woensdag 22 maart 2017

The Gambia

The week we spend in Cassamance was wonderful, relaxed and authentic. Before we entered into Gambia we payed a visit to Kafountine,  famous for it's marijuana  plantations.

The marijuana is cultivated on several islands that are part of a river system, and thereby only accessible by boat. On the way there, we successfully fished for barracuda, which would become our dinner that night.

Entering Gambia was as easy as a land border could be, stamp out, leave the passavant with customs, and stamp in to Gambia without the need for a visa. The 30 day passavant was delivered in the same building for about 10 euro, by well dressed officers. Quite a sight in West Africa.
Sums up Gambia pretty well 
The nicely dressed officers were just for show though, it soon became apparent that the Gambia was just as poor as it's neighbours. Dilapidated roads and buildings only improved the closer you get to Banjul.
After spending a few nights at camping Sukuta, we moved to the tourist hotspot of senegambia in Kololi. This was a universe if it's own, and quite unique in West Africa. Big hotels, many bar's and nightclubs, all catering to the white, mainly older, public.
We enjoyed the comforts, and were joined by Pim, a Dutch biker on his old africa twin. We took it all in, a massage, Dutch fast food, a couple of  nights out and looking on in amazement at all the older European women with their 40 year younger loverboy. Of course the elderly men also prayed on the fine looking 'gazelles'. The hotel owner told me later, that many of these girls are not even Gambian, they come from as far as  Nigeria to try their luck with these rich white men, all hoping for  visa and a better life.

We were not sad to leave this artificial universe and go on real adventures again. For me this was back towards Europe and for Fred it was more South, teaming up with Pim, who wants to go all the way to South Africa
The hectic Banjul Barra ferry 

Bridge over the border at Diama

Changing the oil seals on the rear axle 

woensdag 8 maart 2017

Senegal & the Casamamance

Happy as I was getting acces to Senegal and therefor having Gambia in my sights, I had found no insurance at the border.
Rescue came in the form of this little shop offering insurance and fried chicken, just what I needed.

That same day I  arrived in Tambacounda,  and being over 40 degrees, checked swiftly into a nice hotel with swimming pool and airco.
Next day was spent visiting the Niokola Koba national park, which boasted having a  good number of lions,  but sadly, none showed themselves when I was there.

Plenty of other game was to be seen however and a nice day was spent in the slightly cooler surroundings of the park.

Me and Roman, a local artist 

8 days after Fred and I split up at the border in Mauritania, we met up again in Ziguinchor at a lovely auberge.

Cold beers and travel stories followed but both of us where struggling with the intense inland heat.
Driving up to one of the many checkpoints in the cassamance

 It was quickly decided we would go to the coastal town of Kap Skirat, and find a nice place to camp on the beach.

Kap Skirat turned out to be a real gem, while we saw many white's, mostly French pensioners owning a house here, it has retained it's authenticity, and just feels relaxed.

It's also has picture perfect beaches and beach bars.

A campfire on the beach accompanied by live music from our newfound friends Ibrahim and Anthony made this a true paradise.

Needles to say, we stayed a few days.

dinsdag 7 maart 2017

Entry into Senegal, or not...

We did some research,  and it might be a problem to enter Senegal without a carnet de passage. One German got quoted 300 euro for a 2 day passavant. We agreed that Fred would go through,  and then phone me from the Senegalese side with the latest info.
To get to Diama,  you cross the beautiful national park of Diawling.

We were hoping to see crocodiles, but had to be content with waterbirds and warthogs.

Fred went through Mauritanian customs and when I was camping on a beautiful spot under a baobab tree,  he phoned me to tell me it was indeed going to cost me to pass. A minimum of 250 euro they wanted for older cars without a carnet. So I told him I  would rather return to Morocco than to be part of this corruption.

It seemed for me this was the end of the line, I still had 2 months and would not  get to the Gambia. It felt a bit stupid,  having made cards advertising tony-gambia.blogspot.be but I was going to make the most of Mauritania while I was here. After a short stop in Nouakchott it was straight to the mountains of Atar.

A long time dream was to drive the Choum - Nouadhiboo piste following the railroad. Being 400 km long and real desert  driving,  many times without even tracks visible, it's a true desert experience. Doing it alone made me a bit nervous,  but by now I had enough expertise and trust in the car.

It truly was what people think of when you say,  I'm off driving in the desert, although the railroad acts as a lifeline,  and you really can't get lost, there is a lot of navigating the sandy dunes with the help of gps and satellite images.

When the train passed,  I tried to drive the tracks but that was way too uncomfortable.

I slept in the desert at 200 km from any civilization and returned to the tarmac the next day.

During this time, I kind of remembered that there is another way into Senegal, involving a detour via the Kiffa to Kayes piste into Mali,  then just 90 km to Senegal.
Seeing that I had so much time on my hands the decision was made. I  would make a dash back to the capital, get an easy to obtain Mali visa and get to the finish line, being the Gambia.

My main problem was now the temperature, on the way to Kiffa the meter went up to 40 celcius and the next days topped that with ease. Never before have I've been so hot in Africa, seeing that this was only late februari.

Checking out of Mauritania wasn't easy, never found any customs on the route so just went to the police, where they made me write a complete statement in french,  in which I declared to do this route on my own responsibility.
Although sandy and technical,  the piste posed no problems for my capable landy, the heat being the only enemy. I tried camping but had to give up because of the searing heat,  and check into an air-conditioned room in Kayes.
Next day I went to customs in Kayes, where they couldn't give me a passavant, but where  I was so lucky to meet the grand chef du brigade,  who just returned from a visit to Belgium. He quickly came up with the solution, he would phone the border customs, tell them I was on my way without any passavant, and to let me through. At the border, I drove up to the barrier,  said to the cross faced officer 'you better make a call to your boss'. It was so funny to see the look on his face change during the phone conversation. Before the phone was down, the barrier was opened, and I was crossing the bridge to Senegal.
Once there I easily obtained the passavant for Senegal for the correct price of 4 euro. Succes!

woensdag 22 februari 2017

Surprising Mauritania

New tarmac in No Mans Land, with presence of the UN and the polisario
Abdullay from Gambia helping out at the border
Getting my sandal fixed in Nouadhiboo
Enjoying the street food
Senegalese restaurant, Nouadhiboo 
Mc Do,  African style 
Queue outside the Senegalese embassy 

All the way south

Market place near Mhamid
Teaming up with Fred Dew (GB) 
Fred on plage blanche
Me on plage blanche 
Fred needing  a bit of help, and quickly, as the tide was coming in
Getting to safe ground and waiting out the tide
Camping near Guelmim
First time getting the landy stuck 
And first winch recovery 
River crossing near plage blanche 
Dakhla free spirit camp
Dropping the pressure as low as 0.8 bar
.. or the beach is a no go
Panini restaurant, Dakhla