10° Latitude / 1000 miles in three days – crossing the Sahara

 Mauritania – Western Sahara – Morocco

N18°13’08” W016°02’10” – N22°03’16” W16°44’51” – N26°07’32” W14°29’09” – N28°59’15” W010°03’27”

Km (miles) today (feb. 23.): 540 (335)

24.: 560 (350)

25.: 645 (401)

Next day (21.) in the evening I recognized I got two Emails from Mike whom I met in Kartong on his Yamaha Tenere. I wanted to meet him in Rao but he didn’t show up. He is in Nouakchott too and wants to head north early next morning. I got everything ready, just would like to change some money in the morning so we decide to go together. I pack all and when I check the bike I find out the oil level is low. Internet is turned off already so I am not able to inform Mike about me having to see a mechanic before taking the ride through the Sahara.

So I get up early next day, Nico shows me the mechanics place and then I go to inform Mike at Auberge Sahara about what had happened. Mike decides to wait for me and takes the chance to change his chain. I am pretty sure a seal in my oil system is a little broken, I already had this problem but the oil level is now ok again and the mechanic says its probably just petrol. He rips me off for this information which I know is bullshit but the oil level is ok now and its incredibly hot! Mike and I decide to spend the evening at Nicos place and hit the road a little past 3am heading to the border which is around 450km away.

Day 1

Its incredibly cold on the bike and I am freezing all the time even though I am well dressed. We arrive at the only petrol station (with not only diesel) exactly in the middle between Noakchott and the border a little past 6 in the morning. Everybody is still sleeping so Mike gets out his petrol cooker to make some fire to get a little warmer. The petrol station opens at seven so we fill up and are on the road again when the sun is rising.

 Arriving at the border at little past 10 in the morning I am a little worried about the Mauretanien stamp in my passport having not paid for a visa. Mike was sent back when he tried to enter Mauretania in Diama without visa but he didn’t have my magic police letter… (they sent him back to Dakar). At the first stop Mike has to do fingerprints and interview about where when and why, I can pass with none of this. And so it goes on at the Mauretanian side for me no problem, no question and for Mike the usual routine. So my advice when u try this – Get that police letter for residential visa when u are in Nouakchott and show it on the way back when entering! Saves obviously money and time! The letter itself only costs a little time.

After crossing the 5km No Mans Land between the borders the good luck turns around. First stop in Morocco no problem but at the second one they don’t want to stamp my passport. They look at all the visas in there again and again and start discussing. Half an hour waiting later they finally give me my entry stamp and I can move on to the customs. The border here has changed since I was here last time I recognize. Much more officials: military, customs, police….

I fill out a form for the bike get it stamped then go to another officer who searches my boxes very rude and impolite, drops my insulin on the floor and leaves me in a complete mess. At least I get the stamp so back to the office to get another signature on the form. Finished, I think when I have it and recognize a customs dog at the vehicles that leave morocco – that’s new too. The way out of customs area is blocked and a minute later I see Mike waiting in front of a big hall – all vehicles coming to Morocco and all trucks going out get x-rayed – at the moment the x-ray is blocked by outgoing trucks.

Its around 2 pm now and we are on the road for 11 hours, still not in Morocco and still 80km to go to a place where we can finally sleep waiting for an X-ray of the motorbikes. When I was asked if I have something to declare I told them only the kalaschnikow in the guitar bag. They laughed at me but did not look. Nobody took care of the bag that was always on my back if there would have been a kalaschnikow inside I would have had imported it legally – at least I had declared one…

Finally after more than 4 hours border procedure I wait at the petrol station after the border for Mike who is trying to get himself an insurance. He takes some time and half an hour later we finally start todays endspurt. Arriving afternoon instead of lunchtime we eat and pass away early evening. I sleep amazingly well until next day morning when Mike knocks at the door around 6 o clock. Like every morning when doing miles I drink a red bull from the ones I bought in the Gambia while I pack.

Day 2:

When the bikes are ready we drink a coffee to hit the road a little before sunrise. Todays target is Boujdour, little more than 500km north of where we start. I slept there in a nice and cheap hotel so its comfortable as we don’t need to search and can just follow my gps.

The sunrise in the desert is mind blowing and I enjoy the day starting at the same moment I start the engine! (Well coffee before was great too) The wind is blowing little less than on the way down, but now in our face and not in our back. We need incredible lots of petrol (both more than 9 on 100km) so I have to stop at the first petrol station after 160km.

We drink a coffee while three cops are just about starting to build up a checkpoint (= they stand on the street staring in different directions). It looks funny in the middle of the desert so I take a picture out of the window of the coffee. That picture costs us half an hour as one of the cops has seen me, they are really bored and have nothing better to do than to check if I have taken pictures of more “military objects” (like petrol stations or bored police officers). I am glad I haven’t and delete the ones they don’t like.

