This place is really, very much, still a backwater. The whole country is frozen in time. Yet, there are way too many 4 wheel drive boomin round the city, for the state of its people. A clear and obvious tone. That takes little, to no imagination to assume why -especially considering it is one of the most highly imported countries of Coke from South America in the world (if not the most).
Though we can blame the frozen country on it's many Presidential failures, their high amount of corruption and neglect, the dictator 20 years back, the Coloinal Portuguese, and everything else that holds back a country. The fact of the matter is, this place is as dusty as Kathmandhu and it ain't gettin any better, any time soon.
The city has some charm to it, though. People here, compared to Senegalese or Gambians, they are much kinder, easier going and less evaluating of the 'White Man'. Before Bissau everyone was calling me a Tubab, here, a few of the kids sayin
But more or less, shit's hella mellow compared to the north of here.
After two weeks on the Bijagoz Island Archiapelgo, where one can really, really, very much escape the outside world, you can see some tradition happening, still. Not as much as people claimed, for what we noticed. But a small amount of traditional wears, and a large amount of traditional living. Plenty of huts. They are not going anywhere, anytime soon.
While the beaches we found, a few of them intoxicating, and empty, bare, there is also this mega force of tidal shifts everywhere around the archipalego, that gives one only a small fragment of the day where he can enjoy a swim.
We missed the Hippos, and the turtles on the far off islands, for if you want to do antyhing with great appeal you gotta bring a heavy stack of bills. The saddest part of this sub-continent. Though no one seems to have money, everything, everything is dependent on it. And a lot of it too.
The fish is great. Barracuda around 4 euro. The beers on the main island of Bubaque can be found out of a 'Bazooka' or Tap, come out cold and for 50 cents. And a few of the ex-pats I found highly surprising and very accomodating. Incredible, in fact.
Before Bissau I hadn't made a single friend out of the ex-pat community. All somehow too distant and gritty, greedy a bit and highly judgemental of the Tubab, like their neighbors.
But like I said, in Bissau things seem to roll a bit different. And one of the reasons is, I believe, that the foreign element that arrives here, they came, before as travelers, and stay because they fell in love. Where in Senegal, for example, they went for an enterprising venture, not for the free will of the road.
I am terribly happy that we've lost a few weeks here in Guinea Bissau, even if the virgin beaches of Varela were far from that, though nice enough and baron of anything but buidlings destroyed by erosion.
The more time we spend in Africa, the more I realize I must really find the beauty in things, the way they are, not as I perceive them to be, how I think they SHOULD be. Simply how they are. And step back from my ideals of how to change things, and what we need to do to fix things, but simply enjoy the moment some more and allow that down here, the mind works differently for many reasons, and maybe it should simply be as that.
Leave the romantisizing to all the blog writers out there who make everything seem so much more beautiful than they in fact are. I'll stick to honesty and the harder, more pliable, atoned road. Where life lives and fairytales get smashed.
We're at the border of Guinea Bissau, about to leave Senegal. It took seconds to get our visas, they were half the cost they were told to be. We made it minutes before the office closed. Though it's naturally hot and sweaty, and the traffic is going like crazy in Ziguichor; could this be a change in the tidal force that has been manifesting of late.
Three nights ago, on a lovely, little island called, Karabane, on the Cassamance, it was just one more thing.
Where the phosphorescence sparkle the shoreline at night, like nowhere I've ever seen and at Point St. George the dolphins play, leaping out of the water like perfect half moon shields of dark skin; the island where we were lucky enough to arrive for a big wedding and joined in, on some traditional dance. A man dressed as a tree, waving big sticks, of leaves around -and me grabbing it to join in. I danced like the darker half of my soul was trying to escape and it was incredible.
We finally met another traveler, Nico, from Italy. And we merried around like pranksters the first night well after the traditonal dance.
On this island someone came into my room and tooka 100 euro tip from my backpack. One fifth of the money I had left, all the money I had in the world. And the guy meant to watch the guesthouse comes by the second night
'Hey, Steve, I watch your place, why dont you give me 3 euro?'
