Day Four – The Gambia

We start our day the best way possible. We enjoy an amazing breakfast included in the price of the room (only 15€ each): bread with butter and jam, bananas, porridge, an egg sandwich and some tea. Also, the electricity is back so we are able to communicate our situation to our beloved ones. The brother of the German’s spouse takes us to a police checkpoint in the middle of the road. He knows the policemen and they promise us to look for a car in order to get to Soma. The people here are friendly — Matías spends his time playing with some kids and I chat with the policemen about Spain. One of them had gone through the odyssey of crossing the Morocco-Melilla border. He waited days and days so he could cross it. However, when he made it to Spain he was deported only three months after while he was working at Port Aventura. Now, his dream is to work in a tomato field in Southern Spain.

After waiting for two hours, we manage to make ourselves a place in a van that would take us to Soma. Matías has to go into the front and I go to the very back. The van has a capacity of 12 to 15 people but I count almost 40 inside. However, it is not that uncomfortable. I meet Babousock — he has a degree from the University of The Gambia and works as a math teacher. He is friendly and gives me his number. He tells me about the history of the country and how the only way to start developing it is through education. In 1h 30mins we arrive at Soma. The place is quite chaotic and it seems there is not much to see or to do. We find an Africell office and a friendly worker solves our mobile data problem, now we are no longer out of reach.

The Main Street in Soma

We try asking the people of Soma how much it would cost to reach Janjanbureh but the price is way too big. We were really looking forward to going there but we have to face reality — it is practically unreachable. We tell a taxi to take us to Farafenni. Just when we are about to cross the bridge, an “undercover policeman” working for the “drug trafficking division” stops our car and says he wants to inspect our luggage. At first we think they are going to rob us — the guy doesn’t look like a policeman and he is surrounded by some individuals that definitely aren’t. He takes us to a small hut, where we find dressed policemen. They tell us to open our bags while they ask us some questions. When we tell them our travel itinerary they change their minds and let us go. Weird. We tell our driver to take us to a good hotel in Farafenni and we soon arrive at our destination.

Another view of Soma, with a gas station at the back

The hotel is quite cheap and has AC. However, it doesn’t have a mosquito net, which makes us rethink whether it is a good idea to stay. We finally agree and pay the 1000GMD. After that, we start thinking about what we were going to do for 24h in Farafenni. There was pretty much nothing to do and it seemed we were wasting our time. Then, Matías had an idea — moving our schedule one day so we could go today to the Kalilu Foundation and spend one more day in the touristy area near Serekunda. We successfully arrange everything and tell the manager of the hotel we want our money back since we are not staying. We agree to be given half the price we paid. After an intense rain, Seri, our Senegalese driver, tells us he is waiting for us in the town center. We walk there when suddenly a man starts following us asking for money. He insists way too much and is quite intimidating. Some people tell us he has mental problems. We wait in the car while Seri goes to the supermarket. The man keeps asking for money from my window and the situation starts being really uncomfortable. When Seri gets back, we quickly move out of the place but the man grabs himself to the window. We finally get rid of him and head to Jirrong, where the Kalilu Foundation is.

The landscape is way more different from the south side of the river — it looks more like a savanna. In the middle of the road, it starts raining heavily and when we have to hop off Seri’s vehicle, the water reaches our ankles. The guesthouse at the foundation is very basic — no electricity at night nor wifi or phone coverage. We go for a walk and then sit with Seri where he tells us about the project. The objective of the foundation is to provide a good education and give a job to the kids of the area so they don’t have to go on the dangerous trip Kalilu went to find himself a future in Spain. Then, we have dinner and some late tea which tastes amazing. After the rain, the clouds disappear and we can see the stars up in the sky.

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