There’s Many A Good Tune Played By An Old Banjul

by | Dec 18, 2022 | December 2022: Senegal, The Gambia, & Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia | 0 comments


We take a break from the driving today; 3 days ago in St. Louis the group collectively had decided it would be better to break up the road trip south to Guinea-Bissau from Senegal and stay a night tonight in Banjul, the capital city of The Gambia.

So from our night in Jufureh, and at the recommendation of Kemo to beat the morning line for Banul, we woke up 5am and drove west to first pick up our 250 dalasi/vehicle tickets (25 dalasi/person) for the Barra/Banjul ferry, about an hour’s drive from Jufureh.



We then continued another 15 minutes to the terminal, arriving at 6:30am:



The goal was to get our vehicle in queue early (which can be very long on Sunday) for the massive car ferry across the Gambia River to the capital city of Banjul.



The ferry comes every hour on the half hour and takes 30 minutes to reach Banjul. Pedestrians offload first, then cars, after which cars then load first, and then the pedestrians.



Once arriving 30 minutes later in Banjul, Kelsey, Evan, Noureen, Sameer and I took 20 minute walk around Albert Market, a long-established open-air busy street market featuring vibrant textiles, handicrafts & produce.



Banjul’s State House is just across the street.



We then had breakfast at Attaya café, where Kemo proposed an option for $400 more to switch to a different rental car with 4WD and A/C. After a quick discussion, the group declined the offer in the spirit of “we got this far. Might as well go all the way.” Stalwart troopers.

Then while Ihita and Noureen preferred to wait in the car, Evan, Sameer, Kelsey and I walked up to the observation deck on Arch 22 (100 dalasis per person), a decorative gate commemorating 1994 coup d’état.



Views from the top:



At the top of the arch also houses a small museum that chronicles the atrocities of the deposed dictator Yahya Jammeh (now living in exile in Equatorial Guinea).



After half an hour at the arch all 7 of us then drove west into the city of Bakau to drop off Ihita and Noureen at the 5-star Ocean Bay Hotel & Spa for an earlier recharge, while Kemo, Kelsey, Evan, and Sameer wanted to visit the Kachikally Crocodile Pool & Museum in the vicinity.



Here guides instruct you which crocodiles are well fed and resting and happy to let you pet them gently (please don’t sit on them, even if the guides say it’s okay):



We then retired back to the Ocean Bay Hotel for a $10/person day pass where we were able to get $30 2-hour massages, a dip in the pool, and the final match of Argentina vs. France for the FIFA World Cup at the pool bar.



After a quick dinner at the hotel by the pool, we then drove south to BJL airport to drop off Noureen at 8pm for what she had said was a 10:55pm flight home. However, when she checked in at the terminal, she found out she had actually booked a 9pm flight (whoops!) and therefore had to make a mad dash through security within the hour. Luckily BJL is a tiny airport and she made it just in time.

Meanwhile to accommodate our plan change 3 days ago to stay the night in the Banjul area, we found a last minute villa on to house us. I didn’t question it but now that I look back, it was a random empty humungous compound surrounded by walls with 2 guards. And it was all for us. Bizarre.

And as Ihita stayed behind at the villa, Kelsey, Evan, Sameer and I took half an hour walking around Old Yundum in the dark to grab some snacks at a random open convenience store for tomorrow’s final 7 hour stretch to Bissau. We then sat for a late night conversation about philosophy and love in what really did feel like in a floating house in the middle of the universe.


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