. OnHiatus.com > Journal 1 > Day Index > Journal Entry: September 29, 1998

Tuesday, September 29, 1998
Bakau (Banjul), The Gambia
The Gambia's Flag

Bakau (Banjul), The Gambia:
Latitude: 13° 28' 6" North
Longitude: 16° 40' 57" West
Altitude: 215 feet
From Seattle: 6788 miles
Lodging: Hotel - New Town Guest House

Today's Travel:
Country: The Gambia
Region: Kombo Peninsula
Route: Shared Taxi: Bakau - Banjul - Serekunda - Bakau
Start: Bakau (Banjul), The Gambia
Stop 1. Banjul
Stop 2. Serekunda
End:Bakau (Banjul), The Gambia
Linear:4 miles
Weather: Rain / Mostly Sunny

Available Photos:

Pier Bakau, The Gambia

All photo images © 1997-2000 Anthony Jones - Images may not be used without prior written approval.

Click on map to Zoom in...
Trip Stats to Date:
Day: 537
Linear Dist: 81408
Countries Visited: 37
Regions Visited: 153
More stats...
Hotels: 144
Friends / Family: 154
Camping: 42
Hostels: 141
Transit: 49
Other Lodging: 6
Beers: 1964

Journal Entry:
The day started off good. I woke up to pouring rain and waited for a break before heading out (first time I've put on my boots since my second day in Morocco). The weather held and I didn't have to deal with rain all day (although the mud was bad). I went in to Banjul to Guinea's embassy to see about getting a visa. The embassy was on the second floor of a decrepit building that reeked of urine. There was no sign or flag, although inside there was an old photo of the president. I'd been led to believe that the visa would take two days to issue so it was a pleasant surprise to get it on the spot in about ten minutes. Next I went to the immigration office to see about getting my seven day Gambian visa extended (since now I want to travel up country). No problem there either. So I guess I'm going to Guinea after The Gambia and Senegal. I'll have to try the Mali border without a visa, if that doesn't work I'll have to decide whether to skip Mali or head to Conakry for a visa.

Next goal for the day was to try and find internet access. I'd been told my only chance was in Serekunda (a suburb of Banjul that is actually much larger than the capitol). I found two places where you could send email but nobody had internet access. I was told that internet service wasn't offered in The Gambia yet, and that I'd have to wait two weeks when the service is due to start. So a lot of walking around in the incredible heat (the sun was out now) got me nothing. At least I got to see Serekunda which was a lot more lively and raw than Banjul or Bakau.

Back at the guest house I changed into shorts and exchanged the boots for Tevas. I then set out to walk to the bank. I needed to get a pretty big cash advance since I was now going to be in The Gambia for a while and visa or travelers checks weren't going to do me any good outside the Banjul area. While walking around wasting time until the bank reopened at 4:30 I found a nice little beach. It was pretty quiet with just a few fishing boats and their crews around. I walked down to the end away from everyone and settled down to read and get some sun.

Almost immediately a guy who knew my name came up. He said he worked at the hotel and he looked vaguely familiar. I was a little annoyed because I just wanted to be left alone for a bit but he was very excited because his wife had just had a baby yesterday (hence why he had the day off) so I didn't ask him to leave. He asked me to come by his house and take a picture of his wife and son and then send it to him. I agreed and promised to come get him at the other end of the beach when I was ready to go. He left and almost immediately someone else sat down to try and sell me marijuana. When I refused to buy any he tried to sell (rent?) me a local woman. I told him I had a girlfriend but he was quite insistent telling me that there was a major difference, etc. By this time I was really annoyed but he wouldn't leave. I finally got up, I'd been there for 90 minutes and read maybe five pages.

I looked for Kaybah (the new father) on my way off the beach but didn't see him which suited me fine since I was in a shitty mood by now. As I was walking down the road to the bank he ran up to me and started non stop chattering - I finally had to ask him to be quiet as I was loosing my patience. I went to the bank and then the store, being followed by Kaybah the whole time. Then we went to his compound where his wife and son was. He'd told me that his grandfather was the local Mullah (spelling?) and that he took care of more than 60 orphans. I saw his wife and son then had to go through this elaborate greeting ritual involving "holy" water (water with bits of leaves and dirt in it).

Then the orphanage guest book was brought out for me to sign. I immediately noticed that each name had an amount next to it (ranging from the equivalent of US$25 to $300). I felt very awkward about the money and put down the equivalent of $5. He demanded that I give at least $25 (the price of a bag of rice?!?!) I told him I wouldn't give him any money and he got very pissed. He was shaking with rage telling me that I was a very bad man that I wouldn't buy rice to feed the orphans and and I was going to get him in trouble with his grand father after using the holy water and all. I tried to leave and he blocked the door pushing me and looking like he was about to have some kind of fit. I was going to have to push him out of the way to leave (which in hind sight I should have done) so I gave him the $5 and stormed out.

Now I'm furious with myself for getting into the situation in the first place and for giving him anything in the second place. I'm furious at him because now I'm not going to be willing to trust anyone, and I feel like I've had my Gambian experience robbed from me. I really don't want to be in The Gambia anymore and am not sure I even want to be in Africa. I'm also concerned because he knows where I'm staying and he saw me take out $500 worth of cash. Because the biggest bill in circulation is 50 Dalasi (~$5) this is a huge wad (100 bills) so it's a pain to carry.

Having had enough of the African experience I went to an English pub that had been recommended to me. I had a pepper steak that was a bit tough but at least the sauce was excellent. I had more than a few Guinness and talked with the owners, a lovely British couple. By the time I left I was good and drunk which is pretty much what I'd set out to do. Caught a shared taxi back and off to bed.

Related Sites:
US State Department Consular Information Sheets: The Gambia
CIA World Fact Book: The Gambia

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