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Travelling to The Gambia

Home -> Africa -> Gambia -> Travelogue Gambia -> 08 January 2005

Saturday 08 January, travelling to The Gambia

At half past five we are waken up by the alarm clock, not really a good time for starting a holiday, we think. And then we are still 'lucky' that the airliner we were supposed to fly with, has gone bankrupt. With Dutchbird we would have to be at Schiphol airport at half past 6. But we are flying with Transavia now and leave two hours later.
Yesterday we both had a long day and finished working quite late, so we don't feel very rested when we get into the car. It is still dark when we leave and there is a big storm going on. We have headwind and sometimes we cannot drive faster than 110 km. per hour. But we are in time for the train leaving from Almere to Schiphol. Bacause of the storm there is only one runway in use, but we have a delay of only half an hour later. When we take off we have been travelling and waiting already for 6 hours, almost as long as the whole flight will take.
The Pyrenees The PyreneesThis time we haven't forgotten anything, I am sure. Not like last time when we forgot the power cable of the laptop, so we couldn't see our pictures and save them on disk. This time we have everything... Until we make the first pictures of the Pyrenees and then I know: I forgot the usb-cable to connect our camera's to the laptop. Fortunately, we have bought some extra memory sticks and when we take the photographs in a smaller resolution we should be able to make enough.
The flight goes easy and well until the Sahara is supposed to appear under us in the south of Morocco. But instead of endless sanddunes, we only see white masses of clouds and they stay with us all the way to Gambia. Above Mauretania we have some turbulence and we just read in the paper that quite a lot of cars have stranded in the Paris-Dakar race because of the sandstorms; some drivers even got lost.
On the international airport Yundum we make a perfect landing on the only runway the airport has got. It is a modern airport and is also used by the NASA, and even the space shuttle can land here in case of an emergency or bad weather. We have to wait some time before our luggage arrives but that gives us time to change already some money for a reasonable rate (36.25 Dalasi for € 1) without commision costs. We get a large bundle of dirty notes, but as long as the money is accepted we have no problems with that.
We are waited for by the hostess of Olympia, but we have some time for our biggest vice: there are more addicts who long for a cigarette after 8 hours of abstinence. Regulary, we get comments on the fact that we are open about our addiction and people condemning the fact that we even show photographs of ourselves with a cigarette in our hand, but well, that is our style of living, and also a small form of protest against the growing meddlesomeness of authorities in their 'war against smoking' (and against the growing number of sometimes stupid rules about all sorts of things in general!)
The sky is grey when we drive through the fairly bare landscape to the hotel. Anouk, the hostess, even apologizes for the weather and explains it is dust and sand from the Sahara that blocks the sun. We hope it will blow away in a few days, since our main goal for this holiday is to get some rest and we want to spend at least a few days on the beach.
At work In the hotel (Badala Park an Kotu, 200 meters from the beach) we start with an inspectionof our room: very hard mattresses and two hard chairs which are painful to sit in; therefore I write this travelogue sitting on the hard pillows of the chairs with the laptop on the bed, not a very comfortable position.
Swimming pool at the hotelBut we can put of our sweaters and pay a visit to the bar of the hotel for a cold drink and a meal, next to the swimming pool. On the way through the hotel garden we are met by friendly Gambians who all want to shake hands and we make many 'friends'. Most of them also have things to offer: excursions, wooden craft, etcetera. Gambians are very nice people but around hotels one can expect a lot of hustlers, people who want something from the tourists and it is not always easy to make the difference between the good and the bad guys. So, we react friendly, but don't promise anything to anybody.
The food and the drinks are allright, but much more expensive than we had thought. For two meals and 3 drinks we have to pay 480 Dalasi, about € 12, still much cheaper than in Holland, but expensive for a third-world country where the average monthly income is around 800 Dalasi. Our waitress even insists that we pay 530, she makes the calculations three times. After the fourth time she has to agree with us that it is only 480 but with her persistency to get more money we don't give her a tip. Later we will notice that many Gambians have a problem with counting, but still it is strange that when it comes to bills, they always get a much higher amount and never less than the real amount.
We are tired after this long travelling day and we go to sleep at 10. We are curious how our backs will feel after a couple of nights on these hard beds. I don't dislike a hard bed, but this one is too much. For Elisabeth it is even worse, she is used to soft beds and has a back problem. We know, we are spoiled...


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