Monday 28 November 2022
Our last full day in The Gambia. We consider a trip to Kunta Kinteh Island; an island in the River Gambia where slaves were held prior to being sold to European traders. Obviously it wasn’t called that at the time, having been renamed after Gambia’s most famous slave thanks to Alex Haley’s book/TV series ‘Roots’. It’s not far, only 20 odd miles, but quite a trek as you have to drive to Banjul, cross the river by ferry, then drive back along the shore the other side, then take another boat to the island. We decide that’s too much palaver in this heat. But we have promised a driver we’ll take a trip this afternoon and don’t want to let him down, so opt to visit some more accessible local sites.
First up breakfast, swim and sunbathing. I briefly consider joining the aqua aerobics class, but quickly realise that this morning’s swimming costume is unlikely to hold everything in place while I jiggle about in the pool.
In the afternoon, we set off with our driver Lamin on our toned down sightseeing trip. First stop is Bijilo Forest Park, which is basically a monkey feeding photo op for tourists. Once you have paid your 150 dalasi entry fee, you can purchase peanuts and/or bananas to feed to the monkeys.
The park is quite large, but it’s fairly pointless walking far as all the monkeys congregate round the entrance waiting for tourists to appear and feed them.
The old man purchases a bag each of bananas and nuts and enjoys feeding the very tame monkeys their treats.
Next stop is Kachikally Crocodile Pool. This is actually only a mile from our hotel, but requires coming off the main road, further into to residential Bakau. It’s prey grim; with a putrid open sewer running along the side of the road and children playing amidst piles of garbage.
At the end of the road we encounter a fleet of police cars and fancy vehicles. Amidst all this poverty, the mayor of Banjul is taking the mayor of Wisconsin to see the crocodiles. Our driver is super excited about bumping into the mayor. As it’s a special occasion, they’ve dug out the albino crocodile for visitors to touch. Our driver says we’re very lucky – seeing the albino crocodile is rare.
We pay our 100 dalasi entry fee, and enjoy the spectacle of a hoard or dignitaries and their security escort all taking it in turns to touch the albino crocodile.
Whilst we wait for the huge convoy to reassemble and make its way back along the tiny street, we visit Kachikally Museum.
The museum consists of a series of huts tell different aspects of the area’s history. The first hut is predominantly about female circumcision, with photos from the Maccarthey Circumcision Festival. Maccarthey was the former British governor of West Africa. Time to leave…
We manage to reverse back up the narrow street without falling into the sewer, which is somewhat of a relief and return to our hotel.
In the evening, one last trip to Indian Zaika. We stop on the way back through the hotel to check out tonight’s entertainment. The best way to describe it is when, as a kid, you put your 45 rpm record on 33 rpm. So we return to our room (501). Our last night in The Gambia is over.
Only it’s not. The a/c starts leaking all over the bed. Again. So reception move us. Again. Off we trundle, past 514 (where we slept on Saturday) to tonight’s room; 508. I attempt to take a shower, but there’s no hot water. So I return to 501 to shower. Only I take the wrong key. So it’s back to 508 for the key to 501 to shower. Meanwhile, the receptionist has realised that 508 is empty for a reason and returns to tell the old man he’s moving us to room 804. I emerge from 501 in my pyjamas clutching my iPad and a beer not really sure where I live any more. Only to bump into the old man with my underwear and a selection of room keys. The upside is we now have a suite. It’s very hot and smells of mould. But it’s a suite. And I have beer.