Not likely. But yea, thats before I realized anything was gone. And unfortunatley I was ages away at this Pt. St. George, when I came to realise. Real good job he did watchin!! Prolly him that did it.
In any event we walked 8 km into the grand forest, very green from the wet season, rice paddocks everywhere, and women carrying things of all kinds on their heads. We walked to this point. Hoping to see Manatees. But the manatees never came. Instead we were ushered into a guesthouse by a Frenchman of nothing more than capitalistic swine oozing from his mouth, with a sharing scent of Pastis.
I never agreed with this 'arrogance' that French get around Europe, before I travelled into Africa. Now its three of these guys that have crossed my path, that I'd like to wipe the muddy filth of the rice paddocks, from off of my crocs and onto their faces. Each one of them.
Its not a community house you are creating. Its not an eco friendly house of leanring and sharing, its a proper business and the more money the people give the happier the propriotor. This is what we get here 80 percent of the time. Everyone, everyone including most of the Europeans Ive come to know over here are out for my few bucks. I cannot be a transient here, I cannot be anything but a white man. A 'TOOBAB' they call me everywhere, gathering aorund, parading to ask for money, water and footballs. To take me here and there and everywhere. To rip a few extra off the top for the bus ride, or the car ride or whatever. And right beside the local. Because TOOBAB has his/her own price.
We are objects, marked bills with big pockets full of Bens. And that is it.
And Im sick.
Im sick of all the heavily aggressive, Senegalese, few of them smiling at all, grinning and kissing their teeth and me and hissing at me and laughing and pointing at me. Its making me equally aggressive and I am struggling to smile at all. This is not what I came to find.
We come as foreign, curious, peeps, with the hope for some kind fo traditional view. And we are made a fool, every single day. I cant help say that it is not my fault what happened to people here in the very distant and not so distant past. The world is trying to reach for equality aren't we?
I really hope that Guinea Bissau can help bring back some optomism but things are gettin pretty bleak.
Relish your road, or cry tryin'
If it's not the mad, chaotic honking of all the passing buses and cars, trying to flag me down, to get me in their rides.
If it's not the Bush taxi workers, trying to pull me into the side door of their mini-buses
If it's not the 18 people crammed into one of these things, that are bobbing up and down with us like kids in a blow-up castle, only the framing is metal and the seats are broken and we're adults -except the couple babies being breast fed from time to time.
If it's not the atrocious, aching pains, that come after eating, at least once a day, because of these stupid, over-priced Malaria pills I have to take.
If it's not for the lack of toilet facilities around, at the time that this particular thing takes place.
If it's not the four or five times a day, I have to wake up because of the arsenal of African army mosquitoes, with assault stingers, blitzing me through the night, because locals are oblivious to the existence of mosquito nets.
If it's not the reoccurring mass of overpriced accommodations, under-garmented, simply because of the tourists that agree to pay for them!
If it's not lads that keep bombarding me with the same damn, two friggin questions, over and over again,
'Where you from?' 'What's your name?'
Then, ensuing to try to guide me, to a food stall, or a bush taxi, because I'm a stupid tourist who can't take care of himself, and am happy to give out 'gifts' to every Jack that can show me the bloody obvious track!<
If it's none of this, then it's the computer time that ends, without warning, and erases all the work I've put in, because they can't simply end a session without dumping the whole system!
Relish it Baby! Or Die Cryin!
Unlike the first leg of our journey through Senegal, this part from Dakar was rather smooth concerning the hitch-hikin. Solid lifts!
It was tough getting out of the city of course, but a mini-bus got us going, and then from Mbour managed to walk out of the city, and start hitching towards The Gambia.
Outside of Mbour, a Belgian man picks us up after I flail my arms around like a monkey when he drives past without stopping. The lad stops about five hundred meters up the road, so I run like a maniac to reach him.
'Koalack is very far. I am only going twenty kilometers or so, but I can give you a ride up the road a bit? But Koalack is very far.'
