Day 171

Saturday. Kartong is a border village close to the Southern part of Senegal with a border control station near the Riverside. The Halahin River forms the border to the Senegalese Region of Cassamace and a small boat is taking passengers and items across. 

We were planning a day trip to the nearby village of Abene for sometime and this weekend is our last opportunity to do this. We wanted to take Oumie and Obama with us, as Oumie grew up in Abene and Obama has never been. He has also never met that part of her family and since they are planning to get married, this is on his list. 

We took the bush taxi down to Riverside to catch the boat, but we were pulled out by the border control officer as she remembered that there was an issue with our passports. Tourists usually get a stamp that has to be renewed every 30 days for a small fee, but we each got a 6 months visa from the Gambian consulate. The elderly lady at the consulate either didn’t realise that the visa system is outdated or she wanted to make some cash before the consulate closed its doors for good.
On top of this I have a different stamp to the rest of us, because I entered on a different day with a different officer. 

I visited an immigration officer a few weeks ago, who confirmed that it’s all fine and we won’t have any problems, but unfortunately he wasn’t in today so the hole explanation and discussion started again. And this one was a tough cookie and it took Dan’s charme and patience, which I wasn’t able/ willing to express, and a phone call to the head of immigrations for her to let us leave the country and, on our return, give us a stamp of re-entering, which renews our right to stay for another 30 days regardless of our visa. Luckily she noticed my different stamp way after she and Dan were on friendly terms and she didn’t kick up another fuss.
Dan and the boys spent a long time in her office with Oumie and Obama tryed to translate when needed, while I went in and out again to calm down. I have to say that the presence of the boys with Vincent’s basic Mandinka and Oskar’s charme softens up all of them sooner or later and in the end she was our friend and Dan promised her to bring an Aircrete block before he leaves…

We finally took the small boat across and got a driver with a four wheel drive to take us to Abene. It is a good 20 min drive along an extremely bumpy, sandy road through the dense forest, a beautiful ride.

The driver brought us straight to Abene’s holy tree, the ‘Bantang Woro’, which means ‘six silk cotton trees’. One silk cotton tree is already something I have never seen before and six of them is just an incredibly large volume of trunk and crown! So large that a group of very shy red velvet monkeys live in the trees knowing that no human can reach them there. Apparently there is a well in the centre of the trunks, but I am not sure this is true…

the remains of a restaurant
a cool dude with a cool bike!

We went to the compound Oumie’s used to live in and met part of her family – including Mariama, a 4 week old baby girl who was handed over to me very quickly. We were all quite touched by this little creature!

Abeny is so much greener and cleaner than any Gambian village we have seen so far. There are many flowers and the sites are full of vegetation and people obviously care about the appearance of their village. It seems to be a popular tourist destination as there are many small lodges and restaurants, but despite the absence of tourists none of them are in a derelict state like many are in Gambia.

Oumie’s brother in his Bologna bar
a thunderstorm was building up

Abeny also has a fishing village, at the far end of the village’s red sandy main road. Just like in Gunjur and Kartong, the Chinese have built a fishmeal factory right at the beachside, but the protest and resistance of the villagers was so strong and persistent that they have eventually closed it down.

storage and watch tower for the fishermen

We made our way back just in time to be home for the biggest and heaviest thunderstorm I have ever been in! Fascinating, a little scary and just very, very wet and windy. Both boys were sitting by the window in disbelief and respect for the force of nature.

just before it started to rain