We (Cor and Grietje van NoFear Travel), travel with our Toyota Hilux 4×4 camper by Africa. The African continent is the Mecca for 'overlanding' with many challenging routes and beautiful destinations. The first African country we visited during our trip to South Africa is Morocco, followed by Mauritania en Senegal. From Senegal we then cross the border to Guinea Bissau, one of the five poorest countries in the world, not to be confused with Guinea, the much larger country located further south-east.
Naturally, you can also start watching the video again.
Table of contents
Guinea Bissau is slightly smaller than the Netherlands, but with less than 2 million inhabitants it is much less populated. A quarter of the inhabitants live in the capital Bissau.
This West African country also scores a top 5 position when it comes to the poorest countries in the world. Political and economic instability are the main causes. Development aid forms a large part of the state budget. A few pennies are still earned with agriculture and fishing, cashew nuts in particular form a source of income.
Guinea Bissau is the first country on our journey to the south where Islam does not play the leading role. About 50% are Muslim, the rest Christian or other. The main languages spoken are Portuguese and Creole.
The road from the border to the capital was not too bad, a mixture of potholed asphalt and rough dirt roads, but we were prepared for worse. The last part was extremely dusty, our view was regularly taken away from us.
We were pulled over by the police at least 5 times along the way. Gradually it starts to get annoying, because the officers are more interested in our trip and our camper than checking anything meaningful. Once we were asked for our passport. After the young officer had leafed through it for several minutes, he asked with a stern face about our nationality… When we said we were Dutch, his face suddenly changed and asked if we also knew Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay. At the end of such a conversation, they ask for a “gift”.
We have now learned to play the game in a friendly way.
Bissau, the capital
In terms of poverty, bad roads, poorly maintained buildings and dirt, Bissau is among the top. It is sometimes hard to comprehend, especially around the port area. The term “inhabited ghost town” came to mind on some streets.
Via via we had received an address from a Dutch person where we could possibly spend the night in the yard. The wife, Evelien and her father Jan, have lived there for years and set up a supermarket with European products in the 80s. They stopped doing that a few years ago. Around the old supermarket they own various real estate where they live and partly rent out. We were warmly welcomed in the middle area and were able to camp beautifully in the shade under the trees.
The entrepreneurial family from Nijmegen organizes a walking tour through the city every Saturday morning and invited us for this. This way we saw part of the city and got an explanation of everything we saw.
We passed the butcher shop where we fell from one surprise to another. There are many pens with pigs where you can choose one from small to large. On the site next to it, the animal is killed halal and visibly for everyone. While dozens of vultures fly around, the pig is eviscerated on the ground in the mud. We had to swallow and get used to this way of slaughtering, although we had already seen similar scenes with chickens in Morocco.
During the walk we talk to Johannes, a Dutchman who has lived in Guinea Bissau for many years. He works for an aid organization in a hospital on the remote island of Bolama. In the past he was affiliated with the Salvation Army and together with some other people we go to a church service with him on Sunday morning.
A day from the diary
At night we are kept awake by loud music and teeming people and by morning another minister and later an imam start proclaiming their verses so loud that almost the whole city can hear it. We make it through the night in fits and starts.
But at half past 10 we are fresh and ready to go to a church service with Johannes and two Dutch relatives. Johannes is a real aid worker and has been active with the Salvation Army in the past. The church service is in an annex of a school in a suburb of Bissau.
We meet the pastor and many children gather around us. We take a look in one of the small classrooms where, next to the desks, only a blackboard is present.
Then the service begins where mainly cheerful songs are sung in the beginning. Later another sermon by a pastor in which we Dutch people are welcomed and will remain in their hearts forever. It was over by twelve o'clock.
Johannes invited us to eat fish at the wife of a friend/colleague. Of course we didn't turn this down and a little later we were in the back of a Toyota Hilux of the colleague, who transported us to a market square.
Here were several temporary eateries and a large screen for the final of the World Cup football. We had a nice meal with a glass of wine and a beer.
