Key Country Facts
When under Portuguese colonial rule it was named Portuguese Guinea. This is why today the national language of the country is Portuguese even after gaining independence from the Portuguese
The capital of Guinea Bissau is Bissau. There are approximately 1.9 million people living here. The official language is French, and Crioula is the most widely spoken language. The majority of the population practices Islam. The time zone is 4 hours ahead of EST. Major exports include fish, shrimp, cashews, peanuts, palm kernels, raw and sawn lumber.
Guinea Bissau is home to numerous scenic national parks and islands. Some of which to see is Orango Islands National Park and Lagoas Cufada Natural Park. Also of interest is Bijagos Islands is an archipelago of twenty tropical islands from which one can see hippos, turtles, and other tropical animals and vegetation.
After a short ride to the border of Bissau I spent the entire day getting an entry visa. What should’ve been a routine crossing turned into an ordeal when my guide in Bissau got cute with the border official. We should’ve paid the guy $20—which is what the guy wanted—but instead spent the next 5 hours going from place to place, eventually ending up in the airport to secure the visa stamp. The irony is my guide tipped him generously!
This leads one to an important & critical skill: knowing how to speak with people in an engaging and persuasive way. My guide likely never learned to do this and life has been a series of road blocks for her. Look at my blog about “Life Lessons” for more information.
Stayed at the Ledger Plaza in Bissau, which is as good as it gets here. The rooms are spacious, the pool is lovely and the restaurant’s food above par. Stopped in a local market in the North, just outside of Cacheu , bought some beautiful fabric for a scarf and yukked it up with some of the locals.
An hour or so down the road we ran into some boys who had been hunting for dinner and had scored a farfana (which looked like a big squirrel) and a rat.
The following morning I toured through a cashew factory, which is the industry that drives this tiny country’s economy. Everyone grows cashews, everywhere people are selling bags of them on the road, there are cashew biscuits, candy, milk, and toilet paper (not really lol).
Bissau has been growing cashews since the Portguese imported them in the 1700s, and now they export 200,000 tons of them every year.
Later in the afternoon, I went deep in the “bush” to see the real Bissau. No electricity, no running water, grass huts, naked people everywhere. Had a conversation with the local shaman (spiritual leader) who offered to consult The Spirits on my behalf by dripping alcohol and tobacco particles on a piece of wood. Additionally, he read chicken feathers for signs from The Spirits.
Wrapped up my time in Bissau, with a boat ride to see where the out islands are. Which are one of the country’s top attraction (Salt water hippos, desert beaches, etc..)