Senegal To Gambia
The French have certainly left there mark on the old capital of Senegal St Louis, the crumbling buildings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centaury are all in different stages of decay but this makes for an interesting city and the streets are lively and full of colour.
The people of Senegal seem to enjoy themselves more than their Mauritanian neighbors, there are certainly more smiles in this part of the world. I was sitting on the bike outside a fire station; it wasnít long before a few of the firemen wandered out to look at the bike. I then had a tour around the fire station with a beer in my hand and a lot of shaking hands.
I had to get down to Dakar to sort some visas out for the next few countries, this can be a bit of a chore and can keep you from moving as it normally takes them a couple of days to process the paperwork.
Dakar is located out on a peninsular so to enter the city you have to negotiate the one road that leads in and out of the city, Iíve ridden on some pretty manic roads in my time but this is the worst by a long way. Thirty kilometers of slow moving carriageway trucks, buses, cars and taxis air pollution which makes you feel like youíve just inhaled sixty cigarettes. People everywhere in between the cars selling everything form mobile phone top up cards to mosquito nets and sand across the road in places just to makes things a little bit more tricky.
Once I was established in the hotel and the day had turned to night I went out with some of the guys I had met in the north of Senegal. I enjoyed Dakar it had a good music scene and good food, just what I needed after crossing the Sahara.
I got out of the city while I was waiting for my visas, previously I had been in contact with Dan and Linz they are riding a couple of Suzuki DZR400ís down to Cape town and invited me to stay with them at their friends house about thirty miles out of Dakar. Birame whose place it was had been living in London for twenty years but now splits his time between the UK and Senegal. Anyone from the village who wanted to drop in for dinner was welcome and we would all sit, around together in the evening eating off a large platter and telling stories.
I Returned to Dakar and picked up my visas up for Mali and The Cameroon. Then Dan, Linz and I headed for The Gambia. Through people that we have met or been introduced to we have been shown incredible generosity and have been put up in peoples homes this has shown me a real insight to how people live their lives in this part of the world.
Dave was a British expat in his seventies he had met his Senegalese wife Marie, while on a cycling holiday in Senegal. As the story went he was cycling along the road and she was sitting under a tree, they were married three days later. He had paid a dowry been given some land by the chief and built the house for a very moderate fee. We ate very well in their company and many of the villagers dropped by to say hello. During a seafood feast the beers were delivered to us on a tray from the next-door shop on the head of one of the local ladies, dancing away under the tray while singing. It was an interesting couple of days at Daveís!
We made a schoolboy error crossing into Gambia, after my first African border crossing I said I would only cross in the morning to avoid the mid day heat. We crossed into Gambia in the scorching midday heat, I can handle the heat and I can handle the excessive rig moral but with two together it makes for an exhausting few hours.
Gambia had a distinctly different feel to it than Senegal and reminded me a lot of the Caribbean. We ended up in the peace and love bar in the frontier town of Farafenni drinking wine out of a box and washing down our spicy chicken with the local beer. The local people all welcome you to their county and after seeing the British number plate all ask how long it takes to ride here from Britain. I tell them thirty days and they say you are a warrior or you are a lion. I donít really agree with that but I do feel very lucky that I have the opportunity to make trip like this. Iíve to had to say no to the following questions: can I have your motorbike: No sorry, Can you take me to England on the motorbike; No sorry, Iíll get in one the panniers and come with you through Africa; humm no I donít think so.
I am now staying at Maxís house on the edge of Serrekunda on the south side of the river Gambia. Max is putting the three of us up for a few days while we service our bikes and get the visa for Nigeria. Max doesnít live the modest life, heís got a seven, bedroom house with outbuildings staff and a couple of four, wheel drives parked with in the compound. I woke up yesterday to find my BMW sparkling away under the morning sun. The driver had washed the Sahara desert off the three bikes for us while we were sleeping.
Today I went for a ride down the coast to the south of Gambia there are lots of interesting fishing villages and the best way to see them is to ride along the beach. I spent a few hours in the company of three Rastafarians sitting out the front of their hut amongst their vegetable patch, the drums were brought out and Bob Marley songs were sung. I think it could be the sort of place that if you didnít start making tracks you possibly wouldnít leave. Tomorrow Iím heading east back through Senegal to Mali and I reckon the road to Timbuktu is going to be an interesting one.Posted by Michael Beckett at November 10, 2007 10:13 PM GMT
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