The Gambia

The Gambia to Dakar

Despite the rigours imposed upon him during our last trip to Mali, my good and long-suffering friend Alaghi had displayed remarkable courage .. and a possible foolish disregard for his own safety .. in agreeing to accompany me on another voyage of discovery. We had 3 weeks to fit in a lot of travelling with the intention of eventually visiting his home country of Niger.

Dakar Senegal

The first leg of the journey was the ferry crossing from Banjul, the Capital city of The Gambia,
to Barra on the north bank of the River Gambia, followed by an overland bush-taxi ride to Dakar, the Capital city of Senegal.

Up at the crack of dawn to catch the eight o'clock ferry to Barra,  .. I collected a patiently waiting Alaghi from the centre of Serrekunda.
Unlike most time-casual West Africans who are punctual to GMT ( Gambia Maybe Time )
Alaghi usually arrives at least half an hour earlier than planned for a meeting, just in case !!

The ferry crossing ( D5 ), the transfer to the Gambian border by dilapidated minibus ( D15 ), the two customs and immigration posts and a further  short transfer to the taxi-garage in Karang ( CFA 300 ), were all negotiated without problem.

The usual negotiations for where to sit and how much to pay for the luggage ( the standard fare per person was CFA 4,000 ) but the drivers' assistants deem it quite acceptable to ( try to ) charge the earth for placing bags in the back of the Peugeot 504 Estate taxis. Unfortunately for the guy, this Toubab remembered exactly what he had been charged before and surprised both himself and Alaghi by summoning up his best French and arguing fairly fluently until a mutually fair price was achieved ( CFA 500 per bag ). Much to the amusement of the assembled crowd of children, selling biscuits, water, sunglasses and everything else you could possibly need for your travelling comfort.

Senegalese bush-taxi drivers are not generally known for their ability to chat amiably with their clients, but our driver was pleasantly sociable and a speedily efficient driver. The road between the border and Sokone was very good, but from Sokone to Kaolak we had to continually take to the bush, following well-worn tracks where many others had avoided the broken-up tarmac of the road.

Having left Karang at 10.00 am, by noon we stopped at the police post just before entering Kaolak.
Buying some Nice biscuits ( CFA 100 ) and soft drinks at the local shop, we were just about to cross the river bridge into town when the taxi slithered to a halt .. our path blocked by a large cow right in the middle of the road and a couple of cattle drovers trying to get her to move.

Eventually the obstinate bovine was hustled to the side of the road and we were beckoned to drive onwards. Sitting in the front passenger seat, window open and enjoying my biscuits in the warmth of the sun, little was I prepared for a muscular arm, as solid as concrete and connected to one of the drovers, shooting through the window to clamp onto my packet of nice Nice biscuits !!!

A Toubab and his biscuits are not easily parted and a real tussle took place. Luckily for the potential thief, we were only driving slowly, otherwise the skin which he must have lost on the door frame
( how sad ! ) could easily have been a broken arm. A timely reminder that all is not 100% safe from petty thieves when in Africa and whilst paranoia is not necessary, one should always be vigilant.

Closing my window to smaller than drover-arm-width and finishing my successfully fought-for biscuits, we drove through the usual mayhem on the streets of Kaolak and headed out into open country, on the excellent roads towards Dakar, planning a surprise for the drover on our return..

Passing the by now familiar scenes of the beautiful blue and white Tidjane Mosque .. which had recently had a new coat of paint ..
statuesque Baobab forests and occasional herds of cattle,
we arrived at the central taxi-garage in Dakar at 2.30 pm .. in a
very short time, for which all of us passengers were grateful.

On a recommendation from my long-time friends Pat and Merv,
who run
Pleasure Sports ( Gambia Ltd ) the next task was to telephone their Dakar colleague Mr Bayo, to confirm that he and his associates at Odyssey Tours had found me an hotel room for the next 3 nights .. Bravo, l'hôtel Fana m'attend !