Thursday, 17 January 2008

Down to Banjul

16th Jan M@S 21249

Rhombole to Banjul

First stop of the day was 60s after Speggo said "it's amazing that no one had a puncture after that (we parked next to a thorn bush). Still it was the first front wheel puncture and Paul managed to change the tyre without putting grease all over someone's sheepskin)...

Very interesting ride today, especially from Kaolack to Barra. At the picnic stop Speggo and I fixed a minor fuel leak on my bike (the float bowel had lost a screw). The road was very wide and had tarmac, but there was pot holes everywhere. To the side was another track that had no holes, but was rutted and sandy and Paul struggled abit especially. It was much easier to ride on the tarmac carving big loops to avoid the potholes. This kept our speed to a very comfortable 25mph.

At the border we were processed by the 2 sets of police and customs officials with efficiency we were unaccustomed to during this trip. It only took about 90 minutes, NO bribes and we were into The Gambia! WOW!

The road immediately deterioated yet further. Although the road was wide and graded there was no tarmac at all and so it was very very dusty. Within 10 miles we had been stopped 3 times by various officials, the last of which invited Paul into a dark office for "discussions" - an ominous sign. This time both he and Jo were asked by the immigration official to prove that they were police officers. Of the 6 officials there none of them had a numbered uniform and so we were dubious of their credentials. Still it worked and after 10 minutes we were free to proceed.

The Gambian villagers were giving us the most friendly and genuine reception so far. At last we could say where we were going and the purpose without fear of our supplies being impounded by some over zealous official.

2 km down the road we arrived at the very long queue of cars, buses, motorhomes (even) and lorries + hundreds of people. Somehow word had got out of our imminent arrival at the ferry to an official at Bansang Hospital and we were fasttracked to near the front of the queue as if we were VIPs.

Just a few years ago one ferry here capsized and all 320 people drowned. The 3 remaining ferries are hopelessly undersized and too slow for the demands to cross the 1 mile river.

It was just as well we were fasttracked as we arrived at 5pm, but did not get across to the other side until 9.30pm. We were tires, dirty, in the dark, with no hotel booked and no hotel name/number and not even sure where the hotel (used last time) was located. We eventually arrived at Sarge's hotel at 10.30pm at which time the Shogun refused to start. Luckily the hotel had room. We wanted this one because Anita has negotiated a special Bansang Hospital rate which we will use. Sarge's hotel is very comfortable and offers comfort we've not seen since Europe. However it reminds us Butlins at Skegness and has piped music (AAGH!!!) with lots of large people adorning the pool.

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