Tom Possod is a RISER Ambassador and has decided to travel through Africa with his bike. His tour started in Vienna and his goal is to make and discover beautiful trips in Africa. In this blog post you can learn more about his days in Senegal and Gambia.

We enjoy two days in Banta Batoo in the Casamance area of Senegal. Swimming pool, good food and from time to time a “Gazelle” (beer). On the terrace, in the shade, the 45 degrees can be endured. We get some energy for our next trip west to the Cap Skirring. We start our trip early in the morning, otherwise, the heat becomes unbearable on the bike. Especially if you drive slowly through the villages and the cooling of the engine turns on. The nature seems to be intact here. Colourful birds, colourful salamanders, colourful robes… everything is somehow dipped in colour. The Casamance has not really been discovered by tourists yet. At the roadside, there are villages made out of mud huts again and again. What we notice here in the Casamance: There are many actions to strengthen the woman in society and there is a bigger focus on education with normal schools and special training places (health service, handicraft nature etc.) a in other parts of the country.

Compared to the north we see more police and army here and on the roads, there are less of these annoying speedbreakers, instead, they put half trees and empty barrels on the road to force the drivers to take their foot off the gas. The people here live mainly from growing cashew nuts and peanuts. Unbelievable mountains of peanuts in the harbour. I’ve never seen anything like it before. The mountains are as high as a apartment building. And there is not only one of them.

It is early afternoon and finally, we arrived at the exit to the Cap Skirring. It is not easy to find your way around here. Many roads and many junctions. At some point we arrive at the beach and start looking for accommodation. In a simple hut on clean mattresses we set up our night camp. There are two American women in the tiny area. They work in Benin for an NGO. We make a short trip to the city and the harbour before we go to sleep.

It means leaving early to avoid the heat. We drive across the country and after leaving without breakfast, we stop at a simple small place to eat something. During the trip, we noticed that one thing is especially important in these countries: You have to approach people with a smile and respect and you get exactly the same back. Language barriers then no longer play a role. After the refreshment and a farewell, we continue our journey to the north. Our way leads us through Ziguinchor, there over the river Casamance and further towards the border Senegal-Gambia. The way to the border is marked with colorful clay hut villages and mostly asphalt. Shortly before the border we decide to look for a place to sleep. In a small village we ask where we can find the best accommodation for one night. We should try it in Abéné. The approach to our supposed overnight accommodation is a bit difficult, as the sand gets really deep on the last kilometre. The room is fine, so we park our bike, take a shower and go for a walk on the beach. Then dinner, relax and have a good time.

We leave early again without breakfast because we want to get something at the roadside. After the small snack, we go to the border crossing. Now we have 2 problems: 1. no visa and 2. Renate left her vaccination pass in the first accommodation with the other things (reserve canister etc.). The part in Senegal goes quite fast and we are good things that it goes on like this, despite the feared problems. On the Gambia side, it doesn’t go so smoothly anymore. So get the first stamp. If there are two of you it’s a bit easier. One “guards” the motorcycle and the possessions, and the other (in our case me) goes on the stamp search. It’s best to always stand in line where most people are. After 15 minutes I realize that it is the wrong counter. Counter 1 is after counter 2. Logical – isn’t it? It’s Africa. But always with the calm. With counter one, it becomes already uncomfortable. I have to go to “the boss”. The good thing here is, everyone speaks English. “The Boss” then asks for the Visa. Visa? For Austrians? He shows me a piece of paper where it says “Visa” and under it, the countries are described. Austria! Thick and fat. I show myself surprised. “The boss” is little impressed. But he wants to help me. €60 per person and we can get everything done on the spot and drive on. Wow! That’s a lot to me and I ask Google for more information. Foreign Office information: €60 per person for a quick visa and €50 for a normal visa. I explain to the boss that we don’t have that much money. He asks me how much I would be willing to pay. €10! I get kicked out. Nobody takes care of us anymore. There comes an Englishman with his motorcycle. He tells us that he often crosses the border and he knows everyone here. Now he tries his luck for us and goes to “the boss”. After a short time, he comes back and tells us that he could negotiate a deal for 60€ (both Visas). So off to “the boss”, 60€ change the owner and we get two stamps for it. We think it’s all done get back on the bike. Suddenly a nice young man appears with a card that says: “Please come with me – we need to check your bags”. No. Not really. Or? YES!

We need to get behind the officer’s building. „We need to check if you have drugs or weapons with you“. We have to get EVERYTHING off the motorcycle and into the officer’s building. I still hope this is just a little scaremongering. But no it isn’t. I have to unpack everything. Body search. But only with me. Well so! He really controls everything. The iso-tablets (to dissolve in water) are particularly appealing to him. In the meantime, Renate starts to give away tick tack in the office. The mood gets better and even jokes are made. After an hour it’s all over. We are allowed to pack and cross the border.

Finally, Gambia. We come to the next bigger city Brikama and get something to eat and drink after this stress. The plan is to spend a few days in Gambia and then drive north again to Senegal. So we leave for the sea and look for accommodation in the next town. The next days we will enjoy in Gambia with overnight stays at the beach, in small towns and what life will offer us here.

The last days were wonderful and we got to know a lot of people again. In the evening fish at sunset, reggae music and a cool beer, and stretching your feet into the warm sand under a sky full of stars. In the morning, walks by the sea and always looking for a fresh coconut, which I learned to open by myself. We only had a transit visa and that is now expiring. So we leave for Banjul at noon to take the ferry across the river. The few kilometres are fast taken. Before Banjul then a snack in one of the small booths at the roadside. Again long wait, many people and all have the same goal to get a place on one of the ferries. The good thing is, we can work our way up to the front of the queue with the motorbike and save a lot of nerves and time. Also, a difficult thing here is to buy a ticket, as the counters are literally overrun. And it is also a fight to get a place on the ferry, despite the fact that we are already in the first row. We leave the river behind us and drive on to the border crossing to Senegal. The departure from Gambia works again smoothly, but at the entry to Senegal we have to queue again and have all stamps checked. Ups, exit stamp from Gambia not collected, means back again, but then we can pass immediately by the queue and can enter in Senegal. We drive a few kilometres but it has nevertheless all taken some time and we start to look for an accommodation in a small village.

The departure from Renate is getting closer, and today’s destination is Saly, about 200 kilometres away. We take the road to Passi and then the turn-off to Foundiougne. After that it would be about 100 kilometres to Saly. But we decide to make a small detour because we want to drive along the sea and drive to Djiffer. From there we drive along the sea to Saly. In general, the trucks on the street are getting more and more and there is no consideration for motorcyclists on the street. This makes everything a little exhausting and we even have to get off the road once, otherwise, we would have a very unpleasant crash with an oncoming bus. But I was able to analyze the situation early enough and reduced our speed so we were able to leave the street in a safe way. The rest of the trip to our accommodation is collision-free but hot and marked by sandy tracks. Even with my light BMW we get stuck once. The joy is all the greater when we finally arrive at our accommodation in Saly and plunge into the pool to cool off. Now we can relax again with dinner on the beach and enjoy the last days together.

Our RISER Ambassador Tom will also be at this year’s New Church Festival (20.06-23.06). There you can also talk to him personally about his trip to Africa.

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