Today we enjoy the road taking many breaks for coffee and petrol and have fun. Late afternoon I see dark spots of several hundred square meters in the sea and it takes me about an hour before I realize it’s the shadows of the first clouds I have seen in weeks! Still the temperature is perfect all day and we arrive in Boujdour in the afternoon. We get all we need soon and find ourselves then at a restaurant eating, drinking coffee and chatting. What an amazing day this was!

Day 3:

Again we leave early and enjoy the desert sunrise on the road. Today will be the hardest one as we expect sand and wind on the way to come. After the first nearly 200km the first town after Boujdour is Laayoune. We stop a little before at it harbor to get petrol and breakfast. For the first time we can choose now: Highway or along the beach to Tarfaya? Of course we go along the beach – the desert landscape of this road is as amazing as itself is tire eating.

I like Tarfaya and we make one of todays many breaks there. It is amazing how we manage to do such a milage together and have so much fun on two so different bikes! Mike can go 400km under this conditions and I have a maximum of 240 maybe while my bike is much stronger and faster. But I wait while riding and we drink coffee every time we get petrol (mostly for me). After Tarfaya the next stop is in Akhfenir. I get petrol and they manage to put 10.5 liter in a 10 liter tank with 2 liter inside before already…. DON’T PUT PETROL IN AKHFENNIR! There are 3 petrol stations with at least one having digital measurement a few kilometers north of town at the police checkpoint!

Between Akhfennir and Tan Tan there are a few lagoons on the beach and in the first one I recognize spoon bills! I brake sharp, stop the bike and get out the big camera. That is one of the birds I wanted to see but until today haven’t! Mike passes by so I hurry up and go on. In the next lagoon again a shoal of big wading birds a little further away. They look a little like flamingos but I am not sure because of the distance. I take a few pictures and find out later that I have really seen two big groups of flamingos out there!

Mike waits for me at a roundabout a little before Tan Tan and we get a coffee in town around 4pm. The decision to go to the next town Guelmim was already made in Tarfaya, its only 130 more kilometers and we have well more than two hours until sunset. At the end of the day we find a cheap but luxurious hotel, great food (well, chicken&chips) and diet red bull! I had the last one this morning so this is just perfect!

Tomorrow Mike will go on heading quickly north while I will only go about 50km to the coastal town of Sidi Ifni. Thank you Mike for these amazing three days, for all the things I learned from you, for your great company and your permanent smile and good mood. There is only one road on this planet and it is connected all over. I hope we meet again out there one day and share another thousand miles!

Save journey my friend!

Kwinella – Nouakchott

N13°24’05” W015°48’10” – N15°55’66” W16°24’21” – N18°13’08” W016°02’10” crossing again at Diamma, close to St. Louis (not Rosso/Richard Toll as the map suggests) taking the way thru the biosphere reserve – GM doesnt know theres a border there obviously….

km done: feb.19.: 400      feb.20.: 330

After getting an amazing breakfast next morning my new friends, the teachers of the nearby school tell me about a problem with the water supply at their school. It’s a solar powered pump and I am engineer… I take a look at it. There is no pump and the inverter is falling apart. I find out everything has been checked already by technicians, to repair it would cost 3000 Euro of which they have 1000 already. If I possibly could help them… its about the children!

I think a few hours about it and then talk to one of the teachers who speaks the best English. In fact the amount of money is not incredibly high. Higher for me alone than for their community in the village which is several hundred people. His last and best argument (remember, there is somebody volunteering here, of the problem is actually already taken care from somebody who does things like this professional) is that I am white, so I am supposed to give the money. The people here have been really nice to me so it makes me sad we have to disappoint each other so much. I don’t have 2000 Euro in my pocket to give away like this and I am not sure if this is what the people here need – another white guy who proves that all white guys just come to supply them.

In the afternoon I pack my stuff on the bike and head to the ferry crossing river Gambia just in time to cross the Senegalese border before it is being closed. When the Gambian customs officer demands 5 Euro I pretend being dumb so he sends me to the police. Passport stamp and straight forward to the other side. Within 15 minutes the border is crossed without paying no bribe at all! Great! I don’t find a money changer so I stop at a restaurant in a village about 50km after the border. I tell I am hungry but only have Euro. Little after I have finished food the boy comes back having changed 100 Euro at a much better rate than offered at the border.

The ride to Saint Louis becomes a night ride. I go with just a view more breaks around 300km after dark and arrive in Saint Louis at 2 am. Luckily I had the number from the neighbor of the Guesthouse so the people from the restaurant where I had changed money earlier had informed them about my late arrival tonight. By the way I see three small and very long foxes crossing the street in the dark!

