Banjul Airport (BJL) to Kafountine
Trip Start Jan 14, 2014
24Trip End Mar 16, 2014
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There was no problem with the bags, but check in took about 45 minutes. Insanely, Brussels Airlines was unable to look up our reservation. They wanted a copy of the itinerary receipts in order to obtain the e-ticket numbers. We were unable to access our email via wifi, so I was escorted over and behind the baggage conveyor belt to the Brussles Airlines office, where I was prompted to use one of their office computers to access Annie's email and print out the four itinerary receipts.
Check in completed, we had a short wait at the gate and got on a bus which drove us about 50 meters to the Brussels jumbo jet already full of passengers coming from Europe to Banjul. It was a fancy one, with touch screen tablets attached to every seat back. I sat next to a nice Gambian national from Minnesota who was bringing his son and his son's friend to the Gambia for the first time.
Banjul airport was new and crisp looking, especially compared to Dakar. There was a digital ticker warning visitors that the Gambia has no tolerance for child sexual abuse. Its an English speaking country and attracts European visitors to resorts there.
Gambia customs was a cinch. A transit visa (exiting the Gambia same day) was free. I barely needed to tell the agent anything, though English is the national language. The baggage claim was a bit of a mele with such a large flight, but our bags were some of the first off. I had learned in Dakar to accept help, so we were through before most.
Ansu, our driver, was waiting right outside the baggage claim, and we were off as the sun was setting in a pink sky. Being a driver in this part of the world is big business. Not only do you get paid to drive, but you can carry commodities around and sell them. Ansu dealt gasoline to all the motorbikes around (all the cars are diesels), and the back of the SUV was so full of gas jugs (about 50 gallons all together) that we could hardly fit our bags.
We were traveling late enough in the day that there was a chance the fast road would be closed. We had to take the back way, which was a shorter distance, but basically a single track of deep sand through palm forest bush. Ansu took care of the border crossing and gave the questioning soldier a hard time for wasting so much of our time. We were through, and a couple of hours later we popped out of the bush onto the asphalt approaching Kafountine. After many speed bumps and a few turns, we were at Mame Diarra's [Mom Jarra's] house. We were welcomed with a late supper of fish and rice, and were ready to sleep so we could wake up and see this place in the light. We made it.