Exploring the Bijagos Archipelago (December 2013)

 

This time we were more fortunate with the ferry and found out that it would actually leave on Friday. So we packed our backpack for the first time since our attempt of climbing Jebel Toubkal in Morocco and prepared for roughly a week on the Bjagos Islands.

We decided for the cheap “seats” on deck of the old and rusty ex-Greek ferry and watched the people loading our vessel to the top. Surprisingly we left the harbour in time and were off at a slow pace towards Bubaque, one of the more populated islands. The journey was uneventful for a couple of hours before the first islands of the archipelago got in sight. Fabian had secured himself a little spot on a rice bag to sit on but struggled to defend his territory against noisy and pushy teenage girls. Whilst we were boiling away in the sun the life on board went its way. Women were making fires and grilling fish, beer was sold out of cool boxes, teenagers got more and more drunk and an elderly woman with not the best voice sang for most of the evening.

In the meantime there was a lot of shouting between the captain and the mechanics and something just did not seem to work as it should, as the boat was moving in snake lines. Apparently we were driving on only one engine. That might explain why the journey extended for more than 9 hours before we could finally make out the jetty in Bubaque. The docking manoeuvre turned out be a huge challenge as well and the captain was clearly unhappy with nobody following his shouted orders.

Eventually we got off the ferry and a little bit lost trying to find our accommodation in the dark. We stayed with a Senegalese guy from Ziguinchor with only bucket shower but were perfectly happy with that and sleeping in a bed again for only the second time on our trip. Our initial plan to head to the island of Orango first to see saltwater dwelling hippos failed due to our late arrival and the pirogue leaving early the next day. So we settled in for a week on Bubaque.

Bubaque itself turned out to be very relaxed with a slow pace of life. People were friendly but reserved apart from the small children who loved nothing more than to yell Branko (white person) whenever they spotted us. Sometimes it even turned into a humming and singing – we call it the Branko-song! Apart from a few local bars and one or two European run restaurants there was little to distract from the tranquillity of the place.

We spent our days walking for hours and hours, strolled down in the evenings to the jetty to watch local children fishing and enjoyed beautifully prepared fish dishes at a little French place. One day we rented bicycles to drive the 15km to a deserted beach with wide swathes of sand and palms in the South of the Island. Other times Fabian tried his luck with fishing again with similar results as usual and we explored the abandoned buildings along the coast. The nights got more and more windy and we wished we had brought a blanket or sleeping back but enjoyed the unusually low temperatures during the day.

An attempt to leave Bubaque before the departure of the ferry on Sunday with a speed boat failed due to the closing of the Bissau airport. As there were no new customers to be picked up we had to unpack again and enjoyed a few more days on the island before coming back to Bissau.

Christmas will most likely be spent somewhere on a jungle track in Guinea Conakry. Luckily we got a German Butterstollen as a gift in Gambia which will be our Christmas feast. 🙂

Merry Christmas in advance to everybody who might be reading here and you will hear from us next year!

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