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!

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!

Rao – Tambacounda

 

N15°55’66” W16°24’21” – N13°45’55” W013°40’27”

Feb 6.

Km today: 515

When I wake up this morning I feel much better. Outside it is getting hot a little after sunrise so I pack pretty slowly and have a nice breakfast before I leave. No need to stop soon as Petrol is pretty full and I have all I need. I leave a little before lunchtime which is late as I want to do pretty exactly 500km to Tambacounda close to the Gambias border. North of Senegal offers savanna for landscape which means dry grass and pretty many trees but far from being what we would call a forest. Coming around a corner (of which there are not many on todays road) I see a swarm of birds on the street. When I come closer I notice they are pretty big and second later there are huge vultures all around me taking some roadkill apart. Nice picture for how I feel here – amongst vultures…

The first real stop I make in a small town with a huge mosque which is being renovated. I stop at a place with a “Café” sign, take a seat and order coffee. When I take out my cigarettes the guy who runs the place comes to tell me smoking is prohibited here because we are within one km of the mosque… Ok, I can do it with a coffee, no problem. Two minutes later I get “(nes)café au lait” without milk… milk is finished. Ok that’s too much for now. Coffee without cigarette and without milk? Where is the joy in that? It would be five minutes focusing on what I don’t have so I stand up and go.

A few km further I find a nice place with an African Mama cooking delicious african food, no coffee but smoking no problem and the price is really reasonable as she even offers second service if I want more. Its really hot here even on the bike I there is not much relief from the heat. The engine sound much better and even has more power with Senegalese petrol and the road is pretty good. I approach the Gambia river basin 200km before Tambacouna and turn left to go to the upper end of the Gambia river. I hope I can find out something about the visa situation for mali there and maybe see the close by national park.

About 100km before Tambacounda I see the first monkey in front of me on the street. Then I discover a small but very good piste right next to the road. Of course I take it hoping to see more animals. I see a lot of amazing birds but no more mammals.

I arrive in Tamba a little after sunset and first search for a restaurant. I am pretty done after 500km on the bike so I need a coffee and some food first. I ask the guys for coffee (Nescafe), food (beefsteak – YEAH! No chicken today!), and if they know a cheap hotel (they know one). After food I ask him to come with me on the bike to show me the place which is no problem. First hotel is far too expensive as I can see when approaching already. Luckily they are full so I try to make clear that I am searching for a budget place again. Second place looks better and offers a very basic room (6 m2, bed and nothing else) for 9000 sefa which is about 15 euro and its not even really clean. I see in the eyes of my friend who took me here that this offer is crazy. I try to negotiate but he offers to take me to another place so they show me another room, bigger but with only a few mattresses lying on the floor – 5000. I take it.

Later at the reception when writing down my passport details (and, new, suddenly they want my home address which is of course Hauptstrasse 45/67 in 1230 Vienna) I see a big signboard telling the prices of the rooms. Both of which had been offered to me cost 4000 per night. When I ask him about this he says “No problem, you white man, you rich!”. I am too tired for this now so I ask him to take of his trousers. He gives me a strange look so I explain I want to see a 30cm penis for the first time in my life. Another strange look so I tell him “Come on man, its no secret that all you black guys have enormous dicks”…. I tell him I will pay tomorrow and he accepts, so if he wants more than what is written on the signboard I will tell him to fucking call the police.

I bring the luggage in the room and go out to buy water and fruits. Hardly 10m out of the Hotel a guy starts talking to me in English “How are you?” I am pissed and I tell him that I am until I remember I had some nice experiences too, like the guy who showed me the hotel for example and a truck driver who stopped for me when he recognized me taking pictures of the vultures on the road so I calm down. While we are talking two prostitutes(?) come down the street and when they see me they can’t help to put there tits nearly into my face and start talking to each other “crossing” our conversation.

The guy offers to show me his house and have tea together, I accept. When arriving at his house 100m down the street he wakes up his wife who his sleeping on the floor with a very ungentle kick. I am shocked. She wakes up shakes my hand and then rubs her index finger against her thumb. Suddenly I have a very bad feeling about the situation. For the first time in my life I have the feeling this guy want to put something in my tea. Without taking a nip I put down the disgusting sticky glass and turn around. The glass in his hand he follows me even into the shop trying to make me drink. I am really pissed now and luckily he doesn’t follow me after leaving the shop.

The remaining 50m to the hotel I escape two more attacks by ignoring. I have free wifi at the hotel, found a bucket for my immersion heater to get a hot shower so I am pretty happy. Later I hear people in the street making music but not really good and anyway I would not go down there now even if Neil Young was playing down there asking me to join… Tomorrow I will just start chanting Mantras loudly when they start annoying me. Sometimes it helps when people think you completely lost your mind.

But the landscape is really great and I enjoy every minute on the bike. Finding a nice place to rest a day or two would be amazing too but when reviewing my pictures at night I forget about the people here. Africa can be really amazingly beautiful, but not incredible like india and for sure not hospitable like Pakistan, Balochistan or Persia.

