Banjul Ferry. An experience not to be missed!
To appreciate the huge significance of this short ferry journey we need to look at the geography of The Gambia, Africa’s smallest country.
Gambia is surrounded on 3 sides by Senegal, the 4th side to the west is the Atlantic ocean. The distance from the coast to eastern border is 300km and at its widest its only 70km.
The North Bank is obviously much poorer and less developed than the area south of the river. Apart from the politics of the previous dictator President being from the south side there are a few other reasons. 1) The international airport is on the south. 2) There are no significant tourism facilities since the beaches are not as accessible. 3) The ferry journey makes travel to the north difficult. 4) There is a very limited electricity supply.
Back to that ferry. All traffic travelling from the north or south must use this ferry (there is a bridge further up river but not an attractive detour). The ferry runs from 05.30 until 23.00 with Every sailing filled beyond capacity, all hours are peak hours !
Depending on the length of the “always overloaded” commercial trucks the ferry can only accommodate 2 or max 3 on any sailing. We have often seen 30 trucks queued at each port.
There is a queuing system but not as we know queuing. Because of the way in which it is managed you can be “on time” for the next ferry and for some strange reason find yourself queuing for “the next one”!
After 2 long dusty days on the North Bank we were assured that if we closely followed the white van we’d get on this ferry…. but, you guessed it, we found ourselves at the head for the queue for “the next ferry”.
Pamela was not a happy girl facing at least a 90 min wait as she watched the one we just missed disappear.
Looking on the positive side, this ferry crossing teaches you to have patience, a lot of patience.