Tuesday 29 November 2022
It’s our last day in The Gambia. Our flight departs at 9 pm. I have very limited experience (ie almost none) of package holidays, but assumed that if you were purchasing a ‘package’, it would combine seamlessly. It took us 38 minutes to reach our hotel from the airport on arrival. So what time are we being picked up? 3.30 apparently. That’s 5 hours at Banjul airport. WTF? And we have to check out at midday. That’s 3.5 hours of hanging around the hotel before our 5 hours hanging around the airport.
In the morning, we opt to return to our original room, as it has a sea view, so is significantly cooler than the stuffy suite. As the room is to be decommissioned so they can knock the wall down to repair the a/c, we are given complementary late check out. So we are down to just the 5 hours of hanging around. And I seem to have adopted a cat.
Time for one last swim and one last aqua aerobics (I have more robust swimming attire on this morning). Before we pack up our things ready to check out – of rooms 501 and 508 and 804.
Then it’s time to run the gauntlet of a whole range of hotel staff who want tipping. The night security guard has even hung around to ask if he can have our toothpaste. As I already mentioned, half the population of Gambia live below the poverty line. The hotel wages are low. Not least because of having to pay TUI, who we have ascertained, don’t appear to do much for their cut.
Once I have descended from my soap box, stocked up with drinks and snacks for the journey (Tui don’t even provide bottles of water on the bus) it is time to set off for our fun afternoon/evening at Banjul airport.
In the reception, 3 minutes before we’re due to depart, we are presented with a fruit basket, which includes an entire pineapple, to apologise for the room swap fiasco. Just what we’re supposed to do with an entire pineapple in 3 minutes is beyond me, but the old man gives it a bash.
Obviously the coach doesn’t appear at 3.30. But by 4 pm we are underway. I had foolishly assumed that because we were first to be dropped off, we would be last to be picked up. In fact it’s the opposite, so we spend 45 minutes trundling along the strip collecting passengers.
Finally, everyone is on board and we can set off for the airport. Unfortunately, the road to the airport is no more. Our driver told us that there was supposed to be a big international conference in Banjul, so foreign governments provided millions of pounds to improve the road to the airport. So the road was dug up, then the government ran out of money. Hence the road is no longer usable and the conference was cancelled. I’m not sure how much of this is true. But I do know it took us over an hour to pick our way through the ditch on the side of the road to reach the airport a few miles away.
Finally, we reach the airport, where I adopt another cat who’s interested in my plate of chips. As it’s probably the most expensive plate of chips I’ve ever purchased, he’s out of luck. We board our flight to Gatwick, concluding our trip to the Gambia. It’s back to the UK for two weeks for pretend Christmas, before we set off once again for Christmas in California and on to Japan in the new year.