Border crossing next morning is again very straight forward. Stupid police officer who wouldn’t hand my passport back before bribing on the way is smiling now and asking for me to play guitar. I wait until I have my passport back and tell him there is a bulk offer: 2 songs for 10 euro… I turn around and cross the river – no music this time. For Mauretanien side I prepare 50 Euro for the visa. In Nouakchott I tried to get my visa extended before which was not possible within the validity of the first visa. However I had gotten a paper from the police headquarter then to prove not to have been caught committing any crimes in Gambia ever before. Guys at the border are somehow impressed by the paper, stamp my passport for free and say Good bye! Passavant for the bike is 10 euro again and all together hardly 20 minutes after approaching Senegale border post I ride on the dam into Mauretanie hunting wild boars along the road!

The road seems to be much better this time. I have seen much worse since being here last time so I take most of it at pretty high speed having a lot of fun until more and more sand dunes are on the way. Most of the weight of the heavy loaded bike is too much in the rear. When coming on sand I start swimming immediately and the heavy bike with tyres which are slicks by now is impossible to handle.

One time in a very unexpected sanddune right next to the dam I slip and fall. Nothing happens so far but there is nobody to help me lifting up the bike – I am alone in the desert. I dropped the bike on the damn so its not full down and the sideback is helping too. I try a trick standing with my rear to the bike and lift it up! YEAH! I never thought I could do this alone!

Around 70 km after the border the piste becomes a highway and I increase the speed – at sunset I am sitting in my favourite café in Nouakchott. When dusk is about to end I am at Les Sultanes. “Welcome home!” Nicolas says and it really feels so. I eat diner with the staff at the kitchen and have real coffee and un petit peu internet. I am happy to be here!

Tendaba – Kwinella

N13°26’24” W015°48’29” – N13°24’05” W015°48’10” 

km: 5

I sleep really bad tonight. The tide is high and the waves sound like rain, it is incredibly cold at the river (around 20 degrees). In the morning its stormy and cold at only freezing 19°C. I skip the morning bird watching and decide together with Jemmah, my host, to go in the afternoon when the weather might be better. I really like the people here, out of the tourist places you can really find nice and very hospitable places!

The mangroves forest meeting the Savannah on the other riverside is really spectaculars and the neverending herons of all kinds are amazing. Even the people are really nice and when coming back from the boat trip the children of the village give me a nice welcome so I take one of them on my shoulders and go to the shop to get Nescafe. When we come back the others want rides on my shoulders too so it takes some time before I finally get my coffee,,, Never mind, we have a lot of fun!

In the afternoon and on the boat trip next morning I talk a lot with Jemmah, about all his little problems. He wants to open a bigger resort on the other side of the river – on an amazing place just where the wetlands meet with Savannah – it would be a crime building something there! However he is searching for a partner as he could get 2 ha of land on a little hill there for less than 2000 Euro.

While telling me this on the way back over the river he is busy keeping the water level in the leaking boat low. The toilet in his “restaurant” is a hut on a bridge – shower too! Sorry man I know I am at the hand right now but I don’t want to be your partner. He is only a little disappointed when I leave to Kwinella, the little village on the way here. I want to spend my last night in Gambia there.

I get an amazing welcome at the village. Evening bird watching is not happening because of being surrounded by amazingly nice and beautiful people all the time. In the evening when making music a girl from the USA who is volunteering there hears me and comes to have a chat. She tells me things then that make me see the women here different. Most of the girls in the rural areas in the Gambia have their Clitoris and parts of their labia cut off when they are between 8 and 13. I can hardly express what I feel then. Even at Jemmahs place in Tendaba girls where more or less offered to me with the words “you are a man, you need sex….” – and girls are not supposed to have fun? How can these guys here enjoy sex with girls who……? This is just so… African! I and I the rastaman says…

wild mix of pics without comment… check out the difference between high tide and low tide more than 200 kilometers away from the coast!

Kartong – Tendaba


 

N13°06’24” W016°45’57” – N13°26’24” W015°48’29”

Feb 15. & Feb 16.

Km on Feb 16:165

I get up a little past 6, pack my camera and head to riverside café for my bird watching appointment – but nobody there! After ten minutes a soldier from the first checkpoint at the border comes and tells me it will only take a few more minutes. The sound of the birds from the opposite (Senegalese) river bank is amazing so I decide ten minutes later to go alone. The soldier obviously expects me to circle around a little and then give up trying to move the boat with one paddle only so he hands me the paddle without hesitation. Five minutes later I see his surprised face only from far away. I go to the other riverside but cant really take pictures when stirring the boat.

When I come back my “guide” is sitting there with the soldier and an old guy. After he excuses himself the old guy suddenly grabs something out of his pocket and everyone of the three guys is rolling himself a joint. I cant believe it and look questioning at the soldier. “No problem, I am first police post in the Gambia” he says offering me some. I say “thank you, no” and hop on the bike to meet Mike in the village. I give him the coordinates of my last stop in Senegal (the place where I slept the first night there) and we agree to meet there at 19. He tells me about Collin, a guy from GB who is doing some serious scientific bird watching here and has a kind of his own reservation!

