confidence would great out ‘Ami Kuma?’ the creaole language (How are you my friend?) About 40% of people in Guinea Bissau speaks creole which is formulate out of Portuguese. Instead of saying ‘ Coma estas? they will say ‘Kuma? and if they want to be more formal ‘Kuma esta?’ and that how it goes to form a language to link them across their several tribes with separate African languages. It said that is again about 14% can speak official language Portuguese while others speaks various African languages.
Human bond and practice of simple things like compassion is out of question here, out of urban areas folks are so generous and helpful, I find Guinea-Bissau to be very friendly and ease going people. People are very ease to know and liked, they carry certain fascination which attract me.
In the capital I was invited to camp at the home of tax driver, it is small slam not to populated. I pitch my tent on room which has no tenant it has no window like many others. Illegal connected electricity come around 8pm and there were about 4 times black out through out the night, it bit worthless. That is urban, huge part of country electricity is day light dream.
In the morning the compound was quite crowded with young folks of about 15 to 25 years, its canabis and liquor bar. I adjust into my new home and make friends, I was provided with bucket of water from the well in the compound
. For the toilet I would use bush toilet if there was near by bush, for the show I was too tall so I had to squat. Anyways in this part I find to have less shame or concern for the necked, in the rural areas folks bath in the streams woman wonder around bare chests.
I spend the day charting these idle young folks who couldn’t figure out what is the heck I’m doing. They are full of dreams and energy but there are less opportunities; creativity is so low and no much of inspiration or motivation. Most wish one day to wake up in America or Europe. It was incredible experience to live within these people I slow start to see what lay beneath the daily life here, there is lot of stress. Fights especial verbal fights for woman break out time to time, these is loud shouting to each without listen to one another. Woman carry more responsibilities, often single parents because they start have children at age of 15-18 they can hardly control their children. People are very curios in the slums, these fightings are big scene, it just like football, they took parts and cheers.
Football is big entertainment, music play a big roll in the daily life. Despite all the hardship this place was lively and full of life.
It was more tough to spend more time in this place with no sense of private or individual space. I met a group of young professionals from various West African countries, they were exited with the initiative. At one evening I give present to them, this is after they had couple of round of beers and wine, they all cigarette smokers, they smoke through out the presentation calmly chewing on peanuts and drinking. At the end one of them a Senegalise, Sele who speaks less than all offered to put me in the cheap hotel in town.
I got Guinea-Conakry visa with no lot of paper work for 30,000 CFA. I ride out of the city, the road from the ocean wonder inland. Guinea Bissau is well linked with roads. The villagers seem to be more remote every single day, disconnected from the modern world. Along side the roads there are good numbers of wells which seem to together with fancy mosques beside thatch roof and mad houses. Most bear the sigh from whoever donate them, Kuwait has more mosques and wells, EU, USAID and MDG (Millennia Development Goals) has more schools, health care (some of them abandoned, in one village I was invited with village health worker who work at his mad house.
I ask why they abandoned the nice breaks house. He said he is only one left at the village, there is no money to run the clinic which still bare the rusting sight of donor.) There are so many donors vehicles, signs, etc. Of course there is improvement but thinking of their resources, funds, technologies for whatever the time they have been here (MDGs was sign 2002) but still for 2 millions people the system is yet to work! I wonder what will be of another 11 years to eradicate extreme poverty if there is running down now. If we are not making business out of it then we should re-thing the strategies.
On the second day which was x-mass day there was no real sign of celebration out here, it was till the evening when I come across military barrie at Ganamberi village on my way searching for Cantanhez National Park. The solders seemed to be happy the senior who introduces himself as ‘Comondante’ he wasn’t just tips but quite buzzed. He said that I should stamp excite before I continue because that was border post, argument with his colleagues break out. Apparently there was no respect for ‘comondante’, anyways I will still be in Guinea Bissau. Comandante win he said we’ll have to find the immigration officer. That was mission, I wonder into village houses with him after refusing to give him my passport. On the way we become friends, he tell me the stories of his proudly military work, children who he doesn’t know the number exactly or where they are. We stop a lot for greetings which is quite important here In one instance we stop at the house he introduce me as tourist. This was christian family though majority are muslims include comandante there is no great distinctions they all practice their local believes which are more stronger. Five littles of palm wine was brought out and served I sip and rotate the jug. I do not real like the palm wine, in most cases it is 0% hygiene because the make are ofter drunk. I kept on not to offends my new friends whose by no with alcohol they were more excited and the leave of intimacy was high. They learned my dislike of palm wine. I was given a special drink made for x-mass; it mix of condensed milk, cash-nuts and local liquor, the closest comparison is Amarula, it definite changed things!
