Day Six – The Gambia

I wake up at 6AM feeling quite unwell. Food poisoning. I go to the toilet several times. We were looking forward to sleeping a lot this night since our driver wouldn’t be ready until 12AM so now I would have to wait in silence in my room. My stomach is in pain and a huge storm outside makes me fear that the ceiling could fall over us. The noise is unbearable and my hopes at the moment are not high. We clean our room and go have some breakfast. Our host is all alone in the lodge and had to traverse the storm just to make us breakfast. If we had known we would have told him not to come — it was too dangerous outside. We thank him for the breakfast and his time, we pay him and give some extra dalasi and head our way back to the little pier. 

Just like yesterday, we have to go through the entire island by foot. On the way, some children join us to show us the way while asking for money. We realize we are done with that. Ever since we entered the country, all everyone has done is ask for money. All favors, everything they do is just for money. We are no more than walking euros for them. However, the only few real and nice people we’ve met have really made our journey better. One of them is Seri, our driver from Casamance who sends me some voice messages saying “we are friends now” and that he was really happy to have met us. Later we find out he has changed his profile picture for one he took with us. After crossing the lake, we take the same transportation as yesterday and traverse the long path through the wilderness up to the main road.

The kids running after a dog

Our driver leaves us in Barra. At first, I had told Matías I really liked the place, but today it was different. Everyone seemed hostile and wanted to take some money from us. We couldn’t walk a few meters without getting told something. We enter the ferry terminal in order to buy the tickets for the ferry. When it was about to be our turn in the queue, a young man who definitely seemed hostile starts saying something to us in his language. He does this very close to us, like he wants to fight or do something similar. Luckily, his friend tells him to go away and we can finally buy the tickets. The ferry only costs 25 dalasi (not even 50cents) and it’s the only way of traversing the river Gambia (the closest road connection is crossing the Senegambia bridge, near Farafenni). It connects Barra with Banjul, and the entrance is quite chaotic. Nevertheless, it works fine. We can take a seat since we arrived early and the journey is overall pleasant. We notice an ambulance on the ferry ready to take someone from the North Bank to the South Bank. There are plans by the Chinese to build a bridge which connects both sides. It would be a big investment and would get The Gambia into debt for a long time. Once again, foreign countries are trying to take over The Gambia in what some call neocolonialism.

People making their way into the ferry

We arrive in Banjul. The roads are paved — it is the only town in the country with all of its roads paved. However, Banjul is far from being an example of development. The roads are dusty and dirty. It also feels quite lonely, maybe because it is Sunday or maybe because it is like that always. We can also notice a lot of non-black people, mostly turks. In fact, the only restaurant we see open is a Turkish one. We have a delicious and cheap meal there. We visit many places in Banjul such as the Albert Market. This market is not meant for tourists just like the craft ones. Instead, we get to see the real people and how they buy their stuff normally. I had run out of dalasi so we head to an ATM. The first three ATMs don’t work, the fourth does. While I am in the middle of the transaction, a man approaches us asking for money. I get very nervous since he was just next to me and could steal my card and my money. He refuses to go and tries to see my screen at the ATM which infuriates me — I tell him to go away in a rude way and does so. On our way to the tourist attractions of the city we meet a man guarding the National Bank of The Gambia. His name is Lamin. He tells us he was part of “la legión”, a Spanish specialized section of the army during the times of the dictatorship. We wish each other good luck.

Small mosque in dusty Banjul

We visit a church and a little mosque. Banjul is filled with government offices and ministries and therefore is highly protected. We reach the Arch 22, a beautiful arch which stands over the main road and entrance to the highway. After that, we reach the central mosque, an amazing building paid for by the Saudi government which stands at the end of the city. We go inside and we are welcomed by a friendly practitioner who spends a long time explaining us some parts of the Quraan. Afterwards and just when the sun was setting we are lucky to find a taxi driver who would take us to Bakau. The road that connects Banjul to mainland Gambia is very well preserved and there are several police checkpoints. In fact, one policeman asks us for our papers. Our driver explains to us it is for safety and to prevent any danger to the capital. We arrive to our hotel — a very cheap guesthouse (just 12€ each) with mosquito net, AC, running water and electricity. It seemed like a dream. It is too late but we go out to grab some dinner. We find an amazing five-star hotel, probably one of the best buildings in the country. We go to a place called “Calypso Restaurant “. It was quite fancy and “expensive” in Gambian terms. It was also about to close but they allow us to order take away. On our way back we see a large group of Indians heading back to the five-star hotel. Our journey is about to end but we still have some interesting things to do.

Banjul’s Central Mosque, paid by the Saudi government

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