The sun was getting ready to go down and we'd surely end up in Koalack around 10 p.m. Again, arriving in the city at night, again breaking our balls trying to find a place to sleep the night for less than a million pesos.
The man had his hectares of land, where he'd built a house and some land to grow food, water systems. He was livin completely African without electricity or running water! After years and years of bush piloting around West Africa, he'd decided he found the place he was ready to tie himself down to -after, and especially the third kid arrived. Why not built a piece of land and set up for the family! Only it ain't so easy, farming when you're not really a farmer!
When he invited us to stay with him I answered excitedly,
'Wowo, really great. We would be happy to stay with you, please -as I looked back at Helen.
'Oh yes, on yes, it would be great,' she said from the back.
'Last thing I wanna do is show up in Kaolack tonight and look for a hotel that's shit and overpriced.'
'My place isn't so great either, hey. Its no Hotel.'
'It's a shitload better than what we'd get in Kaolack, that's a guarantee!'
A couple sips of rum turned into two bottles and the two of us throwing arguments back and forth about rubbish, politics, government, western society; all night long fully jibberish, while Helen struggled to sleep through all of our jovial banter!
And in the morning we're picked up quick time, then again after walking out of Kaolack, and a third time by a big lorry truck into Gambia and to the ferry for Banjul! It couldn't have been smoother. The only issue -and of course there is going to be an issue, this is Africa!- came in all the border chaos. First, my vaccination card was lost in the Senegalese customs office, and then, in the late night without any lights to see any signs or anything else, we managed to miss the immigration and stamp to enter The Gambia, all together!
Today, at the police station, and the embassy, and immigration office... none of it has been fun or optimistic. A fucking dumb move missin that stamp.
RELISH IT BABY! Or cry tryin
After a while we finally get goin with rides towards Dakar but instead of heading straight there we hit up this spot,Lompoul, which is halfway; where desert, and lush green, both meet the beach.
The place was impossible to hitch to, once turning off the nqtionql road.
Only taxis, kids asking us for money and hours of frustration.
Finally caught a lift. Hundred people in -and on- the car.
With the two kids cryin on the roof, where the driver of the fine automobile put them! :y girl is ready to trip. And top it off he's fully extorted us on the fee, to arrive at Lompoul.
We arrive after dark, after his car overheats, and after there is nearly a small civil war between people in the car and the driver, because of the crying children on the roof. We are trying to walk away shakin our heads; frustrated, in the middle of nowhere, pitch black, pop-up village, people everywhere, yelling, arguing; one guy trying to pull us back into the car.
We finally get to Lompoul, only greeted by some peeps with homestays and the price is naturally, extortion -but at least its countryside and going to local hands (not Fench colonial fucks like in St. Louis or arsehole taxi toutes).
Had to haggle down to half the price and it was still ten euro for a shit room and a small amount of food. I'm gettin little for my money in these parts. Everyone is hustlin!
But the silver lining comes when we get to the beach -despite everything being closed because of Tabaski holiday- and walk towards Dakar a few kilometers, with 20 cent mangoes and a bag of rice.
Full, white, empty beach; forest, beautifully high and thick and long behind it.
And us, with the odd chariot and horse carrying a couple dudez and some rice to a small village. I thought from looking at a map, naturally, after noticing that there was nothing between Lompoul and Fas Boue, but beach. Lets walk it!
Great idea, but there is no water or food and its a fuckin far, long and hot 30 km.
It was a beautiful walk but we didn't make the whole thing, too ;any ele;ents against us.
The night, about halfway, after Helen sussed a village with nothing to buy, no water, but the ground water we were a bit worried about, and their little agricultural hub which was breath taking, but a dead end. We set up the tent.
In the tent 3 a.m, Im waken up by a scratching sound on the tent.
I open my eyes,
'HOLY FUCK' as I leap into the back end of our one man.
Helen jumps back too after that, staring at me -frightened to death,
'What what what.'
'Its a fucking tarantual, jeezus fuck its a damn tarantula , OH GOD Mama Africa, not already!'
