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Ziguinchor (Senegal) to Varela (Guinea Bussau)

We find a nice hotel (Le Flamboyant) in Ziguinchor that nearly offsets the a-hole policeman. The restaurant across the street, Les Touriste, is good, and there’s a pool, hot shower, and wi-fi (pronounced wee-fee). The next day we set off to the Guinea Bissau embassy with that familiar feeling of dread associated with getting visas or crossing borders. However, we couldn’t have been more surprised. Based on the Senegal embassy in Nouakchott here’s what we expected:

1. Closed today
2. Supply 37 unnecessary documents
3. You have the wrong documents
4. Go to another office to do something completely pointless
5. Come back six weeks from now to collect visa

Instead, we arrived a a few minutes past nine. No one was really around but a nice man motioned us to sit on the shaded outside patio of the office. At 9:30 the visa guy turns up, takes us straight into his office, asks for nothing more than a copy of our passports, quickly fills in a couple of forms for us, and put the visas in our passports right then and there. The process probably takes 15 minutes. The entire experience was enhanced even further by the fact that the official had a tin on his desk labelled ‘Men’s Coffee’ with a picture of a body builder and ‘100% hard penis erection’ written underneath. All this bodes well for Guinea Bissau.

We spend a day in Ziguinchor relaxing. There’s not much to see. I got given a free necklace by a street vender, of course with the promise of looking at her shop later. As she was kind enough to give me the necklace I let myself be enticed over the next day and bought another one. Rick turned up and I negotiated 100 CFA for an extra necklace for him so of course he paid 500.

We find a real live supermarket, something we hadn’t seen since Morocco, a month ago. We buy capers, salami, cheese, yoghurt, crackers, chocolate, garbanzo beans, red beans, and a can of slimy green beans. Outside on the street we pick up cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, capsicum, and a melon. For everything else bad about Senegal, the produce tastes fantastic. The lady who sold it to us was very nice too, even though she tried to get us to buy a pumpkin like vegetable. Rick pays 1,000 for some 500 cashews.

Ziguinchor is very close to the Senegal/Guinea Bissau border and the Senegalese immigration/customs so unprepossessing we actually drove right through it until we were stopped by guard whistles. The whole thing was remarkably easy – especially compared to the diabolical Morocco/Mauritania border. It’s difficult to tell what an official hut is versus a store or someone’s home or an animal shelter, but we muddled our way through and people just yelled at us and pointed us in the right direction. We did not pay any helpers and were very proud of ourselves. We were worried about the GB side because we’d read it was a pain and because we don’t even know Hello in Portuguese, but it too was relatively simple, albeit inefficient. We paid $2 to have a guy write Rick’s drivers license number in a book, another $2 to have another guy write the registration in a book, and $10 in road tax. For anyone traveling overland, GB did require the Carnet to be stamped. Back and forth between a few more buildings, but less than an hour and we were on our way. Well, on our way until the next police stop a few minutes down the road. They asked us a few questions and all seemed copacetic until they inquired as to where we were going. “Varela,” I answered. “Oh, Varela!” they cried, “Then you must give us money!” I most certainly will not, I responded. But I gave them each a Coke and they seemed very appreciative.

The first thing I noticed about Guinea Bissau was that there were no children of the corn. Plenty, of children, but not one asked for a cadeau. This may have been because they speak Warloft and Portuguese and Creole in Guinea Bissau, and little French. The children could have all very well been yelling “Present! Present!” at us in Portuguese, but I’d like to think not.

We drove through fields and jungle to what we thought was a deserted beach, Varela, that we’d read about in a blog. After a few tries with the sand ladders we managed to get up right on the sand and set up camp. It was beautiful, nothing for miles around except a few pirogues, small fishing boats, about 1,000 feet away. It was exactly how you’d imagine the perfect romantic getaway. Warm, calm water, balmy weather, green parrots with red and yellow heads behind us, fish jumping in the water, and even two pairs of dolphin, each pair leaping in perfect harmony with its partner. We could finally stay in one place for a while and relax. Bliss.

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