Mauritania – Senegal

 

Rosso – Rao

N16°30’32” W015°47’53” – N15°55’66” W16°24’21” (google maps doesnt know Diamma border which is west of the crossing it shows – this map a least gives a rough idea of where I went)

Km today: 154

Feb 5.

A warning straight ahead – if you like Senegal don’t read this, Senegal is the most impolite and inhospitable country I’ve ever been to. If you plan to come here better you just send all your money (which seems all 99% of the people here want from you) and stay at home.

Ok now here comes the story: I leave the hotel in Rosso rather early changing some more money, getting petrol and the Senegalese bike insurance. The road to Diamma is the flood protection “dam” of Senegal river which is in fact a pile of mud compressed by the traffic, and actually that is the nicest part of todays journey as I cross a Biosphere reserve seeing some Marabous, African wild boar and even a crocodile right next to the pile of mud I am riding on. The view and the landscape are really nice again but…

About 40km after Rosso a young guy stops me at his hut. He has a problem with his bike and asks for tools. To be honest I don’t really feel like helping him, maybe because I am a little pissed with the people in this area, maybe because my 6th sense is telling me already he is an asshole. However we are in the middle of the desert, he needs help and his bike is a KTM scooter. I get my tools out and ask for some water as I have forgotten to take some in the morning (after getting money and insurance I jumped on the bike to pull the throttle to get away from the idiots in Rosso). It is afternoon already and 60 more km on the mud pile to Diamma border to go so I am happy when his bike is running again and pack the tools. (No they are not a present I have to make clear first.)

When I do so the guy whom I helped out asks me to pay for the water I had. In his hut he has a small shop so I ask him for the price even though I feel a little pissed about the fact I helped him out and he didn’t even offer something to drink even though we are at his home (somewhere in the desert, with the sun burning down and temperature being about 30°C). 500 ugia he says which is pretty exactly what I paid yesterday for my dinner including the water I had with it. I am glad he understands no word of what I am saying now. I throw the bottle down, jump on the bike, tell him to f*&% off and drive a few meters before I stop again to turn on the music and the camera. He comes running after me bringing the bottle now asking for 200 ugia for it. I tell him to F*&% off again (pretty sure he understood that) and turn on the engine. He puts the water on the bike leaving me no chance but to put it in the bag. The music is already on so I don’t hear what he is saying when I ride away with the water taken for free.

When I come to the border the officials there know only two words which are “10 euro”. The first one being the customs officer of Mauretania, I ask him for a receipt, I get one, so I am stupid enough to hand him the money. Next one is a guy who wants 2,5 euro for putting the road block aside. I tell him I have no money and I don’t need him leaving the bike before the road block entering the police office. I put on my best smile and when the police officer asks me for my guitar I do my stupid “Which guitar? I don’t have on, I am Taliban terourist this is Kalashnikow” joke. He laughs so I sing a few lines of “Mama Africa for him. When I am finished he is holding my passport in his hand asking for ten Euro. I give him a “come on, we had fun together” look and he waves his hand telling me to get out. The guy at the roadblock now wants 500 ugia (half of before) and I tell him to piss of, on the bike I can go around the block and the police officer inside is just having tea and likes me so he wouldn’t mind. He makes a last attempt asking me to give some money to keep “the road in shape”. Ok, I haven’t seen any road the past 100km but whatever you want to call it it should be kept in shape. I give him 50 cent and hit the 500m of road (now it is) to the bridge over the Senegal river.

On the other side road block again and I have to pay 3 euro for the bridge getting a receipt. Next I go to the police to stamp my passport. 10 euro, no receipt and the guy has no humor at all, a stupid bald idiot who is not even able to divide 6500 by two without using paper and pen – probably he cant even count to ten without using his fingers. So this is my first Senegalese experience, nice! Customs is better, the chief there is a funny guy and my worrys about having no carnet the passage for the motorbike proved to have been useless. He wants to give me a Passavant (customs paper for the bike) for 3 days charging 10 euros (no receipt). Again I play the musician card, play a few chords of Mama Africa again and get the 5 days for 5 euro bribe only. At least the road becomes amazing after crossing the border so I pull the handle again and swallow my anger.

I really want to see one National Park in Senegal which is pretty close to the border of the Gambia. Gambia is supposed to make no problem with the bike and they speak anglish there! Well by now I speak a little French again but still I am happy to be able to talk English in a few days with people who can understand me. About 50km after the border, a little after Saint Luise I take a nice, but expensive room. 15000 (25 euro) including wifi and hot shower… I am able to push the price to 10000 and find out later that the offered wifi does not exist but they would lend me there 3G modem if I pay for the recharge…. I really hope Gambia and Mali (if I can get in there) are different. In the evening when I get food at the hotel the guy there steps on a huge bug in the garden smiling at me having fun doing so. I am shocked and when I ask him why he does so pointing at the suffering bug he doesn’t even seem to understand my question.

People here could really learn so much from Indian people – here they seem to have no respect for nothing, and Indian people cheat foreigners in a much more pleasant way too… (Asking to learn from Pakistani or Persian people would definitely be too much hospitality at once)