Jon Does Gambia: Day 3 "A New Beach"

Beachside with Alli

Beachside with Alli

I decided to start the day off with a nice run on the beach. it would be challenging and good for the body. This would be something I would do every day. I was being a responsible vacationer from now on. At 6:30 I made my way to the beach gate and realized that it was pretty much pitch black out there. All I could see was the light of the rolling waves. This run didn’t look as appealing. I increased the volume on my headphones and took a deep breath. Then I decided to stall a little bit. This was kinda scary. I went back to the hotel and talked to Swedie. Then about 15 minutes later it was time. The sun had shed enough light that I could almost see my hand in front of me. I turned on my cell phone flashlight and walked wide-eyed to the sand. Now I could see!

beach dogs.jpg

After between three and five strides I knew that this was a bad idea. I immediately began looking for the point that I would turn around. I threw my sandals down to mark where the hotel entrance was. Getting lost right then would suck. I trekked along and hated life. I was too far away from the water. The sand felt like quick sand. Each step made tomorrow’s run less likely to ever happen. I turned around at the restaurant called “Roots” that a local had told me about. Apparently they had good food and drinks and he could get me some “Bob Marley” if I wanted. I chuckled as I painfully ran. I zig-zagged on the sand to avoid the sleeping beach dogs. They were all over the place not giving a care about me and my horrible attempt at a run.

Breakfast with friends

Breakfast with friends

I finally made it back to my sandals. These hours of torturous pain were finally over. I turned my light back on and made my way through the dark grassy area to the hotel gate. I had survived. Swedie must be almost done with breakfast by now. I hoped she wasn’t too annoyed at my extended journey. I got to the room and everyone was still there. Apparently I had only been gone for “max 20 minutes”. I just shook my head in embarrassment. I was hardly sweating. How?

We had breakfast with friends. Naturally, we were the first of the group to be there. My omelette guy was there and handling his business again. Bash took the time to teach Alli how to jump down the entry steps. Just what we need. Two acrobats. We finished off another delicious breakfast and got ready to get this day started. The plan was to go to down the road to a beach bar called Poco Loco. Sounds fun enough.

Alli and me chillin’ by the pool

Alli and me chillin’ by the pool

Before Poco Loco, we had some down time. A quick stop at our beach for some resting in the sun would fill that time nicely. A beer in the sun made the resting more enjoyable. A juice bar worker came up with a menu. I’m beginning to wonder why people here come up with menus when they are always out of half of the things on the menu.

- What would you like?

- Ooh, I’ll try this mango watermelon pineapple

- We don’t have mango or watermelon

- Oh, well let me get a pineapple orange coconut

- We don’t have coconut

- Well what do you have?

It’s been like that almost everywhere we’ve been. Once at the resort restaurant they only had fries and omelettes due to kitchen maintenance. As long as they had beer I was good. Actually that’s been my motto this tour. “As long as there’s beer I’m good.”

We got a taxi through the hotel to take us to a lunch restaurant we had heard about. We got there and a kid was waiting in the parking lot selling some fans. I was so glad I didn’t have any money so I could honestly say I don’t have any money. Plus I didn’t need a fan. That wasn’t the case for Swedie. Well, she didn’t need a fan but she had money. The kid went right up to his new mark and told her his story. Swedie being the sucker that she is gave the kid D300 (60kr/$7). Even the kid knew she gave too much money. Later on he found her and gave her another fan. His conscience just couldn’t let him do her like that.

The lunch restaurant was called Cassy’s Café. Apparently a Swedish woman started it and they make some good food. Bash was happy to have some Swedish meatballs. The woman that owns the joint came out and greeted us in Swedish. The place was filled with expats. I heard English and Swedish all around me. It was like Stockholm!

The kids played in the playground while we waited for our food. Swedish-owned or not, the staff was on Africa Time. I ordered a juice drink and added rum. Bad idea. The waiter said he could add more rum for me. Done. It got better. It was a lovely afternoon with good friends at this restaurant. Cassy thought I was Swedish until I ordered my dessert.

- Can I get a slice of that chocolate cake warmed up with a scoop of banana ice cream on top?

- Oh, you’re not Swedish.

I guess my high-brow American dessert taste shined through. I was proud and embarrassed at the same time.

We headed to an ATM on the way to Poco Loco. Some kids selling bananas were posted up in the area. One came up as we got cashed and asked if we wanted to buy bananas. We didn’t. It’s an awkward and kind of painful thing to say no and continue walking as they continue to try and sell some bad-looking bananas to you. I happened to not have any cash on me (maybe I should change that), so I felt extra bad. I wanted to just make everything better for every one of these kids. I wanted to be a white saviour! But I can’t be that. All I could be at this time was another stingy tourist that doesn’t help out. Bash didn’t make matters any better.

- Ask my friend over there!

He’s so sweet, but no, Bash. Your four-year-old friend can’t make a decision on whether to buy bananas (that he doesn’t even like).

Bash still learning how to chuck a deuce

Bash still learning how to chuck a deuce

We made it to Poco Loco. It was packed with people and the party music was bumping. There was a Spring Break vibe. The waiters were running around like madmen and my stress level went up. Too much was going on. I’m not the biggest fan of the beach in the first place. A crowded beach with loud music and a disobedient son? Not ideal. Swedie went IMMEDIATELY to the water with the beach group. I stayed back and ordered a G&T.

I couldn’t really see the beach from where I was sitting, but once you see one, you’ve seen them all. Right? I was content here with my drink and talking to my homegirl. We were bonding over how soon we wanted to get back to the resort. I’m too old to be trying to party like the vibe seemed to be. I found out later that it was the day before school let back in and everyone was getting their last-minute beach time in. Just like back home!

Black beach.jpg

Swedie came over and mentioned how cool it was by the water. Bash had wanted me to play with him as well. Okay, the Beach Grinch would have to go up and play. I brought my fellow Grinch with me and we walked toward the beach. Our jaws dropped as we got closer and the sand under our feet changed to a breathtaking smoke grey. I regretted not bringing my phone on the trip. I was sure someone from our group would get a nice picture of it. Thankfully I was right.

I played with Bash at the edge of the water. My trusty lifeguard, Mike was there to make sure that we all would make it home safe.

On the way out we decided to grab a local taxi. This was exciting to me. The hotel wasn’t involved. This was me negotiating a price with a driver just like a local Gambian would. I was warned by my friend not to pay over 200. I asked the guy how much to Lemon Creek.

- Lemon Creek? 200

- Ok, let’s go!

We split up and Mike told the guy to drive like we’re family. Thanks Mike! The driver drove 15kph all the way home. Interestingly enough, he didn’t even know where Lemon Creek is. He asked me as we approached the road if it was left or right. Really, my dude? How did you know it would be 200?

We crept safely up to the resort and my guy Lamin gave me his card. He could be our guide or driver if we needed and since we were now cousins we would get a good price. I wanted to say, “I don’t know, Lamin. You couldn’t even find the hotel.” But I kept quiet and took his card. Maybe I’ll use his services at some time.

This day beat me up. I got back to the room exhausted. The kids were done for. We put them in pajamas and toasted to another beautiful day. We are almost at the halfway point of this vacation. I want to do so much more and it feels like time is running out. I’ll savour it while it lasts. Until next time…