This was supposed to be a short day. It would have been if there weren’t again a border crossing, and this time into The Gambia. As we headed out from Wassadou we had to go backwards towards Tambacounda before turning west on a gravel road taking us towards the border at Velingara – Sabi.
This was by far the hardest border crossing. Not because we had to go between so many offices, but because there was just two men working and they only had pen and paper to register both at immigration and customs.
We waited more that 3 hours at the customs office in Mansajang Kunda listening to the local mosque in the sun. Not our favorite spending of time. Being finally done we headed towards Janjanbureh with what to become named as the “black-mailing” route. At all police, military and customs checkpoints they asked for a gift. Some wanted our sunglasses, pens or something else. We couldn’t believe how they acted and at one checkpoint the police officer was eager to give us a fine for not waiting at the stop sign before waiving us forward. It would have gone straight into is pocket we believe. As we approached Maccarthy Island and JanJanbureh we were pretty tired of all the checkpoints and the cadeaus. I the middle of the road we see a crowd of people and someone dressed up in a red hairy costume swinging swords. It really frightened us, as we didn’t know what these people were up to. Did they want to rob us, or even something worse? To our relief they said that they wanted to greet, and thank us because they now had water. This was the people of the village were we built the well. The well opening ceremony was the day after.
In Janjanbureh the race administration had recommended three campsites, one of them called Bird Safari Camp. When we arrived there it was long time abandoned, but a local told us we could stay for free, and Anders and György Kozma (one of our Hungarian companions) went with him to the town to buy beer, eggs and meat. The rest of us stayed in camp to set up the tents and prepare the fire. It was quite a story they had to tell when they arrived some hours later as it was pay-day, a lot of people and a long story on how to get both hold of and buy meat from the butcher. With their late arrival we decided to spice the meat and save it for the day after. Almost ready to go to bed with again saw some lights and a guy coming on a bicycle claiming that the land belonged to his brother and that we could stay if we paid 400 Dalasi (€7) per person. Of course we didn’t agree as the place was in ruins and we didn’t know what we were paying for. Some minutes later two guys, on dressed up as a police arrived as well in the same errand. They told us that they had the owner on the phone and that if we didn’t pay we had to go away. In the end it ended up with us paying 2000 Dalasi (€5 per person). It was clearly a rip-off.