Monday, 26 May 2008
The Gambian Experience Part Three (The 'Sindola' Road). From January 2008.
Photo's above all taken at Sindola inc. 'That Shirt'.
Today we took the Mandina-Soma road which should have taken us toward the President's palace so I can get a look at the President's village.
Haddy thinks this is important and that if I wish to understand The Gambia then this trip is a must.
The road itself is a reasonably straight unfinished dust track currently with more potholes than the mountains of the moon.
Apparently it was started about eight or nine years ago and the Senagalese who won the contract to make it were so slow that the President kicked them out and sued for his country's money back.
I have to say that after travelling it I am surprised he did not declare open warfare and my heart goes out to anyone who travels it on a regular basis, even The Gambia's President.
I have never felt sympathy for a ruling President before in my life but I do feel sympathy for him. Nobody should have to travel in that dust.
The road itself is studded with police checkpoints and thankfully we got waved through all but one where we stopped for fifteen minutes for them to check all my and my travelling companion's documents are in order but 'Tufa is insured to drive the car which belongs to one of Haddy's relatives. They queried my heart drugs but I'm loaded with letters from doctors and they are all listed on a form with my passport so eventually we made our getaway after the two smokers had blagged a quantity of good old Golden Virginia and a pack of papers to roll them with.
We finally get to the end of the road and reach the hotel. I've brought money for 'Tufa to stay over too, but he's going off to stay with a friend after we've eaten, so it's just Haddy and myself at the hotel and after two bottles of beer and four brandies I feel just like a tourist.
In the morning 'Tufa appears like magic for breakfast and Gawd help us... He's wearing his esteemed team's colours. I come all the way to The Gambia and I'm stuck with a Chelsea fan... Sometimes there is no justice in this world and I rib him unmercifully about it. Not that he cares... In his opinion there is only one football team and Chelsea F.C. are it. I must be thankful for small mercies... He could have supported Manchester United !
After breakfast and a vain attempt to gain internet access, we take a walk around the grounds of the hotel. They have just shipped out a bus load of tourists so we are on our own. It is absolutely beautiful. That is the only way of describing it.
Whoever designed it did a wonderful job for it is not 'touristy' by any means but is painted in muted colours to fit right into the local landscape and there are more than enough things to do to satisfy the most fastidious European peasant with a propensity for lager and their (usually) obnoxious and spoilt kids (tho' what they make of that road is another matter entirely).
I pose Haddy on a quad bike for a picture for the guys back at work. It's a standing joke as we've had two stolen and it'll give Fred a chuckle in the office when I send him the shot and tell him I think I know where they are...
On the way back we stop at a farmhouse opposite Haddy's plot of land. They are busy building clay blocks to use as bricks to construct a small house upon it for she intends to use the land as a vegetable garden.
After purchasing two bags of charcoal for her 'oven' we pile back into the car and get back into the dust which is playing havoc with my sinuses.
I think I need to stop at the hotel when we get back. I definitely need a swim.
I would go to the beach but I've already come a cropper on a submerged rock and numbed my right knee, so it's back to the hotel.
Personal safety comes first.