Day 3 - Morning in Senegambia and afternoon spent relaxing at the hotel
08.02.2009 - 08.02.2009 32 °C
Today we had no trips booked as I wanted to try out one tour to see if it was ok before booking more with Arch Tours.
Abdul had asked us to go to the office to arrange and discuss the other tours and to meet him in person. So we took the free shuttle bus to Senegambia at 11am.
We popped into the office and met Abdul. It was nice to finally put a face to his name after e mailing him in England.
He told us that he has 2 daughters who are living in UK and that he had tried living there but couldn't settle so came back to Gambia. With what the UK weather is like, I don't blame him. Three more trips were booked and after a chat we said our goodbyes and headed out of the office.
The Senegambia area is one of the tourist strips in Gambia. packed with restaurants, bars and nightclubs, it is one of the liveliest areas during peak season. Also where a lot of the 'bumsters' are located who try to extort money from you and follow you around for a long time.
TIP : If they keep hassling you even after a few times of you politely declining offers etc you have to be firm and tell them to leave you alone. If that doesn't work then you can say that you will report them to the Authorities. This does scare them off as the government are trying to clamp down on them. We never experienced it so bad but on a few occasions had to be firm.
Up the road is the Senegambia craft market which we headed out to. It has many stalls selling everything from wooden carvings to batik. I decided to put my haggling skills to the test almost immediately. I bought a couple of bracelets at what I think was a decent price. The lady gave me an amount that was 3-4 times more but there was no way I was going to pay that amount. I actually don't mind being slightly ripped off as I know they are trying to make a living but when it's a blatant rip off then no way. She later told me that she was impressed with my haggling.
TIP The locals expect you to haggle with them and it is fun. Whatever amount they say, start at a quarter of that amount and then negotiate. Have a final figure in mind that you would be happy to pay and don't go over that. Be prepared to walk away, more often than not they call you back.
After being pulled into a few more stalls and purchasing a couple more things we had had enough and left. Believe me they will pull you into all their stalls and even if you have bought the same thing in another stall they want you to buy something there. Gets a bit tiring after a while.
We managed to get a taxi back to the hotel and then headed back to our room to enjoy the sea view from the balcony. It was the first time that we had met our chamber maid called Marie. Another lovely person who we had a good chat with. She told us that most people earn only about £30 per month and as for her as the travel expense is taken out she doesn't end up with much. Also she has to help the family. Marie also said no to trust what every local says as some will give a false sob story to try to get money out of you etc. and would maybe keep bugging you after.
My Dad was sitting on our terrace and got talking to one of the hotel gardeners who was nearby. He had got a big papaya and Dad was asking him about it and talking generally. The guy was so nice and actually went off to look for a knife to cut a couple of slices from his papaya to give us. He didn't want anything in return but my Dad insisted that he had a pack of biscuits that we brought and gave him a little money.
On the whole the majority of Gambian people are so nice and will go out of their way for you. This guy came back in a few days time and brought some oranges and bananas for us as well. As I always say if you show respect and kindness to people they will reciprocate.
So the rest of the day was spent walking along the beach, relaxing and talking to the locals. In fact whilst walking along the beach a local came up to try to get us to go to a restaurant which is in the next village. We decided that we wouldn't go as sometimes you have to be careful. I'm sure he was legit but we didn't want to take the risk. I told him that we would consider and maybe go another time. So basically he was walking and chatting to me for a good 15 mins but he seemed harmless enough. He asked me to take a pic of him so I did (dunno why though). Meanwhile these other locals had come and were chatting to my parents and trying to get them to go to their bar on the other side and also one was doing a boat trip. They do ask a lot of questions but don't feel like you have to answer the personal ones, just make something up or say you rather not say. Basically they will try to become your 'best friend' . So another photo was taken and then the security guard from the beach came to rescue us (although we were ok) but he said to us after normally they won't leave you alone and can get quite annoying. It was good that the hotel had security patrolling the beach in case.
There are many beautiful birds in Gambia and if you are a bird lover than this is the place to be. It was nice to see and hear the birds near our room and whilst walking.
In the evening we decided to dine outside in a thatched style restaurant by the beach. It was more pricey but we thought we would do that once for the experience. We enjoyed the sunset views and looked forward to the trip tomorrow. Another early start and full day out.