It is Monday morning and time to say goodbye to the Zebrabar for good, as I doubt we will be seeing it again. Then onto the road to Dakar, it went much quicker this time as we took the tar road and not by beach. We got there late afternoon and stayed at a different campsite/auberge camping le Oasis formerly West Africa Safari, we could not find it on our first visit but I wish we had as it is a much nicer campsite, it is bigger and the owners are friendly. The only downside being that you have to cross a dual carriageway with no street lighting to get to the auberge across the way if you want dinner. So taking our lives in hand we crossed over for a delicious meal of chicken, chips and the best fried onion I have ever had. Simon being the sweetie that he is gave me a pressie, a photo album of my family, so now I am extremely homesick but very pleased with the pressie.
Now one would think that our previous visit to Dakar would have taught us a thing or two but no, Tuesday morning finds us stuck in traffic as we go into Dakar. We are going to visit Isle de Goree the old slave island just off Dakar, after some trouble finding the ferry port we meet up with a young Senegalese couple just married 3 weeks ago, they help us find the port and we had lunch together. It cheers up your day to meet nice people who are not trying to get something from you. It is a great little island, very mellow. Visited the slave house but everything was in French so not that interesting but by the photo’s it looks like they have had some VIP visitors. Did some bargaining for a few things with Simon playing bad guy, it works very well, we bought a necklace made of coffee beads to go with Simon’s goatee, he no longer looks like he did when we met, oh well. Naturally we got stuck in traffic on the way out.
Wednesday morning and it is off to the Gambia, bad roads with potholes you could bury Jenny in, slow going as there are more potholes than road surface. What a lovely border, straightforward with no hassle. Many moneychangers on the border as the Gambia has a thriving black-market trade, we unfortunately changes money before crossing and were taken by a pushy wench of a money changer. Just because her rate is the same as the travel guide does not mean it is anywhere near the actual rate!
Once that was over we headed for the ferry where a friendly policeman advised us to cross the river so off to the docks for the next ferry which was only 3 and a half hours late and only had one engine working, the joys of Africa or is it memories of rail track? The wait was not that bad as we had plenty of inquisitive kids to keep us company, it is so much better when one is able to speak to them in English, makes us think we missed out a bit in previous French speaking countries. Last car and the ferry which is good as it was the last one for the day and I did not fancy sleeping on the docks, then off the other side we followed a truck and so missed going through Banjul completely as we followed a back road. As we ended up on the right road in the end this did not matter and so we arrived at camping Sukuta (for which we had seen signs as early as Morocco) 11:30 at night. As they were up we managed to get dinner before going to bed.
Thursday morning Banjul and we get greeted by a group of young men who want to be our guides, personal security or just look after the car and we don’t just need one, all six of them will do. This would be our introduction to so called Bumsters, getting visas for Guinea Conakry was no problem what so ever. While we were waiting for our visas to be processed we had dinner at a place called Fawlty Towers, they butterfish I ordered was like cardboard but I’m sure you are saying that we should have known better with a name like that. We found quite an impressive little bookshop called Timbooktu that seems to have everything one could hope for, the rough guide to West Africa being what we were after. In the bookshop we met a couple called Geri and Maurice who own a hotel, very friendly couple and so we said we would go round for dinner. The guidebook advises the Friday barbecue and they have a pool so that is me sold.
Friday is a lazy morning for some and a washing day for others, the afternoon finds us by the pool at Safari Garden Hotel waiting on the barbecue, you must understand that we have been on a somewhat vegetarian diet for the last few months and the idea of piles of meat was quite appealing. While swimming I met a girl called Isabelle who works for a charity doing agricultural development that has a programme in Casemass Senegal. Talking in the pool I establish that she is a Christian and going to church in a nearby town called Brikama. As we are looking for a place to go we decide to go with her to the Methodist church tomorrow. As for the barbecue, well we ate for England.
Saturday and we decide to go to the beach, found what we thought at first to be a nice spot only to discover that the beach is dirty and the sea not nice to swim in, tried to move on but promptly got stuck in soft sand we had stopped on, so there we are digging in the midday sun (some people!) in front of a small audience. One guy in particular was amazing in that he was trying to convince us to come stay in his camping grounds, this while we are trying to dig the car out. When we told him that we are already staying at camping Sukuta he said that it was not a campsite but his was and so we should go with him. Did he at any point attempt to help us get unstuck, well no he was just a salesman after all trying to get us to his campsite. However the man jogging on the beach did give us a hand just because we were stuck and then just carried on jogging, restores your faith in humanity somewhat.
We found a better spot further down and had fresh fish and chips for lunch then lay on the beach and read, very soothing as the beach bar owner makes sure no ‘sales persons’ can get to you, once off his grounds however you become fair game, so mad dash for car and home. Steak for dinner, catching up on red meat intake.
Collected Isabelle for church on Sunday morning and drove to Brikama getting there early enough for Daniel, the farm manager’s son, to show us around. The service was great delivered in both the local language and English. Met Robby and Ruth, he is the minister and comes from Devon, it is funny to see a minister in shorts. The farm manager’s wife provided a traditional dish for lunch, it arrived in a huge basin type dish with rice at the bottom and fish & veg on top, everyone gets a spoon and you dig in. All eat from the same bowl and your portion is the bit in front of you. After lunch we were taken round to see the reforestation project that the Methodist mission do, they started 17 years ago and one can really see where they have been at work in comparison to the surrounding vegetation. I finally got to see where cashew nuts come from and now understand why they are expensive to buy as you only get one nut growing from the cashew apple and it is a tricky process to get the nut out of the shell. We had a lovely day and all the people who live and work at the Methodist mission are just great.