I directly go there and its really amazing. In the first five minutes I see a crocodile again while talking to Collin and his fellow. I make a walk circling around the area and decide to come back in the evening. Leaving the area I check out a small road on the motorbike and nearly get stuck in the sand. Well, nearly only and I really can practice my sand skills in that half an hour it takes me to get out again. After that I handle sandy spots on the bike much better!

Sleeping all afternoon I return just a little before sunset. What to do I think and decide to come back early next morning before leaving.

The moonset and sunset are amazing at the reservation. After this experience I get a coffee at the village hoping to see Mike and then go back to check out. The nice lady who cooked my first food with love is there again and offers breakfast for free! That is really the first time in Gambia I stay at a place where not all is about money! I can truly recommend this place! Nice and lonely beach, good food and very good vibes! You will easily find it following the satellite coordinates! Just bargain a little!

The day is pretty chilly again (around 28°C only) so I really enjoy the ride on the bike to Tendaba! At the last little village before Tendaba I stop and ask for a place to sleep. I get an opportunity to sleep FOR FREE at a real nice place so I unload the bike. Little later I go to Tendaba to see the posh River Side Camp there. The place is not expensive but not really nice too so I just ask for the boat trip. Maybe at seven maybe at eight, however a bargain for 6 euro only.

I decide to check out the tiny village of Tendaba for a coffee and get offered a really amazing room (in my eyes at least) above the water for an affordable price. Boat trips and food are possible too. I count my money and the guys make a real nice all inclusive price including 2 boat trips and three nights and no need to do the way to a money changer before crossing the border to Senegal on Wednesday!

I quickly want to go back to the village to collect my stuff and talk to the for sure little disappointed people there. In my happiness about the amazing place I stand next to the bike on the wrong side when taking it of the main stand. It loses balance and the right side mirror breaks off. I am such a dumb idiot (sometimes)! At the village I promise to come next evening to make music and as I’ve seen a hornbill I haven’t caught on picture yet (again) on the way to the village I will spend some time around there anyway.

Later I sit a little further out on the bridge my hut is on (kind of my balcony) and enjoy an amazing sunset and excellent bird watching! More or less sitting above the water in my new home. What an amazing place! And it either seems like I slowly start finding the right people too. They are even disappointed when I don’t make music this evening…

The internet signal is blown away by the cold wind today. Got a bunch of amazing pictures and will try to upload them when its less windy!

Serrekunda – Kartong

 

N13°26’14” W016°42’50” – N13°06’24” W016°45’57”

Feb 13.

Km today: around 120

In the morning I drink chai again and then slowly pack my stuff. I plan to go only 40km to the south western edge of the Gambia today so I have time. I go to the supermarket, the petrol station and to the restaurant for coffee and internet. I don’t change money as I expect some money changers in the village. There is no real border there but it is possible to cross the small river on a rowing boat. I leave Serrekunda happily a little after lunchtime.

A few kilometers later all becomes more shanty. No more resorts or night clubs, no supermarkets and totally overpriced restaurants anymore. I go quickly and some 10 km before my destination I pass a police checkpoint. I don’t see anybody so I start accelerating again when suddenly a guy in uniform is jumping out of the shadow ordering me to come back. Different than at the other checkpoints (“Hello how are you?” – “Good how are you?” – “Good how are you?” – “I am still good can I go on?” – “Yes of course”) he asks for my passport.

When I give it to him another guy in a dress that is little dirty comes closer. I try to ignore him but suddenly he shows an ID telling me he is from the Gambia drug police. I look questioning and he explains that I am approaching the border that’s why he has to check what I have with me. Well first of all, the border is 12km away in a country which is 35 km wide, so I am rather in the center than close to the border, second I never got checked for drugs anywhere when leaving a country and third – I am a tourist on a motorbike, what amount of whatever should I have with me? This guy is obviously after high bribes from tourists that had been stupid enough to buy this stinking Cinapis stuff people are smoking here at every corner.

Two minutes later when he is sure I don’t have anything he could get me in trouble for he calls me friend and ask me to give him an invitation to Europe. Of course I say, outside smiling inside laughing – after crossing so many borders my sympathy for people who didn’t learn anything better than searching other peoples stuff and even have fun doing this is, lets say rather small…

Coming closer to the river at the border there are more checkpoints coming… Police, Customs, military, and before I am at the recommended river side café immigration police. They ask for my passport and I give it to them. They ask for the visa but I don’t have one as I just got an entry stamp. I go and have coffee first. 20 Minutes later I have arranged a boat trip for the next morning. The area looks really nice with mangroves all over, no mixed couples or prostitutes yet and for the time of the day a lot of birds.