Later we are taken far outside the city to a small river where there is a kind of gathering of young people. They drink heavily here and enjoy themselves with chilling and swimming. We watch and have a great time.
Then it's time to go to our beds. We drive back into the back of the Toyota to the city where we stop for a while with a group of friends of our driver who is far beyond the Dutch norms when it comes to alcohol consumption. But in Guinea Bissau they don't know breathalyzers at all….
We are always looking for real life, places where we can connect with people who tell us about their happiness and misfortune. Often we care a lot about that.
So also this time… a journey of about 300 kilometers on appalling roads and then bridge the last two kilometers across the sea with the camper on a raft in pitch darkness.
The journey took us to Bolama, an island which is part of the Bijagos archipelago. The 6000 islanders mainly live in the main village of the same name.
Upon arrival, we witness a heartbreaking scene. A corpse of a 15-year-old girl is brought in with another boat. The larger hospital in Bissau was also unable to save her and so she too is a victim of the vagaries of the country.
In the dark we meet Johannes. We can park in his street, on a square in the middle of the residential area. Here we are literally in the middle of village life on a remote island.
We had already met Johannes in Bissau. The 74-year-old has been living on the island for two years and works in the local hospital.
As we wake up, the goats, pigs and chickens sniff around the camper. The presence of the pigs proves that Islam plays a less important role on this island.
From our spot on the village square we get a nice view of the population and their worries.
Opposite us is the police station where nothing really happens. A couple of uniformed young men sit in front of the desk under a tree all day and do nothing. There are still some villagers hanging around who also spend most of their day under a tree.
Sometimes some women come by and do the laundry at the water pump.
We take a walk through the village and see the same scenes everywhere.
In earlier times, during the Portuguese occupation, it was a rich place here. It can be seen in the many stately buildings that are about to collapse. Now it is a sad, shabby sight.
When we walk into the village, some children are already shouting in the distance: branco!….branco!…. (whites, Portuguese) That's not meant to be offensive, just to show how special they think we are.
We are on our way to the most northeastern border with Guinea. We pass the village of Gabú. As so often in countries like this, the living conditions make a huge impression on us.
The roads are so bad that we drive for hours at a maximum of 15-20 kilometers per hour. We bump from one hole to the next and are glad that we are high on our wheels, otherwise we would have been grounded long ago. Along the way we meet children and adults who fill the holes in the road with shovels and wheelbarrows. They stretch a ribbon across the road and ask for a contribution for their work. The joy on their faces when they receive a coin is touching. It is also logical that a government does not invest money in the roads, nobody has a car.
We stop at some stalls to buy a few tomatoes. We have only just stopped when about 20 women rush towards us, all eager to sell tomatoes. We would prefer to buy one tomato from each woman…
But what sticks with us the most is the eager but friendly look in their eyes to be able to sell something to a white person.
Things are no better in the village of Gabú. Many are involved in the sale of various items, but what if there are hardly any people who have anything to spend and the competition is fierce?
Meanwhile, we see a boy pulling his donkey cart through the holes. The wheels wobble under the heavily loaded cart, probably his donkey has died.
Disposing of garbage properly is not an issue in West African countries, people have other things on their minds. We also reluctantly have to dump our bag of waste along the road. We do that in a place where there is already a lot more, then our bag is not so noticeable… When we drive away we see in the mirror how three boys armed with a knife cut open our bag.
We see harrowing situations happening before our eyes every day. But what can we do? We only buy a bag of lollipops to put a smile on those sweet cups.
English: Thanks a lot for this video. It's been a long time since I've seen Guinea Bissau, but seeing it like this in the video was like exploring it myself.
Portuguese: Muito obrigado por este vídeo. Faz muito tempo que não viu meu pays, mas ão ver assim no vídeo foi como o explorar-lhe eu mesmo.
We stay actual in Casamance. We study about go to bolama. Do you know, how much you pay for the ferry to bring the car to bolama!