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!