January 29th, 2018
Although we were quite sad that the rally had ended, it also meant that our real, independent overland trip started as well.
As I mentioned earlier, the main reason for us signing up for the rally was to travel with other overlanders deep into Africa, which we thought would provide security as well as opportunities to drive to remote places we wouldn’t had gone on our own. But now it was time to further research our plan for the trip while getting back to Europe.
Our focus was Morocco. We learned while we spent three days in Banjul that there had been some unrest in both Senegal and in Mauritania for different reasons, so we just wanted to get through these two countries – not necessarily Senegal that much, but definitely Mauritania. That meant we had quite a few days of long driving ahead of us, so we relaxed for a few days in Banjul first.
The main attraction we wanted to visit was the Albert Market. Getting through the rush hour traffic wasn’t easy, but this was due more to the old, narrow streets with badly maintained roads than to the amount of traffic really.
Seeing the market was a fascinating experience just on its own, though not necessarily in a good way. When we entered the market area, three or four guys already wanted to be our guide ‘to help’ us. After realizing how pushy and a little bit aggressive some people were, we ended up with one of these volunteers as our guide so that at least the other guys wouldn’t approach us with another ‘best deal of the year’-type offer.
I love seeing markets anywhere I travel. I think they’re one of the most interesting parts of any small town; you get to see local faces, how people living in the neighbourhood buy their everyday groceries and other things they need, and at the same time stumble upon some very unique items to potentially buy yourself. I definitely end up with too much stuff on my market visits, but I’d hate to call them just souvenirs. I had a different feeling about this market though.
The food section, especially the meat sellers, were working in circumstances that didn’t compare to any other market I’d seen before around the world, and in some areas, I had the feeling that we weren’t very welcome. In this market, there’s a small alley that obviously caters to tourists, with nice crafted items, paintings, and other handmade knickknacks. However, by the time visitors get to this part of the market, they’re likely to be so tired of the constant hassle from everyone that they won’t want to buy anything – or at least, that’s what happened to us. It was still good to see it through. We discussed our market experience over a very nice dinner in an Indian restaurant on the Strip. Yes, they even have a Strip in the touristy area of Serrekunda.