Friday, 13 February 2009

Floating along the river

It's Friday 13th, and we're sitting somewhere in the bush in eastern Senegal having left The Gambia today. We had a good few days relaxing in Tendaba camp. Went to the national park on the first day. Tried driving around for a bit, but all the road tracks were so badly maintained it was impossible. We eventually recruited Omar in the afternoon, we saw a bit with him. We had however timed it badly and after a short walk we were both well roasted and had to retreat back to the shade. So after meeting Omar's family and a glass of Gambian tea we went back to the camp.

The following day we went for an early morning boat trip, saw some beautiful birds including malachite kingfishers, ospreys, various eagles and plenty more. The original plan was to leave that afternoon, but thoughts of the horrendous road back out changed our mind and we put it off until the following morning.

We set off bright and early to make it to Georgetown (aka Janjangbureh) and beyond. We had heard from Farafenni the road on the North side was much better than the so called road on the south so we opted for the ferry north, as it had been so hassle-free on our journey in. There was a bit of a queue, but it wasn't too long so we decided to wait. It was a baking hot day again, so thought that a nice cold bottle of water from the fridge (yes, we have the luxury of a fridge in the boot!) would go down a treat. Unfortunately the boot had other ideas. Dust from the previous road had caused the release mechanism to seize up on the rear wheel carrier, meaning we couldn't get into the boot. Not only did this prevent us from getting to the fridge, but it also prevented us from getting to the tools to fix the problem! The best bet was to find a mechanic once we'd crossed the river. Just as we were nearing the front of the queue a lorry, loaded with groundnuts, decided that half on, half off the ferry, it was going no further. Crowds gathered, and lots of head scratching followed, including a lot of official (and unofficial) looking people instructing drivers to move their cars in seemingly random places. The incoming tide didn't help matters, and the lorry was soon also sitting in water. After about 3 hours, a German eventually started shouting at people and things started happening. A huge industrial vehicle finally turned up and dragged the lorry back off the ferry.

Once across the river we found a mechanic who had our boot working again in about 15 minutes so we were off. The road was divine! One of the best since Europe. Smooth tarmac, almost no traffic. Just the occasional herd of cows or goats was the only inconvenience. With the sun setting we still hadn't made it to Georgetown, so we pulled off the road and camped.

We had one night in Georgetown, a very friendly place where everyone wanted to talk to us. Half of whom wanted us to buy them a football or sponsor their football team. Had a very relaxing afternoon fishing in the River Gambia from the bank of Solwin camp where we were staying. The manager and friends seemed very interested in getting involved. We went to the rice field behind the camp to dig for worms. Fished together and caught a few catfish and a sardine. We were also fed the most amazing meal that night by the camp. If you're in the area then pay it a visit. It does look like it's only half built. But such friendly staff and amazing food it's worth popping by.

So that brings us back to Senegal, we left Georgetown this morning and had a very smooth trip over the border. We were through in less than 30 minutes without a single request for money! Been a scorching afternoon with the thermometer reading 39 celcius in the shade. A couple of warthogs have just wandered by as we're sitting here in a very peaceful spot just off the road before heading for Tambacounda tomorrow.

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