Going back I get my visa but don’t have enough money on me to pay the 20 euro so they agree in getting half of the money next morning when I come for the boat trip. What a weird border, they don’t even seem to be sure themselves if I need a visa – but I get a receipt for the full amount I should have paid…

I start to look for a place to sleep thinking that I will leave without paying the full visa if I don’t find the real perfect place. Unfortunately I find it neighboring the overpriced (30 euro for a hut at the beach!) lodge recommended by lonely planet. Its an amazingly quiet place with a very nice lady who is carrying around her baby wherever she moves. Basic room is 20 euro. I offer 10 and after some bargaining she accepts.

After taking my stuff into my room I go back to Kartong village to change money but before I can do so I see a touringbike in front of a restaurant. I stop and go inside. There is a Nordic looking guy sitting at a table with a local guy. He has seen me approaching so we say hello and start talking. I move to their table before my coffee comes and we keep talking what bikers have to talk when meeting somewhere in the jungle thousands of kilometers from home.

Suddenly the guy who is with him interrupts me in the middle of a sentence:”You give me cigarette!”. I ignore him so he interrupts two more times until I tell him he will get nothing from me on order, maybe by asking in a polite way but for sure not like this. Mike, the biker from Great Britain smiles at me even though I feel bad being so rude when meeting somebody who seems so nice – the other guy looks pissed. Two minutes later he tells Mike he leaves and Mike seems pleased to hear that. When he asks for a cigarette again Mike gives him one in exchange for the promise to smoke it somewhere else.

I like Mike. For some reasons Mike thinks about going back pretty quickly in a few days. I will stay in the Gambia only for a few more days too and if the Mali visa regulations are not extremely welcoming I plan to move to the north of the Sahara rather fast too then. I suggest to go together and he is happy about it. I want to change money and be at the beach in time for the sunset so we make an appointment for the next day when I come back from bird watching.

Unfortunately there is no money changer in town and the only offer I get is so bad that I can buy twice the amount of petrol I would need for going back to Serrekunda to change there. I decide to quickly go there after sunset and go to the beach at my lodge.

Approaching the beach I seem to be in heaven! Kilometers of beautiful, clean (beach around Serrekunda is extremely dirty with every wave leaving a black surface on the sand) and empty beach. I take out the guitar and start to play. Within the hour I sit there only one guy is passing by starting to talk to me while I am in the middle of a beautiful song. I manage not letting him me disturb only for a bit and as he obviously expects me to stop making music now! to tell him “I am good, how are you?” he disappears within a second. The sunset is mindblowing then.

At the lodge I ask the nice lady for dinner and then quickly ride to Serrekunda to change money. Maybe I just have to do this to see one more time how much nicer the place where I am now is. In front of the money changer “Hey brother, you remember me, we meet here yesterday!” I have never been at this corner of Serrekunda before…. At the money changer a girl looking only nearly like a prostitute gives me a pile of 100 Dalasi bills – should be 53 and when she recognizes I start counting she puts two more bills on the pile without losing a word. On the way back I stop at the last huge supermarket but in the same moment an old fat german guy comes out there sounding like he is nearly getting an orgasm when he sees me: WOW ADVENTURE KTM, mal sehen wo der herkommt! (lets see where this guy is coming from). Who needs supermarkets… anyway I am late already and my food is probably waiting for me. Before he can take a look at my number plate I disappear at high speed in the dark.

At my new home the food is ready and I even get a huge plate of salad. For the first time since Mauretania I have the feeling to eat something cooked with love. I start thinking about staying a second night here maybe. I really do like the place and later in the evening the cycads and the ocean make a fantastic sound. This place is amazing!

 

Serrekunda

Feb 12

At around 4am I wake up all over sweating even though its not soo warm. Hypoglycemia, I realize and start eating chocolate but one second… I injected pretty nearly the same amount of insuline I would have had injected at home under this conditions but the insulin I am carrying had became pretty warm in the metal cases when riding through the desert several times (not to speak about the attack at my last stay). The potency is hard to test but must be much less than it would be when fresh that’s for sure (it was really warm a quite few times)… So maybe the stem cell therapy is working but I don’t realize because of the decreasing potency of my insulin in the warmth…. Maybe the sweat attack this night means good news after I already thought it would not work (either stem cell therapy and insulin )!

After that I eat two plates of spaghetti and go to bed again. I wake up late and go to check out a bird watching spot close to where I stay. I have breakfast there and people tell me its better to come back at sunset. I go back to my place and find out I got a new neighbor. A “lady” from GB who calls herself a cripple is busy supervising a young black boy who is carrying boxes of beer into her apartment. Later I find out they are a “couple”. I decide to go to town to look for a capotaster and surprise surprise, hardly 45 minutes later I got one at a really nice and good music shop (ask for gambia music shop near westfield junction)! I have little time until the bird watching so I go home to find out I got another new neighbor to my other side. An approximately 75 year old guy with his around 22 year old “girlfriend”. Too much again.

