Oaoatimka - Getting to grips with the Bissagos

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We sailed up the Rio Cacheu to the city of Cacheu to complete the formalities for entering Guinea Bissau. The next morning, three captains had gone ashore to see Luis, the head of the maritime police. Normally, immigration clearance is done in Bula, 40 km away, but as it was Sunday, the offices were closed and we had to go to Safin, in the suburbs of Bissau, the capital, 45 miles (70 km) away. Luis told us that the minibus was already waiting for us! We embarked on our road-trip. There were semi-paved roads with gigantic potholes, and a sandy red track which will live long in the memory... On the way we were stopped three times by police checkpoints. We had to show our passports, which was the rule for all, foreigners or not. Once we had arrived in Safin, we requested an entry stamp, which the people in charge refused us, because... we were already in order! After quite some time of backwards and forwards, the chiefs, all women, ended up stamping the passports. One of the young policemen left us his cell phone just in case. His mother is a chief of police in Bissau. He had lived in Belgium, France and Spain. On the other side of the road, we bought a SIM card, then went to the only ATM within ten miles. (And there are none in Bissagos). Then we headed back to our multihulls, in the dust and the heat - it took two hours of driving to cover the 45 mi/70 km. We had only just arrived yet we were haranguing Luis in the hope that he would give us our cruising permit. As his office didn’t have electricity, he went on board a boat to print the documents, while his colleagues carried out the official visit of the catamarans. They were welcomed with coffee, cakes and cigarettes. They were very cordial and had a laugh and a joke with us. They explained that they do not see many boats or tourists and they wanted us to leave with a good impression of Guinea Bissau. It all cost €17.50 per boat and about €90 for the minibus.

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