Tag Archives: gambia

From bruised bums to beach bums…

UPDATE: After 5 visits to 4 internet cafes and 3 power cuts, here is the photo blog we’ve been trying to share for days. It is now a little out of date but we will be sharing another blog very soon!

We thought we would update you with images. We feel they summarise the events of the past few days…

imran sea

mikki hammock

coconut

laundry and bikes

moths 2

mikki back

imran hammock

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Just another day on the road…

19:00- A full day of cycling behind us, we have found our spot for the night and its right under a Baobab tree. The tent is going up and the soon the moon is lighting our campsite with a beautiful glow. We gaze at our beloved bicycles, now locked to a root of the Baobab, we know we will wake at regular intervals to check on them.

20:00- We are ready for bed, the sand beneath us is still warm from the days sun but the air cool. The breeze is gentle and sweeps over us as we drift off into a long sleep.

05:30- The first alarm screams in our ears. Its not light yet and now the moon has disappeared its darker than when we fell asleep. Groans can be heard before we both continue to sleep.

05:45- The second alarm sounds, we discuss the time, consider getting up before continuing to sleep.

early morning

06:00- The third alarm stirs us and reluctantly we peak our noses from our sleeping bags to see that its still not light. We fumble to find our smelly cycle shorts and discuss the stealth operation of leaving the tent whilst managing to avoid the savagery of the mosquitoes that await us.

06:05- Mosquito stealth fails; we spend a good five minutes killing the invaders in the tent. We realize we have camped on a bed of thorns and spend additional time removing them from our bodies, bags, tent etc…

06:30- Our morning wash stretches as far as tooth brushing but no further.

toothbrushes

7:00- After our breakfast of two bananas and a vitamin C drink we are finally on the road, the sun is on its way up the air is fresh and cool.

09:30- The children in the villages we pass have woken up which means the chorus of ‘TOUBAB!!!’ (meaning ‘white person’ or ‘foreigner’) returns. We are tired and grumpy, the children run in front of our bicycles, we shout at them angrily and then feel guilty.

09:45- Hungry for a second breakfast we find a street cart cooking up egg and onion sandwiches served with a super-sweet mug of condensed milk coffee. Belly bliss.

10:00- We befriend another cyclist who lives in a near by village, a warning of the condition of the road ahead is given to us, though he is happy to inform us the road improves after 35 km…

11:00- We hit the rough part of the road. Its bumpy, very bumpy. The dust is in our eyes and we begin to experience a sensation of ‘bum burning’ as we like to call it.

sandroad

12:00- Mikaela realizes she has lost another water bottle, this time the pot holes are responsible. For a brief moment consideration is given to following our route back, but it is a very brief moment before we continue on.

13:00- The temperature has risen beyond 40 degrees, we are sweating faster than we can drink and our heads are beginning to throb. Time for a long lunch break. We find some shade, lay out our blanket and settle down for a nap.

13:30- Children wake us up by asking us how we are. We respond in a bitter tone and then feel guilty. Its now lunchtime which means cheese triangles and peanut-chocolate spread (and I mean together in the case of Imran).

15:00- We have avoided the worst of the heat and its time to get back on the road.

16:00- Village stop, water refill. A local man tells that if we return through this route to England he would happily take the bicycles off our hands, to help us of course. We thank him.

16:15- A village mad-man squeaks past us on a very rusty bicycle with no inner tubes, he is singing and yelling frantically at us. Locals remain unstirred by his musings thus we do not worry.
16:35- A short bum-break becomes a long one as we get distracted by passing monkeys.

whydidthemonkeycrosstheroad

17:00- We reach the border of Senegal-Gambia. Immigration are pleasant and easy going. The customs official looks utterly bored as he asks us to list everything we have in the panniers. We approach using a bore-him-senseless tactic to avoid being searched. We begin to list everything, ‘Four t-shirts, two for each of us, one sports bra, two pairs of flip flops, some soap… oh no hang on I think we might have two bars of soap- is that bar finished?? No, actually one bar. Ten hair clips, four hair bands, errr, four pairs of socks, or is it five..? No, its four. Two books, one is an autobiogra-…’, ‘okay, okay. You are fine. Go please’. Content with our work we continue on. But alas, the plain clothed police officer has spotted us and requests that we empty each pannier discussing every item as we go. Resisting the urge to huff heavily we begin the tedious task, the medical bag brings the most lengthy search ‘that’s an anti-biotic, this is also an anti-biotic, this one is an anti-biotic…etc’. The repetition continues until he strikes gold with a mystery drug which he whips away from our hands and disappears with. He returns announcing it is controlled but as we are on bicycles he will ‘let us have it for free’. The drug is Lopermide, an antihistamine. After the long searches it is dark and we cannot clear the border for the night. The kind immigration officer advises us of an auberge we can sleep in. The corrupt police officer urges us to camp by the border because ‘these Senegalese are always plotting against you’. We assure him that we will be careful of any plotting and make a swift exit. He is excited for our return to the border when he tells us he will take some euros from us. We are less excited.

21:00- The owner of the auberge thinks we are mad as we put our tent up, turning down a bed for the night but we are content in our mosquito free home with the breeze washing over us.

05:00- We wake up and as though we are on a military operation, pack away the tent and head back to the border.

05:30- Keen to avoid waking the corrupt policeman we use hushed voices to convince an official we have already been through immigration. He appears to care little either way.

06:00- We avoid the policeman and with our emergency euros still in our pocket we cycle victoriously away from the border, our laughter filling the dawn air.

Dakar, decisions and the new route…

Time for a brief update from Dakar…

Days since we left the UK- 60
Days when Mikaela has declared she wants to go home- 7 (becoming less common)
Soaps used- 8
Cheese triangles eaten- creeping up to a shameful 100
Offers to buy our bicycles- 35
Advice that we drive next time- 20+
Punctures- Mikaela 1 / Imran 0
Snakes spotted- 4
Living snakes spotted- 0 (thankfully)
Monkeys in road- 18

Our visas for Mali begin on December 5th, thus we have decided to change our route in Senegal. Originally we planned on a quick sprint through the region following the course of the Mauritanian border, but at the border, realising we had more time than planned we changed our minds deciding instead to head to Dakar, through The Gambia and into Casamance where the scenery and culture is known for its vibrancy.

Keen to get back on the road we are now waiting in Dakar for the Tabaski festival to pass us by. Tabaski is a festival of sacrifice, here in West Africa that sacrifice means a kind of goat apocolypse. Everywhere goats are being transported to various destinations where they will serve to feed families as they celebrate this important festival (more commonly known as Eid al-Adha). As a result of this celebration all shops and services close for several days making it a bad time for us to be on the road. The decision to stay in Dakar has not been difficult given the incentive of large quantities of food and mass festivities!

Nearing Tabaski

Currently we are staying between two houses, one belonging to some very hospitable couchsurfers from Tunisia who are studying in Dakar and the other is of Dialimady, the brother of a kora player and friend in London. Dialimady offered the roof to his shared house which given the sweaty night temperatures has brought us some very cool and starry nights!

Dialimady's house

Over the next few days we will celebrate Tabaski before getting back on the road and heading towards the border with the Gambia where we are told the landscape will become greener, the people even more hospitable and musicians abundant.