November 2013: The day started out normal. I was departing Dakar, Senegal on a flight after a night of beach bar hopping with a new American friend, who I am convinces was a hired contractor of the CIA. He provided security training to 3rd world countries, worked in Angola providing security to a logging camp, and owned a bar in Kabul. Interesting characters like him are never in short supply when you travel to countries like Mali. I was on a direct flight on ASKY, a Boeing 737 with the Nigerian airline from Dakar, Senegal to Sierra Leone. The flight consisted of all West Africans with the exception of myself and two other Americans seated next to me-a Peace Corp Volunteer and a Sierra Leonian man building a 2nd house in his home country. We instantly started chatting and became friends on the flight. During the flight the pilot announced we would stop in Banjul, Gambia for reasons unknown. Gambia would become the only country I have visited with no intention of seeing. We landed in the early evening and the landing seemed uneventful. However, after 30 minutes of being parked on the tarmac, the pilot with a thick Russian accent walked into the passenger cabin and announced that the plane had a ruptured tire, and it would need to be repaired by the mechanics before we could take off. The flight attendants opened the doors of the plane, and we were able to walk freely inside the plane and stare out at the airport. Another 30 minutes passed, and the Russian captain made another announcement. The mechanics had all gone home for the day and it would take hours for them to return. He expressed that we would be able to wait inside the airport terminal while repairs are made but the immigration officers had also all gone home so we wouldn’t be able to leave the airport.

We were all marched off the airplane into the empty terminal. The electricity was not working, and it was hot and humid with nowhere to sit. There was one security guard otherwise the airport was shuttered, and all employees had gone home since there were no more flight arriving or departing at night.

After an hour of suffering in the steamy arrival lounge, an airline employee entered and announced we would all be given a hotel room, meals and a small cash stipend for the night while the plane is repaired and that we would be allowed to enter Gambia. We all exited the airport without going through immigration and entered a shuttle bus to our beach hotel. I wasn’t disappointed. I was being given a free vacation in a new country on the beach. This was great. My new friends from the plane and I decided we would explore the bar scene outside of the hotels and make the best of our free stay. We even had a drinking stipend provided by the airline. This was great!

 

About Gambia

 

Gambia, the smallest country in Africa’s mainland, is a construct of the colonial powers. It was a British colony that if not for the British would be part of Senegal and French speaking. The country was built around the Gambia River and is currently a major peanut exporter and with its tropical beaches thriving off of European tourists, especially British who come for a lazy beach vacation.

 

Location of Gambia

Abandoned planes from the Gambian airlines

Crumbling main terminal building

We arrived at our beach hotel at night. It looked like a nice place. I threw my backpack in my room and walked down to the beach and even though it was dark, the beach looked tranquil and beautiful, and I looked forward to visiting it at day light. I met up with my friends from the plane and had a quick buffet dinner included in our stay and we cashed in our 20-dollar spending stipend the airline gave us with the hotel. We set off along the duty dark roads looking for the beach bars that we were told had a reputation for being a little rowdy. It didn’t take long for us to find a series of rustic bars with live music and the ubiquitous prostitute scene. Although it wasn’t just female prostitutes at these bars, there were a lot of young local men too. These men were seated at tables with middle to elderly aged European women, mostly British women. At first this was just a suspicion, but my suspicion was confirmed when I ended up talking with a few of the British ladies who explained to me to me why they were in Gambia, while one was openly kissing one of the young local guys. The British woman very candidly said she was in Gambia to have sex with young African men, only the phrase she used was much more vulgar than this. When she said this all of the women chuckled with a kind of naughty laugh. They went on to explain to me that they love Gambia because there are many young beautiful African men that know how to please in return for gifts. This was a reverse from what I had seen around the world where it is mostly men pursuing sex tourism and not women. The women were interesting and my friend from the plane and shared some more drinks with them before setting off to our hotel rooms in the very late hours of the night. I collapsed in my bed ready for a good night’s sleep when all of a sudden, I hear a loud knocking. I almost ignored it but decided to answer. it was an airline employee rounding up all of the passengers. The mechanic had repaired the plane’s tire and it was time to urgently depart. I thought, what now, really, it is 2 in the morning. The answer was yes now. So, I went to round up my friends. One of them was passed out and his door locked. I figured there might be a good percentage of passengers not making the flight tonight. But I was not one of them. I headed back to the airport and boarded the plane. The pilot explained before taking off that he wanted to try the new tire out on the taxi way before departing. So the pilot taxiid around the airport and somewhere during the taxiing, I fell asleep and woke up in Sierra Leone. I was happy that I had a free trip to Gambia courtesy of the airline-ASKY.

 

1 + 9 =

error: Content is protected !!