From Gambia back to Senegal

This is a quick summary of our last few days up till Dakar:

We left Greater Banjul on the Lower River Division, the highway that runs along the southern bank of the Gambia river all the way to the extreme east of Gambia. The road, once past the birth village of President Jammeh, becomes unpaved and quite horrendous. One knows when we are passing his village as its entrance is guarded by a police checkpoint with traffic barriers across the highway. Hidden under a tree is a sandbag emplacement with an enormous gun protruding out from behind with two operatives in kevlar helmets looking over the ledge. A few more crack troops, his most loyal guard, mooch about in the shade.

We reach the ferry crossing from Mansa Konko to Farafenni. Compared to Bara this was a dream. Most of the traffic is large Senegalese trucks coming from Cassamance. As in Bara the weighing bridge was not working. I declared the Zil to be 7tonne and was issued with a 240 dialsi ticket. This was much cheaper than at Bara and we were not sitting targets for hasslers whilst we waited. A corrupted ‘fast track’ system is in place here too. One legitimate truck per ferry was being allowed whilst the rest of the traffic paid the extra to get on. I calculated that at one ferry per hour it would take us two days to cross! This time I paid the guard. I justified it to myself as all the traffic was commercial anyway. There were no school buses as in Bara. So after a negotiation I got the price down from 600 dialsi to 200 dilasi (4.40 euros). That could be an entire weeks wage for the guard, not something he would turn down. Immediately on paying the ferry we were taken past the queue and boarded the ferry that was at the dock. Success!

Twenty kilometers further north is the border with Senegal. This was beautiful. Fast, uncomplicated, as border crossings should be. The Gambian side asked for gifts but in a light hearted way. No offense taken when I declined. The Senegalese side just got on with the paperwork. I realise neither country knows how to fill in a Carnet! (though it is absolutely essential)

We reached Kaoloack in good time. The road from Farafenni to Kaoloack is almost as bad as the road from Kaoloack to the other border crossing of Karang. The only saving grace on the Farafenni route is that we missed out on the terrible Bara ferry. Kaoloang is as it was on our last visit, hot and busy. We pulled up at a bar for a break. It is been 40C+ in the truck and I have already made one break on the road for Miki to splash in a lake. I washed the dust away with an ice cold Gazelle beer – my favourite beer in West Africa. Mara had one too whilst Anika had a Gazelle pineapple soda. An admirer at the other end of the bar bought her a Fanta orange too! ‘I love you’, He shouted teasingly, though he already had two girlfriends leaning on his large belly.

As night fell we pulled off the main road (towards Mbour) somewhere near Ganboul Kedo. Wehad dinner of grilled Barracuda with fries. Delicious. The stars were beautiful and I lay on a rug with Anika pointing out stars and planets. She was curious as to why there were dark spots on the moon.

In the morning we continued on, stopping at a village for cheap provisions. Then passing Mbour and pulling off the road, west, to go to the coast. We were baked and needed a swim. The road leads into Popenguine, famous for its Black Madonna appearance for which there is now an annual pilgrimage to the local monastery. We followed the road to Yenne-Sur-Mer, stopping in Niangol for a swim. The water was ice cold, so cold my feet went numb. What a difference from the deliciously warm Gambian sea. Oddly Anika did not notice the cold atall. She dived right into the water and stayed in it the longest. The sea here is flat, protected by the Dakar peninsula.

This coastline is recommended in the LP as a good beach retreat. I would not say so. The entire stretch looks like it has been under development for the last ten years but few houses look complete. The stretch is mainly villas, shoulder to shoulder, three villas deep from the shoreline. Almost no houses are lived in (apart form a few builders that live-work), the roads are washed away, the electricity cables sag low, I can not imagine what the houses plan to do for water and sewage. There are few facilities. The beach is sand but most of the ground beneath the waterline is rock. We were lucky on our third attempt to find a stretch with a sandy bottom.

After a cool down we headed into Dakar. Wonderful Dakar – for our lightening tour!