Lubbly Jubbly…

The Gambia, or the Smiling Coast, favoured winter sunshine destination for Europeans…

The Gambia, or the Smiling Coast, favoured destination for Europeans in search of winter sun. Instead, today’s like a typical English summer…cloudy and cool.

Taking the opportunity of a rest day, gives me the chance to catch up on my blog, get some clothes washed and just chill at a nearby hotel at Cape Point, Bakau. That’s if I can avoid the offers of taxi every 10 metres, offers of guides, remember me, and of course the locals telling me “Lubbly Jubbly”. What exactly is Lubbly Jubbly defeats me, as I feel the effects of ‘something I ate’…where’s the nearest loo?

The hotel I’ve pitched up at to write my blog, is atypical of the type seen in The Gambia…not quite fish and chips and kiss me quick hats, but you get the idea. Mainly Germans and Dutch…not sure if the Brits have plucked up the courage to return.

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Chatting to the proprietor of a well known local restaurant last night, it’s clear that whilst everyone welcomes Adama Barrow as the new president, there is very much an air of caution; the promises of changes within 3 years being perceived as unrealistic. Quite probably, but a start has to be made somewhere. Whilst it is clear, that Yahya Jammeh’s departure is welcome, people still add a note of caution as to how easy it could all change. But that’s Africa for you…

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With the inauguration only a week away, everything appears low key. The Senagalise contingent of ECOMIG, a kilometre up the road, appear relaxed with a large number of them hanging out on the cliffs over the beach talking on their phones. Certainly happy to acknowledge and exchange a bon jour etc.

Not sure how Lubbly Jubbly translates into French!

 

 

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…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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On The Road…

Not a reference to Jack Kerouac’s book, but the more mundane pleasures of getting to the airport and onward travel to West Africa…

In this case not a reference to Jack Kerouac’s book, but the more mundane pleasures of getting to the airport. ..in this case London Gatwick.

It’s some 12 years since I first travelled through West Africa, and a lot has changed. Where before it was feasible to travel to Timbuktu and even to the Festival in the Desert,  now it’s a no go zone.

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My first trip to Bamako was the start of my child hood dream…following in the steps of such famous explorers as Mungo Park en route to Timbuktu. Having said that, it was somewhat easier flying than directly there, rather in Mungo’s days, even if it was in a dilapidated Russian crate of a plane. Just as well the runway at Bamako airport was very long.

Moving on to the present day, I’m supposed to be jumping on a plane to head off to Dakar in Senegal shortly, but as ever, life’s not straight forward, particularly as my ‘day job‘ requires me to go to Ipswich to give expert evidence in the Crown Court case.

What had been carefully planned for some months, is now threatened by a demand to appear at short notice – despite having told everyone that I wasn’t available. No consideration is given for my travel arrangements or work to be completed, whatsoever. Still, I know the pitfalls, and as we always used to say in the Navy, ‘that’s life in a blue suit!’

If I’m lucky, my point blank refusal to attend will be accepted (as any reasonable person would expect), however we are talking about the English justice system, just hope the Judge has a good breakfast and is considerate! If not, it’ll be an order to appear or face contempt of Court (travel plans will definitely be on hold then).

Still on the bright side, I hear prison foods quite good these days now that Jamie’s involved…but being a glass half full sort of chap, I suspect it’ll all pan out alright.

Moving on to my current plans, first stop Dakar, then Saint Louis and onto Touba and Tambacounda before crossing into The Gambia and travelling along the river to Banjul.

Now that the former president Yayah Jammeh has departed, I’m looking forward to seeing the changes that have started to appear…certainly the national spirit is on a high, and hopefully this will auger well for the economy. How Adama Barrow is going to deal with a nigh on bankrupt state remains to be seen…we wish him well.

Continuing from Banjul will take me into the Cassamance region, an area neglected by tourists over the last decade or so, partly due to the separatist movement in the region, coupled with over zealous warnings from the FCO about the dangers of travelling in the South of Senegal…seemingly unfounded given the peace that’s prevailed for many years. Yes there are checkpoints, and on occasion the odd request for ‘la cadeau’, but all in all a smile will ease the way.

From the Cassamance it’ll be a return trip to Dakar for a flight to Freetown in Sierra Leone…a country I missed on my last trip due to delays in getting a visa in Guinea Conakry. Failing that, it’ll be overland via Guinea Bissau and Guinea, with a side trip to the Fouta Djalon reigion. 

In Sierra Leone, I’m looking forward to a side trip to Bunce Island, one of many slave islands in the region (probably less well know than Goree Island off of Dakar).

Travelling in West Africa is tough; there is no public transport or railways (mineral trains are generally off limits), so travel is invariably by the ubiquitous “sept place” – old Peugeot 504s, which will be crammed with many more the the ‘sept’ (7) seats, together with mounds of luggage and other goods. These 504s have definitely seen better days and would instantly be condemned and sent to the crusher in the UK. Still, if you’ve a sense of adventure and a strong constitution, there are undoubtedly worse ways of getting around!

Travel in West Africa is not something that can be planned to any degree, which it so much more exciting than the daily commute…

If anyone would like to contact me on my travels,  email vagabondingafrica@yondercot.uk

Be great to hear from you to to meet enroute.

Shaun – 01/02/17