I peak my head to the upper part of our little tube shaped tent, at the transparent screen; long, dark, hairy legs are standing on the metal, bridge bar of the tent,
'Oh geezus,' I shrug and whimper, then flick the tent with a book, like a little bitch.
The thing fucks off to the ground.
I then, remember we are on a beach, absolutely full of big -and small- tunnels into the sand, from hermit crabs. A few of the bigger ones around our tent.
And for the next hour or two I'm jolted up in panic every time one of those little fuckers hits the tent. Helen didn't sleep a wink after my first catapault out of dreamland.
In the morning, after our handful of rice we had for food left and the very little water we had left there was still 3 hours of walkin to do under heavy sun. A truck comes by with some locals in the back. We are so happy,
'Combien?' He says.
I look at Helen with a grin of sheer laughter, frustration, anger and hilarity. He gets us for 5 euros where one of the locals would pay a fifth of that if anything, at all. As he drives a few sacks of coal to transport.
The hightlight, above all else is when we arrive at Fas Boue, a shithole of a town, and gotta figure out how we're gonna hitch hike to Dakar -the last 80 km.
We find a copy shop, in all the crumbling shanties. The dude inside gives us a laptop; and while we try to upload googlemaps -a half hour to find our route to dakar - he brings us two Sprite, on him.
In every dirty turn there is surely a great piece of hospitality and understanding, anywhere you go. Some prey on the vulnerability, others will hold out their hand and offer help, up from the edge of the cliff, before your fingers give out.
Relish it Baby!
6 months ago I left Berlin to take my ass into West Africa with my lovely lady, Helen. Well, we're nearly there!!!We enter the disputed zone of Western Sahara and our first lift out of a big freight that took us a couple hundred kilometres, was a car fulla locals drivin us a few km to the port of Laayounne-so we can ask round about Canary Islands (shut down 2 years before because of lack of interest). The dude drivin, he says something about Merckel -German Chansellor- because of my girl Helen (a German) and how she's a great politician. I laugh and try to make a joke about the situation goin on with Armenia at the moment and say she needs to give Erdogan a massive smack across the dome piece and he says: 'Erdogan is good man, he is Muslim, very good , very good Erdogan.' Helen and I look at each other simutaneously, sigh and start noddin our heads to avoid a big fight. As long as your a Muslim, your great. Thats it. That simple. Sure buddy. Our next lift is a hell of a lot smoother and takes us (500 km in less than 4 hours). Three young guys on their way to Dakhla, pick us up and drive like a spaceship, unstoppable. Even payin for our hotel when we arrive late in the city. Lovin this life. Relish it yo! Every day is a new turn.
When you leave your guesthouse remember to check for all of your stuff. If you hid all your money under the table, remember that shit or else your ass is gonna be on a bus for 10 hours back and forth, to Rabat and back, like this fucking idiot!!!!
And trust me, trying to figure out if its there or stolen or whatever with the hard headed lugsin the tourism industry here, is not an easy thing.
Pride is a large sonfabich, aggression is vivid and anything that may indicate that you are accusing someone of being a theif -because of how many there are, in these parts lol- leads to a fucking situation of high stress.
The rides to Marrakesh, from Rabat, after the ball ache of exiting Rabat... for the most part, great. Except one hella aggressive, proud Islamist that knew few words in any language -including his own- aside from Allah, God, Dio: oh yea, good to be back in Muslim territory.
But really the hitch-hiking so far has been a really uplifting experience with some very well versed people in French, English, Italian, German and of course Arabic.
And, a lot of the rides are coming from well educated people, most of them, lived or living in Europe.
It's been a very cool experience to be able to communicate with the society of locals that has tested their limitations and reached out for more, and then brought it back -and hopefully shared the knowledge for a brighter, more open minded near future.
I am reminded quite a bit of Albania. People have to leave their country to grow, to grab enough cash to buy a car for instance, and then they bring back exterior cultures, in large waves, creating diversity. And though there are still plenty of shiesty fucks around the tourist areas; on the streets and in the countryside one can see a country that is tired of being held back by government -and compromised by the shiesters.