As I was told the stories of village, what I should do and I shouldn’t the food was borough hug plate of rice (I have ate so much rice in west Africa than I have eat in my life time). I think they drunk 10 liters of palm wine before we continue. Immigration office, an old man sit in front of his big compound he order his bag. The old bag contain ink and stamp, he stump my passport and sign I could remind inside the country or leave. It was dark by now but comandante is trying to lead me to the park but he was too drunk which he would never accept. I proposed to camp at the barrie instead. Seat around campfire I listen the story of drunk solders. Guinea-Bissau since it independent (1970’s) have never had a democratic elected president who save office for full time, it is a military play ground country. The last president he was assassinated because he try to disarm the army. Recent arm business is cocaine trafficking, facilitate shipment from Latin America to Europe with stop over in the Guinea-Bissau Islands.
The direction I was given in the morning didn’t bring me to the park but instead to the few mad houses with bitten up flag which is slight different from Guinea-Bissau, I was in Guinea-Conakry.
In this village/post there is another ‘comandante’, his voice and face tells the years of drinking and smoking. Apart of his worn out military uniforms he has no any recognizable military swagger, I though this is his retirement post. He was gentle and friendly, he had a look on my passport and said I can continue but will have to find my way to whatever I go. He gave me a bottle of mineral water.
There were single part wondering into woods, I stick on the man path, it pass through solitary villages, crossing many streams and rivers with no bridges. This means unloading the bike or sometimes walk into stream if it is not too deep. Other places bear chests woman washing in the river would help me to lift the bike most are real strong and muscle.
This part linked two countries is wild ‘a wild Africa’ with no much wild animals. It tall trees forest. The cultural is quite intact, I couldn’t see the cars just motorcycle, people, young to old board these motorbikes bump and dusty for 100km to get to the town. The main link to the modern world is radios, partly news and the rest is music.
In Guinea-Conakry people are linked with French in the rural areas most will be able to help someone out with basic words while most are fluent in urban areas. I spend the night at Debis village done only 60km cycle 40km and walk the rest. Camp at compound of one extended family, the old man of the family lead me to the stream to shower with other bunch of man coming back from the farms. I hang out with the young lister to their stories and dreams. Most (boys) would be married with their father soon, on 18-22 years old their likely to be married to 14-16 years old girls. When I ask them how many children they wold have, they say as much as god will give them. When I ask for more precise answers the estimation is from 6 +, and how they will sustain them ? That is god’s willing. Girls would say they want to be married when they are 25 yrs above but there is nothing to do in the village and it is too hard to refuse their father’s decisions. They also prefer less children (4-). In Both Guinea I saw many young girls with children on their backs.
In that night there was accident, the thatch roof caught fire and the entire mad house burnt down. Though people have less here it was big loss, there was cries and moaning.
At Boke town the dust and bumping come to the end, the road is paved but now with all the dust I have running noise and dry throat. The drivers here know two important things; accelerate and honking. No mater how I try to stay calm the honking drive me crazy especial when I’m climbing and the shoulder is occupied by grains or cloths and no where to go.
Boke to Conakry it is rolling hills of cool morning and 32 celsius hot and humid afternoons. In Guinea Conakry with about 10 millions people of what could be among the wealth country in West Africa due to it potentials and natural resources, the system is working bit better compared to other Guinea. In both countries, the rural folks with their small towns are quite gentle and friendly. This is among of remain Africa of imagination in teams of people and culture.
In the hectic and busy suburb of Conakry were majority conduct their rural life though they live in urban with slightly likeness of other modern urban areas. I watched very minimum celebration of the turning of the year. Thanks to Charles Ibsen (2011 TDA ride) for providing comfort of home. The news from Sierra Lione embassy is that the consulate is on the leave for unknown time.