A quick stop in Ziguinchor, the regional Cassamance capital, nets me a one month visa for Guinea-Bissau, and I immediately head South to the border, less than a hundred miles away. Leaving Senegal is simple and friendly, and I soon find myself on the Guinea-Bissau side, moving from office to office, getting my details entered in huge hand-written ledgers and collecting stamps for who-knows-what purpose. It’s amusing to watch a policeman write out all my details multiple times in an endless ledger of hundreds of pages while he constantly checks and changes the music on his huge touch-screen cell phone. If only there was a better way to record all this immigration stuff…..
The official language here is Portuguese, which is close enough to make my Spanish useful and confusing at the same time. As well as Portuguese and a local African language or two, it seems most people speak a little English, Spanish and French, so I manage to get my point across, more-or-less. The immigration guys say I could voluntarily pay a few thousand CFA to thank them for doing their job.
I choose not to.
A few miles down the road I stop at Customs and pay 2,500 CFA (about $4USD) for a two week temporary import permit for the Jeep. I’m told they can’t give me more time, though I can extend it easily in the capital of Bissau.
Soon I am waived down at a Police checkpoint, and a familiar game begins. After asking for all of my paperwork and carefully scrutinizing each one, the young officer is disappointed to discover everything is in order. After furrowing his brow in deep thought, he asks to see my fire extinguisher – said as “extintor” in Spanish/French/Portuguese it seems. I pretend not to understand and make him really work hard for it – all the while having vidid flashbacks of my one day crossing of Honduras. Eventually I understand and show the officer my fire extinguisher, which he is not happy to see – so without even looking closely he immediately says it has expired. The date is clearly visible, and after I point that out, he says it’s not charged enough.
The gauge shows it’s in the “green” region, and we go around for five minutes on this, me being very confident all the while. He also wants to see my safety triangle, which of course I produce, after pretending not to understand for five more minutes. He says I need two, and I say there are two in the box. Luckily, he doesn’t check
I’m not sure, though I really think I am supposed to just give him money at this point, even though what he says is complete nonsense. I find it hard to believe locals hand over money in this situation, though I have seen it happen time after time. It seems logic and reasoning are not really supposed to be used, because when they are the officers are found wanting.
I move back to the drivers door, where he excitedly asks to see the Jeep wipers work, thinking he really has me now. When they do, he is obviously certain he has me, and with a huge grin says I must squirt water from the jets onto the windshield. The memories from Honduras are coming on thick and strong, making it difficult to keep a straight face. Finally, his shoulders slumped, the officer walks away empty handed as the Jeep wipers clean the windshield with a fresh squirt of water from the jets.
I’m on the other side of the world, and the games are identical!
African country number five, here we go!
All the details to drive your own Overland vehicle into Guinea-Bissau, including gas prices, border procedures, paperwork, insurance, camping and more can be found at http://wikioverland.org/Guinea-Bissau