Well, hello #158! The Gambia was part of my December 2020 mid-pandemic West African end-of-year journey. I arrived into Banjul from Casablanca just before 2AM. My driver Kemo was waiting for me at the airport. We exchanged pleasantries on the way to my hotel. We’d have a lot more time to get to know each other on our forthcoming 10-hour road trip to Guinea Bissau.
I almost feel I didn’t give The Gambia enough of my time and attention. Truth be told, I mostly used the day and half I had there to prepare for my onward voyages to Bissau and Conakry, but I had no choice. I met Kemo the next morning at 10:30 and we headed to both the Guinea Bissau embassy and the (regular) Guinea embassy. I needed visas for both countries – I was unable to obtain them from the U.S. I’d also need a Corona Virus test in order to continue my travels, so we took care of that, too!
We were done by 3PM and I was dropped off at my hotel. It was actually a resort, and it was pretty awesome…and unlike any other experience I’ve ever had in Africa. Usually my stops are crazed and hectic: fighting insane traffic on dusty and polluted roads, witnessing depressing and extreme poverty, passing military police donning berets and big guns, and going through countless checkpoints set-up to fend off terrorists. But this time was very different. I found myself at a luxurious resort, right on the ocean. The rooms had their own private pools where Europeans were found sipping tropical drinks. Lots of Europeans. Where am I? This felt like more like the Maldives than Africa! I’d come to find out that The Gambia is a very popular, sunny getaway for Europeans (especially Brits) seeking to escape the rain, snow and cold at home during the winter. No wonder there are non-stops from Lisbon, Amsterdam, Brussels and Barcelona. On most of my trips, I’m the only gringo sight; but they were all over the place here. It all makes sense now.
Frankie Says Relax
To be honest, I kind of didn’t know what to do with myself. I’m not used to relaxing on vacation, especially in Africa. I’m usually going, going, going! – in and out of taxis, buses, tuk-tuks, sometimes carts being pulled by donkies…dashing through markets and souks and alleys and neighborhoods. I’m usually doing anything but relaxing. But here? That’s what you do in The Gambia: Relaaaaaaaaaax! I tried my best, I really did! I enjoyed some time at the pool and a walk on the beach before I called it a night.
Bye Bye Banjul
The next morning Kemo and I were rolling by 8:30AM. We had to head back to the embassies to finish my visas and then over to the clinic to grab my Corona test results. Then we were off! We’d have a long road ahead of us. Thank you Gambia, and see you soon, Guinea Bissau!
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