I read some really conflicting reports about the trip Dakar – Banjul, so I thought I’d share our trip itinerary for anyone out there considering coming this way. And for anyone not, well, then its just a nice story to read with ur morning coffee, innit!
First of all its not a day in hell, as some have claimed xD. It is exhausting but with military tight planning it doesn’t take long (we obviously failed at that xD).
05:30 the alarm rang and I kept sleeping. But we did leave the house 06:23 sharp and arrived at the gare de routiere in Pikine around 7 something. At this point we stopped for sandwiches, one which I ate, and one which went in my bag and shall come back later in this story, more times than I want it to.
By the time we had made the decision to go for slightly more airy, cheap and slow option of minibus over sept place it was around 9am, at midday the bus was full and we left. Or we tried to leave, this was few days before Tabaski so there was a lot of traffic getting out of Dakar, it took a solid hour and a half to leave the gare routiere, during which the bus was filled up with smoky exhaust from the surrounding traffic a few times.
Edging out of Dakar, and then on the toll free, slow road, slowing down for every speed bump, every village. There are no pee breaks, so water intake is highly strategic, also if you do this be prepared for an actual cramp in ur butt cheek (this is a real thing), any movement such as bending forwards of lifting up ur leg may help if feasible. If not hang in there, the pain lasts for around 20mins then u go numb (this is also real, and blissful).
We arrived at the boarder in good time, some 40 mins before closing time. Were advised we didn’t need a visa, but had to pay 10.000 cfa entrance stamp fee, which I have no idea about if it is legit or not. The Gambian official hit on my friend, while a female colleague took a break to nurse her beautiful baby next to us.
We changed some dalasi and got in a taxi to rush to the ferry, but ended up waiting at the terminal until past ten because there was a storm. I napped on a bench between kittens and peanut shells, lulled by a loud cacophony of voices from other waiting passengers.
When the ferry arrived it was a muddy, dangerous affair to get on. I squished a sheep without realising, the poor bugger, when I leaned into the crowd as the trucks unloaded. It was very, very close, close enough for one sheep to get caught in the wheel and under shouting saved by driver and herds man.
On the other side getting out was much less painful. Banjul was without power because of the storm so this was a dark and muddy place to be. None of the taxi drivers seamed to have heard of our hotel or to be able to make sense out of the address. The number to call from booking was dead, so what now. Well, This Is Africa so obviously human generosity saved us at the nick of time: a dread locked guy appeared out of nothing saying he knew our hotel. Not sure how but this turned into a brief physical fight between to taxi drivers as we were discussing prices.
Finally our new friend offered to take us there in his car, along with his buddy and the two guys they had come to pick up.
At this time my second sandwich informs me it had been to no benefit leaving it on the hot floor of the bus for 4 hours before consuming it, I got that kind of urgent abdominal pain that travelers know and fret. Our new friend asks for a key to the port bathroom, and they laugh at my desperation as I rub my tummy. The guard opens for me and gives me his phone to use for torch as it is pitch black in there.
The way to the hotel included another urgent toilet stop over, a heated discussion at a police check point, and driving back and forth to try and locate the hotel -Which we do, in the end, close to midnight. And we have a great time with our new friends over the next days!
This trip can definitely be done shorter, coming back home only took us a good 11 hours from door to door, and had it not been for Tabaski traffic we could have done it in 9. Best advice for this route? Be more disciplined than you want to, leave a lot earlier than you want to, take a sept place (but try not to get chucked in the back), and for the love of Pete don’t leave a chicken mayo sandwich lying around in 40 degrees for 4 hours before you eat it xD