Wherever in the world you are….
If you have money you are laughing when it comes to transportation. Even a little bit of money buys you a clapped out old banger to get you to and from work or to the supermarket. Or mums who drive a 4×4 on the school run in suburbia with not a grain of sand in sight. Trains with seats, some with air con and all with toilets. Buses with WIFI. Now imagine this…
We live a good 20 minute walk from a tarmac road. The 20 minute walk from our compound to the tarmac road is over rocky, rugged pitted sand in the dry season when snakes are abundant. Followed by a lake of putrid mosquito infested rain water from June to October. The year round average temperature is mid 30’s.
Having stumbled and sweated the mile to the road next comes the waiting game. UK citizens who use public transport are indoctrinated into waiting for public transport. Gambia is no different. Everything here runs on Gambian Maybe Time GMT. And there the similarities end.
There is no public transport in Gambia
There are private taxi’s, tourist taxi’s and what is known here as Giley Giley’s. The majority of these clapped out Ford Transit vans are owned and operated by other West Africans not Gambians. They are driven by a driver who has never had a driving lesson in his life and the money is collected by the conductor, usually a young teenage boy who has never been to school. Driving lessons are not compulsory in Gambia. MOT are a paper disc you buy annually with no vehicle being checked like in the UK. Imagine what these two factors contribute to fatal accidents…….
The old Ford Transits are shipped from Europe when their days are deemed over, check out the Auto Trader for vans “only suitable for export”. They are then stripped out and rows of wooden benches placed inside. Each giley giley carries an average of 18 passengers not including their small children and babies who are stuffed onto strangers laps. The food baskets, live sheep and goats and sacks of onions etc are all tied to the roof. And then we are off!
Until you have been squashed inside a packed giley giley next to someone who hasn’t washed with soap for weeks in 30 degree heat you have not experienced the real Gambia. For us this is our daily routine to visit your kids, their schools and communities to assist where we can. Gambians have a saying you will hear repeatedly. “It’s not easy”. And getting around Gambian style is not easy.