…doing a Baldrick

In the immortal words of Baldrick, ‘I Have a Cunning Plan’ – an absolute guarantee that things will not go as planned.

In the immortal words of Baldrick (for non UK readers, a character from the TV sitcom “Blackadder”), ‘I Have a Cunning Plan’ – an absolute guarantee that things will not go as planned.

An early start at the Gare Routier (could have been earlier if I could manage to set the alarm), and breakfast on the hoof – hard boiled eggs in a roll, washed down with cafe Touba (a liquorice tasting sweet coffee).

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Having eaten half the roll and shared the rest with some kids, I finished the coffee. Being English and always taught not to litter, despite my travels, I instinctively look around for a litter bin – despite the sea of plastic that is common place in Africa…almost guiltily, I discretely drop it on a pile of rubbish. Strange mentality I know.

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So the plans goes something like this – I would make a one night stop over at Kaolack. Me and Kaolack have a love hate relationship following my last encounter when passing through there in 2014 enroute to Dakar. Then I described it like a Mad Max 3 town – solely on the basis of its Gare Routier, which to put it mildly, is absolute chaos and a fitting description in light of the film.

I decided that I would stay at the rated budget Auberge de Kaolack, which despite its budget tag, boasted a swimming pool. Anyway, arriving at Kaolack, and after a short scooter ride, I pitch up to what was actually a rather nice hotel – but crammed full of expats. Needless to say there was no room, nor at either of the 2 sister hotels in town.

Decision time…do I risk wasting another hour or so trying to find a room (the alternatives being distinctly unattractive), or make a run for The Gambia before the border closes?  Cutting my losses, I head to the Gare Routier, where a giant African kindly helps me find the right car, sort ticket, and water in short order. Happy to tip him 1000cfa.

Heading out, the driver gets side swiped by a truck, removing the protective grill from the rear light cluster. Bearing in mind that a sept places are beaten up old cars, with doors held on by string, barely road worthy (surely that’s a contradiction in terms), so what does it matter one further scratch?  Anyway, a heated exchange follows…police…money…more heated exchanges and after a mere 50 minutes we’re off, heading to the Senegal border.

After an uneventful 80 odd kms, arrive at the border, clear Senegalese formalities and “cross” into The Gambia. Immigration first…write out details in a ledger, usual question as to why you’re coming to The Gambia, occupation, etc etc. The guy then has the brass neck to ask what I had for him. Why??? So I told him I did have something for him…Advice. The advice being that he should help prevent bribery and corruption as it was bad for The Gambia. Perhaps not the wisest thing to say in the circumstances, but it suitably perplexed him and he waved me on my way to clear customs.

A lucky encounter with a local policeman who kindly gave (read for a fee) me a lift to the ferry terminal at Barra, and a chance to relax with a local beer Jul Brew. Well I say relaxed because this is The Gambia, home of the bumster/hustler/fixer…

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West Africa revisited

Stepping out of the surgery with both arms feeling the effects of the freshly administered jabs (Typhoid, Rabies, Meningitis & Hep B), I’m ready for my return to West Africa!

Stepping out of the surgery with both arms feeling the effects of the freshly administered jabs (Typhoid, Rabies, Meningitis & Hep B), I’m ready for my return to West Africa!

This time around, I’m heading off to Dakar (Senegal) to catch up with my friend Adolphus Mawalo from West Africa Democracy Radio before heading south to the Casamance region to spend a few days with Kath & Adam at the Kora Workshop in Kafountine, then on to stay with Simon & Khady at The Little Baobab in Abene.

In the meantime, trouble is brewing in The Gambia following the recent elections (December 2016) when Yahya Jammeh was voted out of office as president (which he accepted with seemingy good grace!). With the hand over to the president elect Adama Barrow due on 19 January 2017, it seems that Yahya has had a change of heart and is threatening to hold onto power. Just to make matters worse, the army chief  Ousman Badjie has also had a change of heart and is supporting the president’s attempt to stay in office. What this means for the future of The Gambia in the short term is uncertain, especially with rumours  of mercenaries being hired in from Liberia…

Subject to the political vagaries of The Gambia, all being well I will be continuing on to Sierra Leone to complete my aborted 2014 journey (I wasn’t able to get a visa due to the unwieldy Sierra Leone bureaucracy in their embassy in Conakry). This time around I’m applying for my visa in advance via the London embassy, rather than risking waiting until I reach the border.

With just over 4 weeks to go until my departure on 04 February 2017, I’m hoping that with the improved internet access in West Africa to be able to continue this blog until my return!

 

 

The Gambia

Monday 20th January 2014

Two days in Banjul before heading north to Dakar.

Luckily managed to secure a room with a family on arrival, with Ismaila acting as a guide for the duration. Good start as its ly intention to avoid hotels where possible.

Tuesday started with trip to Senagalese consolate for visa. Despite pre registration on line, still needed more formalities…biometrics &another photo. Collected late afternoon, I arrived late, but just managed to get passport back! The biometrics are in sharp contrast to the procedure at the border the following day when the details were hand written into scruffy ledgers!

Spent rest of day travelling around and had the great luck of meeting the fabulous kora player Sona Jobarteh and her son Sidique. Sona hails from a griot and is unique in being the first female player of the kora.

Banjul – arrival

Shaun has arrived safely in Banjul after a good flight and into hot and sunny weather, certainly a welcome break from the rain back at home.

He has managed to find accommodation with a local family and in true vagabond style, now shares a room with Ishmail and is sleeping on a very thin mattress directly on a concrete floor! He is managing to keep the mosquitoes at bay for the time being.

Ishmail has proved invaluable and has shown Shaun around, helping him with the visas and introducing him to Sona Jobarteh… Shaun met Sona in London and i can imagine he was a little ‘star struck’ as he sat having lunch with her at her family home.

An excellent start to an amazing adventure!