I had to pay the 3 nights in advance so I wait for the landlord to come back. I start playing guitar with the new capotaster and 2 minutes later the managers wife comes round asking me to stop the “noise”. Now that is insulting, people here are playing drums all night and when I play little guitar in the afternoon it is noise. Later I find out the “lady” next door, who is playing guitar herself had complained. I thought when she called herself a cripple it was about her ability to walk not to talk….
Manager is not coming back so I go to watch the birds. The places is nice and full of mangroves but the bird watching is disappointing. I walk around for a little more than an hour and go back.

When arriving at the lodge I ask if the manager has five minutes for me. Yesterday night when I paid I wanted to pay only one night but he, correctly, said “My friend we have agreement for three days, we shake hands”. Of course I paid immediately. Now I explain to him that this agreement was made when the place was halal and that it makes me sick watching my disgusting neighbors. I tell him I do not judge (well, I do) but don’t want to watch it whenever I open the door. He is muslim too and totally understands and agrees, he even offers to check out right now (check out time is usually 10am) but its getting dark and I just want to leave tomorrow morning, not now now. However the talk with the manager is very pleasant and I have the feeling I maybe should play the muslim card more often (by the way my father is from Pakistan, just so you know ;)).

Later I go to the indian supermarket again to buy at least 1,5liter diet red bull for the way. I think last time I got it was in spain and for weeks I was close to tears of pleasure when finding diet coke…Indian guys are incredibly nice again – I enjoy chatting in hindi – what you do here they ask…. I don’t have an answer… getting internet, diet redbull and capotaster…. They laugh. I buy haldirams, hide and seek cookies, dairy milk chocolate and lays chips. Coming home I make chai.


Ba Da La – Serrekunda

Ba Da La – Serrekunda

Feb 10 &11

N13°32’42” W014°45’32” – N13°26’14” W016°42’50”

Km driven: 320

When waking up I take my guitar and go to have coffee. Minutes later I recognize I forgot my Capotaster (part for the guitar) obviously under the table last night after the power was turned off. I ask everybody but nobody has seen it – they blame the monkeys. I think unless the monkeys play guitar this is very unlikely so I keep asking until they promise to ask the night guard. I keep searching all day but cant find it.

At around lunchtime one of the girls from the kitchen asks me if “I want to be her friend…” That has to spin twice in my head before I recognize what this is about. Sorry but that’s not what I am here for I tell her trying not to look too much disgusted by the situation.

In the evening I find out my Capotaster had been thrown away early morning because the girl who cleaned did not know what it was… (maybe she thought it has something to do with black magic, I think). I go to the pile of waste where some children tell me they have taken it to their village. To make the story short – if anybody would have listened to me in the morning there would have been a chance to get it back. But after asking the children they think they did something bad taking it and threw it in the river to destroy any prove of evidence.

Robert has left today in the morning so my connection to the people is gone too. I try to get the internet they had been promising since the first day again too. In fact all the guys are running around with smartphones and all Id need to get internet is a cable. But they just have been saying yes without doing nothing since I came, Capotaster same story.
Next day morning I find out my insulin had been dropped in the water of the fridge. The boxes are moldy already and five minutes after I mention it I catch them putting it in the sun to dry…. That’s too much, I pack my stuff and hit the road to the coast being so terrified by so much dumbness that I don’t stop before reaching my target Serrekunda.

There are many huge all inclusive clubs and discos and hardly any tourists younger than 60. I stop at the first café where I can park in the shadow and order Cappucino. I recognize a lot of mixed couples all of them with one old white part and the other sex being black and young. I ask for a budget place to sleep and a sleezy guy on the neighbor table suggests a place just around the corner, only 5 euro…. Per hour!

Ok, I go back on the road and turn the opposite direction of what they told me. At the next small road to the beach I am stopped (like hundred times before today) at a police checkpoint. Where you go they ask so I reply I search for a halal and cheap place to stay… “What?” they ask, “Halal” I repeat, “you are muslim no?”. Two minutes later one of them guides me to a nice apartment with kitchen and bath for 10 euro per night which seems ok. No internet though but the neighbor has and I can come over anytime.
Later in the evening I go back to the beach where the restaurants have wifi. Again, mixed couples all around me drinking cheap alcohol. I focus on the computer and when an African music group arrives and the Africans start dancing in front of Europeans I leave. Too much again. Robert told me about a fantastic opportunity for bird watching here so I will find out about that one tomorrow. And a good friend in Austria promised to find out about the Mali Visa rules.

By the way, in the evening I went to a huge super market close to my apartment. They even have die red bull there and a lot of indian food. I am wearing a dhoti for shopping and suddenly somebody behind me says “Nice dress!”. I turn around and that guy is not black… “Ap ka ha se hai?” I ask – “Agra… Hindi ata e?” is the answer (Where you from?/Agra, You speak hindi?). We smile at each other, I suddenly feel at home.

 

more than 20 bird species, 4 mammals, several reptiles and a wonderful flower!

 Ba Da La

Feb 9.

