Friday, February 15, 2013

Bissau: Today's African Adventure

This morning I got up at 3 a.m. at my Praia hotel to catch a one-hour Cape Verde Airlines flight to Dakar, scheduled to depart at 5:30.   When I arrived at the Airport I was informed that the flight had been delayed until 7:30.  When boarding started at 7, an announcement came that we would overfly Dakar and make a stop in Bissau before flying back to Dakar.  Apparently due to under bookings on two flights, they consolidated them into one, taking passengers to both Bissau and Dakar.

The landing and an hour layover in the capital of Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony, was very interesting.  The countryside has incredible rivers and wetland with a few large Portuguese farm estates, dispersed through the area. The runway was lined on both sides with dozens of the large red termite hills often seen in Africa.  I hadn’t seen any for several years and again found them fascinating.

Red Termite Mounds Near Bissau Airport Runway

 Hanging near the entrance to the Bissau Airport was a large sign welcoming  “his Excellency Ike Ekweremadu.” I had no idea who he was but just googled and found that he is the deputy leader of the Nigerian National Senate.  About 15 minutes after we landed, an unmarked turbojet arrived with approximately 50 well-dressed African dignitaries .  Next to the airport was a pretty little Catholic church and it looked to me that an important wedding was getting ready to take place there.

As we were getting ready to take off again, a regional State Department officer who was on the same flight, pointed to a decaying Learjet that was sitting on the edge of the tarmac.  He told me that  a couple of years ago, it had been forced down during an unauthorized flight through Bissau’s airspace.  He said that it had been filled with cocaine which was confiscated by the Bissau police and which disappeared into the unknown shortly thereafter.  No one talks about what happened to the pilot and crew and no one has ever returned to claim the plane.  I finally arrived in Dakar around noon.

I continue on to Nouakchott early tomorrow morning and I'm sure another great African adventure awaits me there.  


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