BURTON FAMILY - WORLDWIDE TRIPS travel blog


With a porous border probably over 500 miles long separating the Gambia and Senegal, getting from one side to the other unofficially must be pretty easy, especially as both sides share ethnicity, but we thought we should take the official route, just in case.

From the resort area, this involves taking a local ferry across the mouth of the Gambia river for 30 or 45 minutes depending whether you get the slow one of the fast one.

Now a bit like smart motorways, this has not been thought through. We missed the first slow one by minutes but taking the fast one not too long after meant we had to loiter for 20 minutes on arrival as the slow boat was still disgorging it's human, livestock and goods. Moral: introduce 2 new boats simultaneously or not at all.

On the far bank, still in Gambia we mounted a six food high cattle truck for the trip to the border. I know it was a cattle truck because the one in front was loaded with cattle, though ours did have seats of sorts.

As Gambia is often less than 30 miles, north to south, it did not take too long to reach the border with the usual hassle and bustle you come to expect.

You join the colourful multicultural queue to present your passport, and, very important apparently, your yellow fever certificate, despite the fact that anyone can seemingly wonder across as no one checks whether you have a been through immigration. Moreover, if, by chance, you have forgotten to get your certificate beforehand, no problemo; you can pay 10 dollars to get through without one, just don't ask for a receipt or they'll turn you straight back.

While all this going on at a snail's pace, you are under constant threat of attack from aggressive street vendors, pickpockets and street-wise kids who should be in school but would rather make a quick buck off unwary prey. The same old routine of course: "hello mister, where you from, my name is, remember me when you come back" etc, and woe betide anyone who engages with the enemy or even tries to buy a string of oranges or a packet of cashews; youre already lost.

The fighting for the sale breaks out as they all strong-arm their way into the deal, survival of the pushiest.

By now, mid morning the temperature is rapidly rising towards the day's top temperature of 100.04 fahrenheit as we drive on to our main destination, the Fathala 'fauve sauvage' game reserve to seek out its few specimen breeds,a handful of gyrating giraffes, zesty zebras, a few wary warthogs, elegant elands, an awful ostrich, an old croc and the prize exhibit: a randy rhino.

Now before you start feeling sorry for Kevin, you should know he killed his missus during a bit of how's your father so he is partly responsible for his predicament. Not sure of the details; I know I wouldn't want him on top of me, especially as he is permanently horny as it were.

For the more adventurous there was an option of 'walking with lions' while the rest of us had lunch. I noticed the guide was very keen to get paid up front here and also failed to mention what time the lions were normally fed. I just thought it was safer in the cafeteria even though a ten food crocodile lay quietly twenty safe feet away while us old crocks got stuck into pizza.

After an action reply at the border, I noted that our small group included a priest, a doctor and a pilot, so I reckoned we had all the 'exits' covered in an emergency: the last rites, a medical certificate and someone to fly home any human remains.

I'm just saying.

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