Dakar, Senegal to Banjul, The Gambia
250 miles / 400 km
Wx: Clear skies, HOT.
Well it is an exciting and sad day. Exciting because we are so close to the final destination of this amazing trip of over 4500 km across 6 countries. It is also very sad to think that this is the last day we are all going to wake up and jump on the bikes and ride together. Tomorrow we turn in the bikes and the group will start to break up. The riding across these vast landscapes has almost become a zen like experience and I will be very sad to see it come to an end.
We are up early as we have a lot of miles to cover today along with a border crossing (into The Gambia) and a ferry crossing of the Gambia river. As we walk out to the bikes and start loading them up, Niall our Scottish mechanic is making the rounds, lubing the chains and giving the bikes a pre-ride going over. It turns out that a couple of the bikes, including mine, have flat tyres. So we set about changing those while we scarf down some breakfast from the truck.
With the bikes finally fixed and loaded we leave Lac Rose with the sun rising over our shoulders. We weave our way out of Dakar through the crazy, crazy morning traffic complete with the entire cast of characters; cars, trucks, bicycles, carts, donkeys, scooters and just about anything else you can think of. We finally make our way out of the city in one piece and fuel up before heading south on the main road toward the Gambian border. Turns out there is a big accident and traffic on the road is backed up for ages. This is when it is nice to be on an off-road motorcycle.
We get past the huge line up of stationary traffic and finally hit the open road south. We twist the throttle and accelerate away, happy to have the roads to ourselves once again. We continue on through some rolling hills passing a number of small villages along the way. Say what you will about Senegal but it sure has one thing going for it, lots of stunningly beautiful women. The funny thing is though, even way out here in the middle of nowhere they still know they are beautiful. The look at you with this practised look of disdain as if to say ‘I may live in a grass hut with a dirt floor, but I am still out of your league.’ Hilarious.
As we approach one of the larger towns along the route there are some dirty great potholes in the road and I mean everywhere, all over the road. The traffic in both directions is weaving in every direction to avoid falling into them. As a result a couple of us almost get wiped out by the unexpected jinking of vehicles in every direction.
As we are passing through the town of Kaolock, BANG! My clutch cable snaps. I nurse the bike to the side of the road and signal to the others that I have a problem. Okay, the bad news is my clutch cable is broken and I can’t go anywhere until its fixed. However, as fate would have it, the moment it chose to break was when we were passing through a town, a stroke of good luck. A stoke of better luck is the fact that I have broken down about 20 meters from a scooter repair shop and they have a spare clutch cable right there. I kid you not, what are the odds? The guy from the shop even comes out to help us fit it to the bike.
I call the support vehicle to let them know what has happened. They say they are about three quartes of an hour away. As I am doing that Matt and Diesel Dave (the more mechanically inclined amongst us) along with the guy from the scooter shop have a go at fixing it themselves. After about 20 mins of fiddling they seem to have it sorted and I can ride again. We decide to ride to the nearest café and have a cool drink out of the burning sun while we wait for the support vehicle to catch up.
When the 4×4 finally arrives Niall has a look and says he couldn’t have done a better job himself. Great success! We are all off again racing toward the Gambian border and the last border crossing of the trip.
We finally arrive at the border to The Gambia. As we all group together Werner, our guide, goes in with all the paperwork to sort things out. As he does this we are set upon by a crowd of beggar children (as we usually are when we stop anywhere) wanting this or that. Unfortunately, at the border we are a stationary target and can not just ride away. We make the most of it by getting the children to all scream ‘Donkey’ in their best Shrek/Scottish accent as a homage to our Scottish mechanic.
The paperwork sorted, we are cleared across the border and into The Gambia. Once in the Gambia everyone starts to get a little road fever, wanting to hurry up and get to our final destination, a campsite in Banjul. We still have to get across the Gambia river and the only way to do that is by ferry and of course the ferry runs on ‘Africa time’. This means you are never quite sure when it will run or how many people are waiting to get on. So we all race towards to ferry crossing, wired with anticipation of finally getting to our destination after weeks of riding.
When we do finally get to the ferry there is a huge line up of people waiting. Since our motorcycles are only small, we try our luck by riding to the front of the line and asking/pleading/bribing to see if we can get on in front of the huge line of cars and trucks. Sure enough it works, and we are on the very next ferry. The support vehicle however is not so lucky, it is stuck somewhere back down the end of the line.
The ferry starts to chug off across the river, beautiful scenery in every direction and it starts to set in that we are now very, very near the end. When we hit the other side of the river it is only about a twenty minute ride to the campground and the end of the trip.
When we do eventually hit the other side of the river and file off the ferry there is a giddy sense of anticipation and we all start riding a little crazy because we are so hyped up. Wheelies, racing, sprinting, and weaving around traffic. We are all very excited! A little surprisingly we all make it to the campground without anyone coming off. There are congratulations all around.
We have just finished and amazing trip of over 4500 kms through, Spain, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, and The Gambia. We have been through Mountains, Coastline, Minefields and the Sahara desert, camping rough on the side of the trail and staying in fancy hotels. The journey has been extraordinary and you couldn’t ask for a better and funner group of guys. It is sad to see the journey end, and even sadder that Niall and Jack aren’t here at this moment, still stuck in the 4×4 on the other side of the river until who knows when.
Beers and celebration all around as we relax at the campground. Most of us are staying on for a few more days but a couple of people are leaving first thing tomorrow. Still on a high we decide we will head into the touristy part of town for a little last night madness, made even more mad by the fact that it is also Rick’s birthday today. Unfortunately, all our clothes are on the 4×4 which is stranded on the other side of the river until who knows when, so it looks like a night out in our stinky riding gear. Even better. Look out Banjul here we come!
A dream fulfilled, I guess I can cross that one off the bucket list.
L to R: Big Al, ‘Two Dogs’ Mihir, Me, Matt, Rick-ipedia, Diesel Dave, Pencil Pete