Crossing The Border
The smiling coast is what the tourist brochures call Gambia and for once it's not an exaggeration. I've never met a nationality quite like the Gambians. They nearly all want to talk to you and help you. Of course it helps that they speak English!
However, my first experience wasnt quite so enjoyable. During the political instability up to a quarter of the population fled into Senegal, now it's safe again they are all returning. The problem though is there are no bridges across the river Gambia in Gambia! This left me competing for space on the biggest ferry (space for about 20 cars) with trucks, cars, motorcycles, people, goats, chickens and furniture. After being told to wait in a spot for 1.5 hours under the midday sun in sweaty bike gear, they finally open the gate. Suddenly I'm swamped with all the animals of the ark pushing towards this narrow entrance. The staff have no idea how to organise the crowd and close the gate until people stop pushing, which isnt said loud enough for anyone at the back to hear! So 45 mins later about 30 people have got through and I've not moved from my spot in the sun. Then they open the gates completely and order everyone to the side, to let the vehicles off the ferry. So everyone shifts to the side, almost pushing me and the bike over in the process. This leaves me in the same position but now on the edge of the cleared path, perilously close to the trucks trying to squeeze through. Now the staff start shouting at me to move across out of the way. After 2.5 hours being baked, all patience evaporated from my body, I angrily snap back and say "where the f### am i meant to go". At this point the guy makes some space next to me by kicking some goats. I then have to point out that motorbikes don't just move sideways without moving forward or backwards too! I do eventually get on the boat, albeit after being accused of not buying a ticket, even though I'd given it to them already - this situation was met with a full rainbow of expletives.
If it wasn't for the general friendliness then the capital, Banjul, would be slightly terrifying. At night there is almost no electricity in the city and what little light there is, is from the cars and trucks on the few main roads. This came as quite a shock after Senegal and it just instantly feels very unsafe to be in a city without lighting, but the reality is that it's fine. At least my 'bravery' to walk about at night has been rewarded by stumbling across Gambia's very own beer, Julbrew, by far the best beer in Africa...so far!
I'm now just about to leave Banjul after visiting the Abuko nature reserve, where I've seen lots of wild animals from monkeys to vultures as well as some sadder looking caged ones such as hyenas. I also used my guide to try and get over my fear of animals when wild camping. It didn't really work as he just told me about all the animals that might try to kill me....just in Gambia. For those who want to know, the list includes crocodiles, hippos, green mamba snakes, baboons and hyenas.Read more