The roads are already on their way with toll motorway and straight, fresh open lanes. Traffic? Nah man. And though the toll is not ideal, the fact that these roads are fast makes it possible to work in Rabat and head home to Casablanca or Tanger, without losing a full day of travel time. Progression! Diversity!
Avoid the hotel owners and bus ticket sellers, and vendors of shit... and life is an incredible thing round these parts. Breathe. Accept. And Be Patient. Be Proactive.
I gotta say, this time around in Morocco, after years in Europe I see a completely different face and I like it very much.
Especially on the road less travelled -of course being accepted in this fashion, as well, by the local hand and offering to homestay or break bread or have a tea, whatever it is. This is the chance to find hang time with the dope ass commoner. And I'm lovin the outer ring, away from tourism. Because in the circle of tourism, it's simply aches and pains and dollar signs. An ugly time spent, anywhere.
Relish your road Yo! and Buen Camino
So here it is! 449 days ago I took off, with motivated feet and thumbs, from Istanbul with the idea to hitch-hike the circumference of Europe as best as I could.
The plan -or so I'd hoped- would be to hitch a sail boat to Canaria and visit my old pal Dario, at Tenerife.
After many days of attempts and dead ends, and the clock ticking on my fine ladies time out in the world, before heading back to work. We said fuck it with wasting effort on all that noise.
So, if the task was to hitch this beast of a continent, today it has been done! And what a day. After sleeping two nights on a lovely piece of sand at Los Canos de Meca and the nearby dunes, we started hitching mid-day for Tarifa. The rides were pretty quick. A couple making handicrafts with a business around Los Canos, and another for the winter in Goa! Ha. Of course we chatted about Goa! Legends they were!
And the second, a couple waiting patiently for us, at the end of a bridge, with the doors open, and trunk ready. As well, their dog 'Senora' there smiling with her long, blond fur.
And our last lift, about 20 licks outta Tarifa, a very nice family man willing to drive us right into town, despite going elsewhere and talking to us the whole way, full of hilarity and good sense.
It was truly a great last day. And for our friend that let us out at the centre of Tarifa, I hope you get many of those 'perfect' days you described to us, in your near future! Because, my good man, you certainly deserve em! And when you finally make it to Canada , holler at me. Maybe you can stay at mi madre's casa!
Just over 4 years ago, I entered Europe on a Ferry, nervous of what would come of it all. Money, Love, etc. I arrived on a ferry from Tangier, Morocco to Algeziras, Spain!
Tens of thousands of kilometres, three Pilgrimage routes and too many cathedrals to even image; zig-zagging a continent, only to arrive back where it all started but forty kilometres down wind and to the west. Leaving as nervous and uncertain as when I'd arrived. Only this time afraid to leave Europe, not to enter it!
How is that for retrospect!
Keep relishin baby!
A few hundred years older than Roma, Cadiz is said to be Europe's first city! Datinig back to the 6th Century B.C, during Trojan Wars. THere's also been speculation that it can go as far back as 9th Century B.C. That's a 3000 year old city right there, no wonder it's so developed. And now, a major road, once there was a long tongue of sand leading to it's heart.
Similar to Napoli, with it's very high buidlings and very narrow streets, the sun is blocked just about everywhere -and we are very south so this is not a bad thing!
The small metal banisters, closed into the building fronts, varying spectrum of colors up every narrow avenue. The smells of cooked food caught in their hallways. Windows open everywhere; high, glass door/windows, seperated into small squares. This is every piece of the city. Lok above and it's a long, white collection of window pane airways.
Problem with so much development, is that there's not much space to sleep anywhere, I mean, in a tent. There's beach, but they are also very narrow. As well, no coverage from the early sun, or the police. We managed to sneak into the botanical garden, but not before 5 a.m. The police escorted us out of the premises around midnight. They were pretty thorough in their inspection. Besides what I've mentioned another reason to stop into Cadiz might be to catcha ferry to Canary Islands. I'm almost sure it beats the pants off of Huelva.
