Category Archives: The Gambia

Central Gambia’s Tendaba Camp and Banjul

Tendaba Camp

On the South Bank of the Gambian River, some 45 km. from Farafenni, is Tendaba Camp. A hunting camp in the 1970s it is now a regular tourist feature on the upriver schedules of boat and bus tours from the coast. Lonely Planet recommends taking one of the VIP rooms because of the view of the river. Well, I’ve got my own mobile VIP room, park the car almost in the river near a picture-postcard Baobab tree, and pay 8 euros (including breakfast). Oh, I just love these days!

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VIP spot at the Gambian River

 

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sunset under the Baobab tree

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sunset Gambian River

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sunset Gambian River

“Gè komt hier zeker nie vur d’n urste keer?”. A bare-chested man in shorts and flip-flops and ditto (well almost) wife, with an unmistakable Noord-Brabant accent greets me. They are from Volkel, only 10 km. from where I was born and bred. What a small world.

In the evening there’s a fire and live djembé music. Lots of local people joining in the singing in the Mandinga language and lots of European tourists clapping their hands frantically trying to keep up with the rhythm . But – as the djembé player explains when I ask him – they also sing in the Fulah, the Peul and the Wolof languages. Who could ask for more? And could he please travel with me to South Africa, please! He’ll be no trouble at all and find a place on the roof rack. Easy. No problem!

Next morning on the South Road to Banjul, the capital of The Gambia, I pull in at what looks like a fuel station. I ask the young man to give me 1.000 Dalasi (18 euros) worth of diesel, at a price of 55 cents a litre. He starts pumping the fuel in a 12 litre canister and then uses a cut-off Coke bottle to fill my tank. The bottle falls down, spilling diesel. He asks me to hold the bottle while he pours. He apologizes for the mess and my smelly hands. When I open the back door and wash my hands from the tap on the door he looks at me in astonishment. “It’s sheer magic, isn’t it?”, I say.

At noon I arrive at the Sukuta campsite/lodge near Banjul. Beautiful spot, clean, a bit of a German enclave, restaurant, wifi, shady. Nothing more to desire for the day. Or two.

 

Into The Gambia

From Senegal to Central Gambia
The route from Mbour in Senegal leads through flat, dry savannah  with Baobab trees, and small villages with round huts. The road is well paved, even beyond the waypoint on my GPS where it

Senegal and The Gambia

Senegal and The Gambia

says: “Potholes”. Lots of cows and goats crossing unexpectedly, and the odd couple of monkeys. Judging from the fresh blood and carcasses not all of them make it to the other side. A group of vultures are having a recently hit cow for lunch. Eat and be eaten.
But this is the infamous Cross Gambia Highway, and the potholes become so enormous that the going is very slow. There’s hardly any tarmac left, new bypasses are created but they are not much better. I am overtaken by a group of 8 Dutch cars (!), on their way to Banjul to auction them for charity. They have driven here in only three weeks, and are in a hurry to catch the plane back to Holland.
I reach the Senegalese-Gambian border at 12.30. Exiting Senegal is pretty easy. Entering The Gambia looks hassle-free at first. Get a passavant for 7 days (a couple of euros), stamp passport, have a chat, talk some more, and with a “Have a nice day!” I get my passport back and continue to Farafenni (about 5 km.). I look for Eddy’s Hotel (the only one), and just as I’m about to

Eddy's Hotel, Farafenni, Central Gambia

Eddy’s Hotel, Farafenni, Central Gambia

drive into their secured parking a pick-up with a customs officer blocks my way, angrily shouting and waving his arms. It seems that I did not wait for my car to be inspected. Well, how should I know if they don’t tell me? But of course I apologize, say it’s all a misunderstanding, and drive back with him to the border post, where the car is inspected top to bottom, all boxes removed from the car and opened. When one of them has a look in the fridge, he says “Give me a drink!”. When I don’t react he wants to see my import license for the dog food. “I don’t need that”, I answer, “but I do have a passport for the dog”. Although I am not nervous, pretend to be in very good mood, I’m feeling a bit vulnerable. Four or five customs officers going through your stuff is pretty intimidating. “I like your iPhone”, says one. “You do, great, so do I!”
They seem to think I’m carrying a lot of spare parts and electronic equipment for personal use, and Lami, the young man from the hotel who is accompanying me, advises me to give them 5.000 cfa (7,50 euro) to end this charade.  Which I do, and we return to Farafenni and Eddy’s Hotel.

Crossing The Gambia River the easy way
Next morning, trying the only ATM in the whole province, the machine swallows my VISA card and then dies on me. Nothing, no blink, no sound, nothing!! Oh, horror! Luckily the bank is open and an employee manages to get my card back. He tells me to come back some time tomorrow and try again. And confirms with some pleasure that it’s the only ATM within a 100 km. Thank you, so much.
5 km. piste to the ferry. Stopped by a police checkpoint. Where’s my ticket for the ferry?, he wants to know. I tell him I thought I could buy it here. No. He wants me to drive back to the last village and get it there.  So I drive back, buy a ticket, back to the ferry, and join the queue. Very relaxed atmosphere, lots of vendors selling soft drinks, cold water, Viagra, fruit, and condoms in different tastes and sizes.
The main river crossing is from Barra to Banjul, and can be real nightmare. I heard from another overlander last week that he had to wait for 6 hours and was then told to try his luck again next day. This crossing is very relaxed, no hassle, cheap (3 euros), and absolutely enjoyable!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MM3B_llZDQ&feature=youtu.be