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!