After breakfast (yes, we did sleep long and good, even though I woke up often because of the hardness of the bed), we attend to the information meeting about Gambia. This time we finally visit a country where Teije hasn't been either, so he can't pretend as if he knows everything (like in Egypt and Morocco). We learn a lot about Gambia and the excursions we can make. Next to resting and spending a few days on the beach we also want to see a bit of the country, off course. Another important subject that comes up is how locals deal with tourists and how tourists treat the local people. People are very friendly here, like in most other countries, but when you are poor and you see all those wealthy tourists spending there money, it is only obvious that you would like to profit from that. And, noticing that being persistent helps getting money from tourists, it is easy to become bolder and more aggressive.
Shaking hands along the way, we walk to a very modern-looking gas station with a supermarket. We buy some mineral water and sit down at a bar overlooking the intersection of two broad asphalt roads. The boy in the kiosk sleeps and we let him sleep. When he wakes up he apologizes and we notice that this a totally different kind of person than the people around the hotel. He is not only nice, but also not obtrusive. And the price of the drinks is only half of those at the hotel!We wanted to spend the day at the beach to get some rest after a couple of very busy weeks, but the sandstorms must be still racing over the Sahara, since we don't see any sun. So we decide to take a taxi and go to Banjul. We ask the first taxi driver we see, a boy who can be barely 18. We agree a price that is probably too high (200 Dalasi) but we have no idea yet, what the normal price should be. In his worn-out car we slowly drive towards the capital of Gambia, probabaly because the car will fall apart if it goes any faster. The driver gives me a handle in case I want to close the window. I must say that the terrible chairs on our hotelroom sit even better than this taxi!
At Banjul he has no idea where he can find the Albert Market, the only big market in this town, so we tell him we will find it on our own. We walk around for some time and we find the market, a very colourfull place and we are surprised that we don't see any other tourists. A few boys folow us and keep bothering us but after making it clear that we don't like that they go on teir own way. In another part of the city we see a lot of open sewers on the street and we know we are in the slums of Half Die.
But we don't dare to make photographs too clearly, since the place looks very poor. I think it is a sense of guilt that plays a role, being rich tourists making pictures of their colourful poverty, only because it is so different from what we know at home. Most of the houses are made of corrugated sheet.Banjul is not very big and after a couple of hours we take a taxi back to the hotel. The price the driver asks is even less than what we paid on the way here, and we can go even lower to 120 Dalasi. This way we get a better idea of the prices. When we are almost near our hotel, a motorcylce passes us with high speed, spreading his arms. Teije makes a joke and says: look, there goes a flying duck, but the driver quickly gets out of the way and along the road dozens of people are running towards the road waving and cheering; a large convoy of plated cars passes us and according to the driver it is the president himself, Yahya Jammeh, who is now the democratic chosen president after he first took power with a coup in 1994 when he was a 29-year old lieutenant. In Holland we have lived so many years now and we have never seen the queen. We are in Gambia and see the president already after one day!
Since we could't find any restaurants, coffee- or teahouses in Banjul for a break, we stop again at the gasstation near the hotel. After that we want to see how it is on the beach, even though we can't see the sun through the clouds of dust and sand. Beachboys try to lure us to their chairs and restaurants but today we want to be on our own. Well, we don't succeed since all the time Gambians stop by us, trying to sell their wares, like fake watches and jewelry. But the temperature is very nice, almost 35 degrees Centigrade!
Very sweet are the two little girls who come up to us and ask if we are from Holland. When we say yes, they start to sing a Dutch song in a very civilised Dutch! Their school is sponsored by a Dutch lady... We give them both a pen as reward, but suspiciously enough more children then start to arrive asking for pens and one girl even holds the pen we just gave before to another girl!
We didn't see much of the sun today and after a meal at the hotel we go back to our room. When Teije walks back to the bar to get some drinks he stays away for more than another. And yes, as I already guessed, he has made a new friend. But this time not an obtrusive Gambian but a very nice and shy man who works as a guard from 8 at night to 8 in the morning. For 6 days a week he gets 850 Dalasi in a month. He is one of the few Gambians who doesn't have something to sell but just is very happy with the attention and a nice conversation. Salifu (with the emphasis on the last syllable) Jallow (sounds like Djalu) is his name. I am curious, I haven't met him yet, but tomorrow night we go together to the place where he has to sit all night to talk with him again.We are dog-tired when we go to bed, but tomorrow we take a nice day off.
Monday 10 January 2005, a day without sun on the beach
Today we have not much to tell. After a very late breakfast we walk to the beach to stay there for the bigger part of the day. Elisabeth uses her suncream, but I lie down in the shadow. Well, not that we see much of the sun since most of the time the sky is grey and reddish from sand. But the temperature is very pleasant. This time we take the beachchairs where we are even served soft drinks. But there is no difference in the harassment by salesmen who walk by.
But the way people bother us here is totally different than the way they do it in Egypt or Morroco. People here stay friendly and leave when you ask them to. Well, most do and weknow from experience that it can be much worse. People try to sell anything, 'real' Rolex watches, women with plastic bags filled with water, fruits and vegetables, boys who offer horseriding on the beach, all is possible.
At the end of the afternoon we take a cab to Fajara. Otherwise we wouldn't see anything else than our hotel. From conversation with other people in the hotel we learn that many have only come to Gambia for the weather and the beach, not for the country; some even don't come outside the hotel complex at all!
Should people not realise this is a third world country? Where the inhabitants are very inventive and creative to repair anything that we would have thrown away a long time ago, like these car wrecks here. Don't be surprised if they make two running cars from 3 wrecks. Refrigerators and tv's are transported here to a repair shop, economical as the people have to be. But we are surprised, again, that we almost see no tourists outside the hotels.At Fajara we get out of the taxi at the only crossroads with traffic lights and we have to wait for some time before the light turns green and we can cross the street. But even then we have to watch out for cars, since pedestrians never have the right of way.
We want to have dinner at another place today and we walk to La Plaza, a restaurant that has a good name, but probably the chef has a day off, since we like the food in our hotel much better and it is also cheaper than here. We take an official tourist-taxi (green) back to the hotel and it turns out that we pay much less than the yellow-green cab we took on our way here: they are supposed to be much cheaper!
At night Elisabeth meets Salifu, the guard at our hotel. Yesterday I had a very interesting conversation with him and she agrees with me that he is a very nice and friendly man, not as obtrusive like most man who work here. This time we have problems leaving him, since he wants to keep on talking, but after an hour we tell him that that's enough for tonight and leave him with a few bottles of cola to stay alert throughout the night. We don't want to think about it: 12 hours of sitting outside with most of the times nothing to do...
We haven't done much but still feel very tired, maybe from the warmth and the fact that we finally get some rest. But we go to bed too late, because the temperature is still nice at night (20 to 22 degrees). Tomorrow we will have to get up early since we are going on an excursion.