Gambia. A story between corruption and poverty. A paradise for pink tourists coming from the north of Europe who do not move from the hotel and who come to enjoy its endless golden beaches and that except for the most daring or adventurous, few dare to discover the interior where you can expect a lot of surprises.
Our particular history in the Gambia
The Gambia is a small country just 500km long and 50km wide located in the middle ofSenegal. From a turbulent colonial past, where slavery was one of its principles during the English occupation, it is famous for one of the great novels of our time, Estate Alex Haley, where he tells the story of Kunta Kinte, the firstborn of a family of four children of Muslim origin of ethnicity Mandinga from a small village next to the Gambia River, Juffure, a village that has become a must for many curious tourists.
Today tourism in the Gambia is based on a heliotropic or beach tourism, eco resorts and cruises on the Gambia River to visit such interesting places as the Gambia National Park where it is still possible to see chimpanzees released in addition to numerous hippos and crocodiles in the dry season.
Abuko Nature Reserve
In addition, many people visiting Senegal, the country that surrounds the entire Gambia, usually stop to just cross it through the Trans Gambia Highway or by the port of Banjul, the capital, but most of them do it by taxi from the savannah or by boat. If you go with your car, for example rent, you can expect surprises of all kinds.
Normally the most comfortable position is to rent a car with a driver, a more expensive option but much safer in the face of having to avoid the heavy and corrupt police, something that comes standard in this country. Visiting the Gambia with a Senegal rental car, without a driver, things like this little history of corruption and poverty can happen to you.
Hyenas, look they are ugly ...
Crossing by Seleti, Senegal, address SukutaGambia, we found our first surprise, the customs corruption. There was a collection of officials and police officers ready to take your rooms, some with a smile, others with contempt, but all with the same goal, to take out everything they can to the tourist. From our pants, to money, the watch or whatever they see in your suitcase. That nice, at least speak English, since French or idea, I thought, but sometimes it is better to become Swedish (not knowing the language), so they leave you alone. To get around this first unforeseen we had to give sugar and tea, I understand that by Ramadan, to the head of the customs, since nothing more to see the license plate of our car, of Senegal, knew that we were a perfect prey. Senegal and Gambia historically get along very badly for territorial, colonial and ethnic issues of which we Europeans have a lot of guilt and now we have to pay the toll for all the evil we did at the time. Well, nothing, € 20 and a pass signed by hand of doubtful legality.
Once left the customs 5 km later at the height of the crossing of Mandina Ba the second unforeseen came, a police check. Two policemen, two friends and several curious ... The papers please, are they from Senegal? Things start badly I thought… I like his shirt, he wore the one of the Spanish team, and I also answered him. 30 minutes of registration, attempt to "steal" mobile, medicines, etc ... but thanks for making me the Swede, or father of clear English, let us pass without having to contribute anything except our best smile and calm patience ...
Once seen this we decided to go directly to Serrenkunda to rest and we put aside the idea of seeing the country unless we took a place, after all we came from two long weeks in Senegal. The truth is that in the neighboring country we had a problem, since on a couple of occasions the toll we had to pay was to transport the mother or a friend to the next town, a toll that we always gladly agreed to.
Upon arriving at Serrekunda we could see that there was hardly any tourism, since in low season, August in this case, many hotels do not open or remain almost empty. Of course, from October to March both the English and people who come from the Nordic countries make their reservations months in advance, so be careful not to find accommodation on those dates.
Serrekunda is elMagalluf or El Arenal de Gambia but without so much disco or restaurants. In this area of the Gambia it is possible to enjoy kilometer beaches but without too much quality, since they are quite dirty and are crowded with people selling souvenirs.
Getting around is easy. In the Gambia there are taxis green Y yellow. The first are more expensive and you decide the destination, they are what they call tourist. On the other hand, the yellow ones are much cheaper, you share with the local cars and the routes are usually fixed, so sometimes you have to take several taxis to reach the destination.
The only time we took our car they gave us a fine, somewhat ridiculous since it was for not wearing the belt. If in this country people go on the roof of the cars, they have goats in the seats and many cars do not carry or doors, how is it possible that for not wearing the belt you put a fine ?. Well, they put it on us.
If we had to advise a hotel it would be the Luigis Complex is not the cheapest, but it has first-class rooms and they treated us great, although being low season they did not have all the services.
At the level of any street restaurants Senegambia Rd It has European dishes, a small oasis if you have been eating bread, fruit and vegetables for several days.
Once we took forces in Serrekunda we decided to return to Senegal taking the ferry from Banjul. Possibly to date it has been one of the worst decisions we have made, since to cross the river, in Ramadan season, yes, you have to wait for a two-day queue, so we advise you to cross the country through the Trans Gambia Highway If you take your car. If you go on foot, no problem, you just have to share the space with a cow, dozens of Gambians and knowing that you run the risk of sinking due to excess capacity, almost nothing, the most fun ...
When we arrived at Banjul in the ferry line we were offered to skip the line for a small fee, € 10, absolute corruption but the price anyone would pay for not waiting for two days. Damn the day we decided to get on that ferry, because until we were in front of the ship, we were not told that there were only 6 cars in it and that in order to access the cars, they pushed each other. I am not going to tell you how the car was, just to tell you that we did not get up and that we had to travel an additional 1,000km to surround the Gambia with a car full of blows on death roads, that if, by Casamance, the green paradise of Senegal , but this is another story and it's another trip. Javier Blanquer
Tips if you take a rental car
If you are going to take a car or rent one, keep in mind that:
- Wear a car with foreign registration, and more if it is from Senegal, it is usually a source of problems.
- If you go with a guide there will be no problem and more if the car has a Gambia license plate.
- You have to be respectful with the police.
- They may ask for money or take someone in the car. The first never accept it.
- With a good smile and patience It is possible to get out of any problem.
- Becoming the "Swede", not speaking English and smiling above all, is usually the best option.
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