I stand up well before sunrise to meet Robert for a hippo excursion by boat down the river. On the 500m to the boat I already see a western red billed hornbill “singing” on the top of a tree throwing his head back rhythmically – what a start! Within the first ten minutes on the boat I am fully rewarded for all that happened in the last week. The birds here are really incredible and Robert proves to be a precious guide knowing a lot about them. I really enjoy his company and being satisfied with the birds alone I don’t mind that he told me he did 3 trips like this already here without ever seing a hippo.

After about half an hour of fantastic bird watching I suddenly recognize two big muddy clouds right underneath the boat! I show it to Robert and the others on the boat and only moments later a hippo appears upstream behind us in the reflecting sun. Just the upper part of the head and just for a second, far away but good enough to make us very happy (Me even more as I can proudly say I was the one to first spot it). A few minutes later the “captain” of the small boat points out at two humps close to the bank underneath some branches. “Hippos!” he says.

Taking a closer look from the far we recognize the backsides of two hippos reaching a little out of the water. Going closer I get some really nice shots of a cow and her calf and suddenly there are 5 or 6 hippos all around us. I start asking myself who is watching whom when one breaks through the surface just two meters in front of our boat – too close for my lense. On the way back we see more birds and one nile waran. On this boat trip I finally get some shots of the red monkeys too. In the afternoon I visit the bee eaters again and see a big snake on the way there. I finally manage to get satisfying shots of the bee eaters.

All together today I see more than 20 species of birds (taken nice close ups of 11 of them), 4 different kinds of mammals (all on picture), at least 4 different reptiles having a picture of one of them and a wonderful flower! So enjoy the pictures!

Ba Da La II

 Feb 8.

I stand up very early after not so much sleep to go to the neighbor camp to ask the rally guys for some engine oil. When I arrive there most of them are still sleeping but for the first time this year I see monkeys for more than a second on the street. On the street it was “the red ones” and here it is the second species here: the “black ones” (have to look up the real names) which are pretty similar to the ones in Pushkar but way smaller.

Suddenly the boys who took me to the camp are surrounding me again one of them telling me they have a letter for me. I think I know what this is about but he is cute and in the letter they ask for a donation for a new football. That is really cute but still I am not sure if they maybe do this with everybody coming along – this is a tourist place again! I want to help them bt to be sure this is real I ask them to arrange a boat trip to the hippos for a reasonable price. They agree and half an hour later they are back offering a boat trip for 30 euros. Well in the meantime I met Robert, a bird watcher from UK who is living here in winter time and a friend of his arranged a trip for less than 10 euros each.

Little later he shows me a colony of bee eaters which is probably the most amazing thing I have yet seen on this journey. And  its less than 500m from my camp so I will go back there in the days to come to take better pictures. When I come back to the camp I get a really nice room directly at the river for 16 euro including dinner and breakfast. I move my stuff there, fall over on the bed and sleep. At four o clock in the afternoon Robert wakes me up as we have an appointment to take the ferry to the city (Georgetown) on the Island. To the other side there is a bridge but where I am there is neither road nor power connection – only boat, ferry and generator for 3 or 4 hours in the evening.

Georgetown is a small village with not much more than the slave house and a few shops and restaurant along the road. It takes me ages to look for internet (even here, no power before 6 pm) and at the end I have no success. I see a beautiful old tree close to the road totally littered and cant help to take a huge plastic bag Allah put there just for me and clean the place. In the tree there is a cave so if clean it would even be possible to sleep in there but for sure enjoy the heat of the day. People are staring at me but its ok – better they think I lost my mind than they think I am an ATM.

When coming back to the camp people there already heard of what I’ve done. Suddenly its no problem to get internet even here as one of the drivers just connects his cellphone to my computer. For dinner I get amazing local food sharing it with the drivers and a couple from the Netherlands

So that was the second day in the Gambia, sometimes a little exhausting but people here are really sweet and the nature is amazing!

 

 

Senegal – The Gambia

 

Tambacounda – Ba DaLa (Georgetown)

N13°45’55” W013°40’27” – N13°32’42” W014°45’32”

Feb 7.

Km  today: 220

When I wake up I am still pissed. First I go to get water to change the 10000 sefa note to smaller ones so I can pay the 4000 straight away and don’t need them to change. Then I get breakfast and pack my stuff. I pack my stuff and after fixing everything on the bike I go and pay. The guy who told me the price yesterday is not here so I pay at one of the women pointing at the signboard telling the real price. I go out to step on the bike and ask to open the gate. They are complaining (talking to each other but not to me) about what I paid and don’t move.

I turn on the engine and ride in front of the door. Again I ask to open but no one moves even when I sound the horn and pull the throttle… Well if that is really what you want…. the gate opens to the outside. I put first gear and lose the clutch. Seconds later the combined weight of me, my luggage and the bike crashes into the gate at about 10km/h. No one moves so I go back about 5 meters and repeat that sounding the horn before and while doing so. Another guest whom I talked to and complained about the Senegalese approach to white people is coming out on the balcony smiling at me. He seems to agree in what I am doing so I losen the clutch again and repeat the big bang.

