The Gambia

a beach with palm trees

the view from our hotel

Gosh I’ve been back from the Gambia nearly 3 weeks now, but what with moving house, involving loss of internet access, I haven’t had much of a chance to get caught up on blogging. Those of you familiar with h2g2 will have been able to follow the journey of the 7 bikers in the Rear View series in The Post,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/brunel/A63617682

and what a real adventure it turned out to be, incorporating minus 10 temperatures across France, broken ankles in Spain, delays due to tyre changes, and ferries, and visa applications. Roger aka Thunder has done a detailed report on
http://www.ukgser.com/forums/showthread.php?t=218794

I’d agreed to be one of the WAGs flying out to meet the guys – in the end there were only 2 of us, myself and Katherine, and we were on the same flight to Banjul from Manchester.  We’d booked on a cheapish package, as that was the best way to get flights, and were coached to our 2 star hotel, which lived up to its billing.  The rooms were basic, but it did have a lovely pool and a poolside bar.  We also found, braving the bumsters outsdie, that the view of the setting sun from Solomon’s Beach Bar down the road was wonderful, and that the mezze served by Shiraz, the resraurant opposite, was delicious.

We were picked up at 6 am the next morning by Musa Bah, so famous he even gets a mention in the Lonely Planet guidebook.  He parked at the eerily scray ferry terminal and left us while he went off to sort tickets (ie pay some bribes so that we could have a place in the queue).  It was a ferry journey like no other:  almost 3 hours we’d spent in teh queue, eventually being squeezed onto the boat with no room to open teh door to get out.  I was glad I’d bought some peanut brittle last night in teh shop, and I shared it with the others as a sort of apology for breakfast.  Barra, on the northern shore, was even dustier and more bustling, and we failed miserably in our attempts to buy some beer to take to the guys.  We stopped for lunch in Farrafenni, a border crossing which was just so unlike anywhere else I’d ever visited in my life that it rendered me speechless. Katherine and I took one look at the flies buzzing round the meat in the chop shop, where one knife and one chopping board was being used for everything, and ordered omelettes.

We continued down the dusty wide road, African scrub to either side of us, goats and cows crossing in front of us, and very frequent police checkpoints.  A few hours later Musa turned off the main road, and announced that the next part of our journey would be by boat.

a little boat on the River Gambia

N'fally's boat

N’fally was a sharp-eyed captain, and enjoyed pointing out local wildlife like pythons and chameleons, while we soaked up the sparkle on the river, and felt like we were in The African Queen.  On the far shore, we waited to see what our next form of transport would be – and Roger arrived on the back of a little 125, accompanied by a horse and cart!  Katherine took the pillion position and Rog and I and all the luggage piled onto the cart.  We trotted off to Sambel Kunda, waving and smiling to the many children who greeted us as we passed.  SK is home to the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, which is the charity co-ordinating the fund raising for the new Calum’s Road, but which also carries out veterinary and educational work in the area.  The 7 bikes were parked up outside the buidling, which had no electricity, a little bit of running water, but plenty of cold beer and warm welcomes.

Bikes in Sambel Kunda

More later….

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