Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Public Transportation Gambia

Public transportation sucks anywhere, unless you live in Europe or Japan.  Here, public transportation is similar to Gambian culture – controlled chaos that makes absolutely no sense to outsiders, but all Gambians seem to completely understand, and accept the system. I think I’ve touched on traveling to and from our village to the city area but haven’t gone into too much detail. To get from our site to the city is not terrible, but it’s not easy either. The biggest problem is consistency. Shortest time is about 3 hours; longest travel time yet has been 7 hours.  Depending on why we’re going depends on our method of departure.  Our village is 6k of the main paved road and we have a village gely (bush taxi) that goes to the closest big city – Brikama.  In the morning the car leaves anywhere from 4 am to 7 am, and can return anywhere from 6 pm to 10 pm.  So if we are leaving for a day, we normally wake up at 7 am and ride our bikes to another village directly situated on the paved road.  Our village and this other village all know each other; Malang, a fine tailor, keeps our bikes in his storage closet until we return.  But if we plan on spending more than a day in the city, we wake up at 5 am to catch the gely.  The worst part is waking up at 5 am and not leaving until 6:30 am.  On those days we normally arrive in the city by noon, but we’re exhausted and hungry. Our other option is to walk the 6k, which we have done, and it wasn’t terrible, but now the rains are here so that makes walking 6k more difficult.  It also means herds of baboons are more common to meet on the road.  We think that baboons, like most Gambian children, probably aren’t afraid of toubabs but we’d rather not test it.  
One good experience about living in a small village and only having one gely is that we know everyone in that one gely.  One time when I was traveling by myself I was walking around the car park looking to see if our gely was there yet while simultaneously trying not to get hassled by everyone in sight, when I hear someone yelling ‘Kaddy Kaddy’. I look around and see a woman from our village, she ushers me to the area where she and 5 other women from our village are waiting for our village gely and I sit and wait with them for 2 hours until it arrives.  It was nice to not have to sit alone fighting off venders for that one time.
Pictures of the brikama car park while we waited in our village gely last week:
Typical Gely Gely

Typical day in Brikama car park

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