If one wanted to hitch hike out of town (which we did of course!) it's a long, strenuous walk. And hot in late August. From the centre, and the mosaic, Moorish rooves and the large, beautifully white, wind blasted and air dried cathedral, it's a good 6 or 7 kilometres. But once out of the straight, there is the perfect spot to wait for a lift. If you wanted to invest the two euro, could easily take a bus. But fuck that!
And to crash a few nights in something more comfortable, tranquillo, and sensible than this over-abundance of buildings, head to Los Canos de Meca. Maybe lucky enough (like us!) to get a lift from a couple of hella cool, streamlinin, off-tha-grid handicraft salespeople, with hash to blaze and smles to share... Goin to the same spot!
At the Cabo between Zahora and Los Canos, you'll find a few sets of high stones, made to block wind, and into semi-circles, perfect for squatting a few days!
Shit yea, the south is dope. Relish your road. Trust me.
We left Faro, quickly, though I was feeling quite rough within my throat. Hoarse, dry and also my energy weak. Helen arrived with some food for brekkie. And after sleeping the night behind a Decathlon, not far from a pack of Romas -and their wild horses, somewhat cautiously, we figured it was time to move on.
Our plans for Faro, didn't exactly turn out. Surprise, surprise. However, we got showers and to charge our things, and wash our clothes and somehow feel a little bit more fresh than the past weeks. All thanks to our friend Hans, despite the turn-out in the end.
And to our great dismay, ol' Carlos -our host from Lisbon- is in town from Morocco.
Instead of chilling with him, we set our sights on the way for Morocco. And what makes this day special, more than others in the year?
Nope, not my birthday, nor my partner, Helen's. It's nothing to do with family. Nothing to do with festivals.
This day, August 24th, eight years before, I left my hometown for the world.
It was eight years ago I left Canada, with an old brosef, Ben, for New Zealand and Australia. Weeks later Ben would return back to Canada and I... Well, here I am, still kickin stones on motorways.
So, what better way to celebrate this occasion, than to hitch a few rides about 200 kilometres, into a fresh scene -from Portugal to Spain. Our first ride, a soft spoken Nepalese guy, though lovely and very well travelled himself, he left us a good thirty minutes short of our spot, forcing us to walk in the high heat, under the sun.
Our second ride, after a cold bevvie, at the supermarket along the N 125, would be a man named Orlando. He'd only take us a few kilomteres, but he would show us a great deal.
First thing, he took us to a small coastal village nearby, where the Moors were last inhabiting Portugal, before the cross came down and moved them over to Grenada -and back into Africa. The coast was beautfiul. Very flat, but lots of estuary streams. A huge beach, ages from the building structures. Long and white and if you felt like it, could walk to Spain from there. This place was not far from Trevida.
Secondly, this man, without knowing it was my 8-year anniversary, would give me an incredible gift. Though, the fifty euro he passed us was exeptional -out of simple kindness, the gift itself was something more. He spoke of courage to be travelling this way, and his desires before being married with children to travel by land, from India to Portugal. He spoke slightly of not regret, but the idea of something fabulous there. Along the way. And he spoke of the Camino way, from Porto to Compostella, and my savvy for choosing such a thing as a pilgrim's way. But he also showed me something relevent to the moment, not long after I'd said to myself, out of breath and short of patience, that I was ready to leave Portugal.
No matter what, don't lose your faith in the man next to you. Sure, there are many that will push your limitations, but for every nine batty half-wits, there is always a tenth that will see your lightness and appreciate the essence of what you are.
As well, he stressed that assets are less valued than the human touch, every time. His quote,
"I would give away my car, my house to have my father back with us now. There is no such thing as security, my friend, one minute you have a house, the next minute you don't. Find your own course."
Well, thanks again man, for your warmth and compassion, and understanding, and the reminder that Portuguese hospitality, is more than fingers waving back and forth and indifferent looks.
Obrigado Orlando, and Bom Caminho on your journey from Porto to Compostella -and hopefully Finisterra.
And keep relishin' your road! Everyone!