The days are merging. There is not enough time to relax and write our stories.
Today I’m writing about yesterday, which was challenging, to say the least.
We can’t have traveled more than 100k’s but it took us from 9.30am till dark to complete it.
The drive from Camp Afridi to the border was 50k’s of relative comfort. No “Topies” or humps in the road to slow traffic, but the big trucks have to crawl over them, with a flow on affect to the rest of the traffic.
So, the 50 k’s were mostly traffic free and the surface, excellent. It wasn’t till much later that we realised why. Further back, the sat-nav was suddenly saying from 50k’s we had 200k’s to go to reach Banjul, the port city of The Gambia. We were on the N4 where for the shortest distance we should have been on N5. It was only a 3k drive back to the missed intersection.
At the Senegal border, the usual mayhem. Pushing and shoving and traffic everywhere. Trucks, buses and cars in a jumbled mess. Money changers and SIM card pushers all competing for business.
On the The Gambian side, suddenly we were able to understand the lingo. It’s British and we can communicate. Walking away from having our passports stamped, a woman from behind insists, “Hello” several times, to which I paid no attention, as everyone wants some of your money. The next statement was, “Hello, I’m Border Protection, when I say hello, I expect you to respond”, says this chunky, diminutive, stropy, woman in ordinary clothes. “I am going to inspect your vehicle for narcotics”. A young chap of about 10years was making a nuisance of himself and she slapped him hard across the face. He ran of howling. This person is making a statement.
Driven into a compound, several, also plain clothed people are demanding to know what is in this box and that! “Medicines, show me your medicines”. “Can I have some Panadol’? “Sure, take a strip”. From then on, the attitude changes. We fear for Adam as he has a Landy full of every pharmaceutical that was made and that they would have caused immediate concerns. However, Adam is a very clever fellow. Rather than undergo an explanation ad-nauseum, 3 slabs of chocolate has an immediate impact and the search is over.
Jen changes €150 into Dalarsi. The exchange rate 65 to the € and we change €150 for the grubbiest, notes you could imagine. The worry is, are they exchangeable, or out of date?
100m past the exit from the border a sign propped up on the roadside, Halt. Police. As there was no vehicle ahead of us, I moved to park beside the Policeman. “Why did you not stop at the sign” he demands. Meantime, Adam has moved up behind us. To us both he says, “I am going to fine you for breaking the law. Really?! D200 to you and D1500 for you, Adam.. “Come into the office”. Where there is another guy standing, in a red shirt, and someone asleep on the floor. We pay. After which I said to all, “clearly we have to be very careful with the Police, they are dangerous people”, and walked out. Perhaps I should have been more succinct?
It’s about 5k’s to the ferry. There are trucks parked all along the roadside and people banging on the window to “help” us negotiate what is to the new arrival, is un-negotiable. A smartly dressed young man convinced us that we needed his help. We could go in that line and wait for the next ferry, or pay triple the amount and go straight to the head of the queue. Foolishly we opt for normal line. Not in the truck line, but with the cars. Two ferry’s came and went and we inched our way forward. Five hours later after a 1 hour trip, we drove off the ferry into the chaos of Banjul.
Earlier I mentioned the mistake of taking road N5 instead of staying on N4 and driving the extra 150ks. The N4 would have taken us over the river on a lesser and trouble free crossing.
Driving from the wharf to the camp took us through an almost gridlocked market. People and wares reducing the flow. A taxi van would not let us into the flow and we managed to lock bumpers for a while with no damage.
The Gambia is one of the smallest countries in Africa but the most densely populated. In 2016 the previous President was defeated in a General Election and with International ‘help’ was persuaded to step down and into exile, taking US$11m of public funds with him. The new President is trying to clean up corruption. How brave of him and what a difference it would make if he could succeed. In 2022 a coup was attempted and the military claim to have not been involved. My guess is the exiled had a hand in it to try and stop investigation into his affairs. It’s not the only ex president trying that stunt.
Our accommodation is Camp Sukuta. It’s a walled haven from the turmoil outside it’s gates. Run by a German couple it is everything one could want. Clean, working showers, toilets and secluded sandy camping areas. Relatively mosquito free too. We are going to spend a couple of days here for forward planning and regain our composure.
As you go, I am brushing up on my very poor African geography. Interesting there are these little accommodation oasis’s in the middle of nowhere.