Day Five – The Gambia

The next day we say goodbye to Jirrong and Seri takes us to Farafenni. We realize we don’t have enough money to continue our journey so we ask him to take us to a working ATM. We enter Farafenni once again. The town doesn’t feel safe at all and there isn’t much to do. We arrive at the bank and Matías realizes he has lost his wallet, as well as some dalasi I had kept in his bag. We haven’t been quite lucky during this trip. As I withdraw some money from the ATM, a man starts shouting at us and approaches us. He stands in front of us, staring through the window like a psycho. When we get out of the bank, he follows us to our car begging for money in a very aggressive way. He even touches me which makes me very uncomfortable. We tell Seri to take us to the taxi station — our time was tight and we needed to get to Barra before 4PM, stopping first in Albreda. 

We try negotiating with our taxi driver. For some reason, taxi drivers in The Gambia are extremely lazy and just want easy money by ripping tourists off. The taxi driver argues the road to Albreda is quite bad and that he would need  “a lot of oil” to get there. We manage to successfully negotiate a price of 2,500 dalasis to Albreda. The first part of the trip is pleasant — the road is in good condition. There are three roads that connect the North Bank Road with Albreda and both are dirt roads. As we pass through the first pair, our taxi driver tells us it is impossible to use them since they were “devastated by the heavy rains”. When we arrive at the last one, a sign shows the road is closed. However, our driver talks to a policeman who shows us an alternative road to get to Albreda. The taxi driver was right — the conditions of the road were poor. There was a cement road under construction so we had to use a flooded dirt road on the side. After tipping 300 dalasis to our driver we reach Albreda.

A deaf sailor part of the crew which took us to Kuntah Kinteh Island

In Albreda a guide welcomes us. At first we were afraid he would try to rip us off, as almost everyone during this trip, but then everything makes sense. Albreda is a community managed by the government meaning if you want to visit the village as a tourist you must pay a fee which will allow you to visit all of the touristy sites. Turns out we have to pay the community, the boat that takes us to St. James island, the ticket to the museum and the island, our self proclaimed guide and an extra tip. Visiting touristy spots in The Gambia is not cheap at all. Before starting our tour we arrange our transportation — an overcrowded van would wait for us to go to Barra for 400 dalasi each.

Our guide, Siri, shows us the community. We see a monument that condemns the slavery times with a motto which says “never again”. The people in the village seem happy to see us. We hop on the boat and head to Kunta Kinteh / St. James island. The island is located in the middle of the river Gambia and was used by the Portuguese, Dutch and British as a slave fort. They were often sent to Gorée Island in Senegal and then to the European colonies. The place is very unique and we can feel the history of the place. What used to be one of the cruelest places on Earth, is now an “exhibition center” and home of some fishermen. We go back to the mainland and enter the museum. It is quite small but the information displayed is good and interesting. Once we end our tour, I exchange phone numbers with Siri and hop on the overcrowded van. 

Arriving to Kuntah Kinteh Island

We arrive at Barra at around 4:45 PM. It is raining heavily. We find the driver that will take us to the Feel Free Lodge and hop in his vehicle, which looks like a military car. The road to Janeck Island is outstanding — we go through the wilderness of the Northern Bank up to a mangrove zone. There, we take a boat to the island. Siri told us Janneck Island is the only place where growing and smoking cannabis in The Gambia is allowed. In the rest of the country is highly prosecuted. The island is pretty and has no vehicles to move around — we would have to cross it to get to the lodge. We had bought some sweets for the kids on the island but we soon ran out of them and have to buy more. The road is quite damaged due to the rain and we have to cross some swampy zones barefoot. Nevertheless, the sunset makes it all worthy. 

The road to Janeck Island
A mosque welcomes us at Janeck Island
Sunset over Jineck Island

We arrive at the lodge and the owner welcomes us. We leave our stuff in our room — there is electricity, mosquito net and running water, which almost seemed like a miracle. Later we have dinner and have some drinks while we talk about Gambian politics with our host. He is angry he had to fire his employees and wants change for the country. He dislikes the actual president, Adama Barrows. There has been a lot of controversy around his figure since he is willing to join forces with the ex-dictator and once the rival of Adama, Jammeh. Adama wants the victory at all costs. Our host is willing to back UDP, probably the biggest rival to Adama. Throughout our trip I’ve seen a lot of propaganda from that party — they promise big reforms for the country following a “Western” style. We wish him luck in the election which will be held on December 4th and head to our room. It has been quite a day.

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