Fighting For A Space On The Ferry At Barra

At Barra we buy our ferry tickets and wait for the ferry to come. After 30 minutes we are concerned that nothing is happening. Mary talks to a few people and it turns out that some people have been waiting since 1pm. There have been no ferries from that time which would explain the masses of people waiting. The ferry was being used solely for the African heads and their entourages. We figure that Gadaffi left Korrang before us, so the ferry should be ready any time soon.

It wasn’t.

Every time Mary would ask one of the military policemen who were guarding the gate what time the ferry would be coming they would always say,

“In 10 minutes.”

Of course it didn’t come in ten minutes, or twenty, or even an hour for that matter. Three hours on we were still waiting, tired, hungry and slumped all over Mary’s suitcases on the dirt floor. We were seriously worried. There may be no more ferries, after all there hadn’t been any all afternoon and evening. It looked like we may be sleeping in the village for the night getting ravaged by mosquitoes. Then just before 11pm the crowds perked up. You could feel a buzz in the air. The ferry had come!

From where we were stood we could see the gates. They didn’t seem to be letting people in though. It was going to be hard for us to plough our way through the crowds, especially with Mary’s two big suitcases. It was tough but we did it. Mary was encouraging us to spin them a sob story about our flight leaving in the morning. We were a bit reluctant because when Mary had gone to ask one of the guards when the ferry was coming she had seen what looked like a bumster who was with a white woman go up to the guards, point to the white woman and say,

“Look I’m with that woman, can we go first?”

The guard then laughed a big heart laugh and did a Wham! point across the whole crowd and said,

“So you think that she is better than aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall these PI-PUL ? All these PI-PUL who have been waiting!”

He then cussed him out and basically told him to piss off. After hearing this we didn’t want to come across the same way.

This is a picture of the ferry entrance on our way to Dakar. On the way back the whole area and more that you see empty in the picture was packed with people:

Gambia Ferry 300x225 Fighting For A Space On The Ferry At Barra

They soon started letting people through the gates, little by little. One minute we could see Mary and her uncle, the next minute we could only see her little head bobbing up and down trying to fight her way through the gate. The gate then shut and we couldn’t see her any more. Originally we were going to wait for the second ferry but looking at the time, it looked like this ferry was going to be the last for the night. Knowing this Deborah and I decided we better try and talk to the guards, after all we didn’t want to sleep in the village. When I think about it I’d have rather slept in the village than drowned on a ferry, but I forgot about that for all of about 15 minutes. I approached the youngest guard,

“Excuse me, we’re from England and our flight is leaving in the mor”

He interrupts,

“What time?”

He is surprisingly nice. I was half expecting to get cussed out like the bumster.

“5 in the morning.”

“Don’t worry. You will catch it.”

That was that. Deborah is grinning widely at me and we stick to this man like glue. When the door opens again we are the first ones that he ushers in. It was lucky too because Mary was waiting behind the gate and had just started screaming at them to let us through as soon as the gates opened. With a performance like that our entrance could have been put in jeopardy! Once we are through we run to the ferry. It is packed. I have never seen anything like it. I don’t even know where all these people came from. There must have been another gate that we didn’t see. Every part of the boat is stacked with people. People are just getting in where they fit in. In between cars there are people dossing down in awkward positions. We stop not to far from where we boarded as we couldnt move in any further. Mary throws down her suitcases by a car’s tyre and we sit on them rubbing our heads against the car’s metal the entire journey.

This is the ferry on the way to Barra. On the way back to Banjul it looked nothing like this. It was so packed people were even hanging off the top part:

ferryGambia 300x225 Fighting For A Space On The Ferry At Barra

As the ferry starts to move the lights blink on and off a few times and then go off totally. I am panicking, images of The Titanic plaguing my thoughts. Maybe it is the sign before sinking? The lights stay off and as no one else seems alarmed I gradually relax. I assume it must be normal practise. The ferry ride to Banjul is quicker, well, and seemingly quicker than on the way to Barra. We survive, albeit hungry and tired we arrive back at the hotel just after midnight. Just before we are about to crash out Deborah turns to me and says,

“Have you seen Amistad?”

I shake my head. I haven’t seen it.

Nothing else is said. It doesn’t need to be.

I know what she means.

And then we fell asleep.

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