The gate moves more than it had the first time – it probably wont survive one or two more attacks. But before I can try it one of the women stands up and opens for me. I ride out greeting two police officers who are just building up a checkpoint in front of the hotel. They greet back and I go to the restaurant where they helped me yesterday to get another coffee and calm down. People there are friendly again. I decide to skip the National Park and leave the country as soon as possible.

I decide to spend the last local money I have on petrol. At the petrol station I realize I did a mistake when counting. But before I realize myself when the guy is giving me about 1.5 euro change about 3 dozen people around me recognized this fact and I am surrounded by 6 dozen open hands when the coins fall in my hand. I play a little stupid games because I am so pissed and then take a little more petrol. I want to quickly go to the first hotel we had been to yesterday as they looked like they can answer my questions about the visa and bike stuff for Mali. And guess who I meet there!

The guys from the intercontinental rally I met in Nouakchott are just about to hit the road to the Gambia. I have a little chat and they tell me stories about Gambias customs asking 600euro bribe for the passavant for a friends car. Not good! I decide to go with them today so we go to the border together.

They are spread over several hotels so I go with the cars of the Hungarian team first. About half the way to the border they stop at a tiny village. Within seconds we are surrounded by children asking for money and they take out two big card board boxes with chocolate and stuff and put them in front of the children. What happens now is like monkey feeding in Pushkar except the fact I never had more bananas then all monkeys could carry. Next the kids start shouting at each other, one girl is crying with her hands full of the wrong chocolate.

 These children living in a village of straw huts have been playing happily together before we came! At least I understand now why Senegalese people are so fucked up… Because of stupid white men putting cardboard boxes of shit in their happy lifes!

A few km after that I see the KTMs of the Romanian team standing next to the road – puncher, they are just about to change the tube. I stop and have a chat while waiting for them – we go to the border together. At the border there is surprisingly no problem at all. Everybody is friendly and really welcoming, people really seem to be happy to see me and nobody is asking for any money. The bulk of the rally for sure makes it easier too.. Anyway I have a lot of fun with the Gambias police and customs playing the musicians card again. I get a thirty day permit for the bike without paying nothing and no visa, I don’t need one!

Once in the Gambia I realize there seem to be no roads, only piste. I try to keep up with the guys but I have driven down street tyres, a lot of luggage and a 990 KTM. The others have more experience in offroading and overlanding by bike so they have the much lighter 650 KTM, proper tyres for this job and no luggage at all (service car). I have not the slightest chance and realize this when I crash because of a lot of sand that suddenly is on the piste. Sand is soft so nothing happens and I am in a village. People come and help me to lift up the bike telling me they are sorry for what happened. Actually nothing happened at all but me realizing fully I am definitely not equipped for offroading.

I have the satellite coordinates of the place where the rally will spend the night so I follow slowlier. Its about 120km of rather bad piste to the camp, I am low on petrol and in the middle of the bush. Petrol station? There seems to be not even a real road in this strange country. I ask two guys on a small motorbike who are coming down the jungle road and they tell me petrol possible in 3 kilometers. After 3 km there is a small village of straw huts. I ask for petrol and people point out a way through the village. Children follow me, waving their hands, smiling and laughing. Nobody is asking for nothing but how I am and where I come from.

This tiny country in the middle of Senegal seems to be really different. I love it! After taking some pictures and showing them to the children I go on. Its late and the camp is still far away. When its finally getting dark I am stopped at a police checkpoint in another straw hut village. Police office is smiling at me asking if all is fine and id there is anything he can do for me… What? I chat a little with him and when he says “Senegal bad, only criminals there, many people complain” I totally agree. Its really crazy how borders can set a mind. It’s the same people here – the Gambia is a river, 35km wide and some hundred kms long but people here speak English and know hospitality and politeness.

Its really great when coming from Senegal, like heaven after hell! The last hour today I ride through the night in the jungle. I nearly manage to repeat my mistake with the sand but manage to catch the bike when the front wheel is sliding just a few kilometer before my destination. Children on the street of the village there show me a camp very close to the coordinates and before I realize this is not the right place I get a tent for free (“sorry we are full”) when I promise to eat dinner and breakfast there.

Dinner is an amazing all you can eat buffet and its really good. Promised Internet doesn’t work but I don’t care. I get offered to make a boat trip in the morning to see the hippos several times and for 20 euro I agree. I paid way more in india before to see tigers… So I am falling asleep tonight in a nice country finally, surrounded with an amazing jungle full of amazing birds! And today again I have seen two monkeys crossing the piste in front of me! Today I finally spend most of the afternoon and evening full smiling again. I enjoy!