|It was late in the day when we reached Kaolack—the center of Senegal's vital groundnut (peanut) industry and the junction where we'd pick up the Trans-Gambia Highway. We'd gotten a late start from the capital city of Dakar having waited until mid-afternoon for the return of our passports from the Gambia High Commission. Although we hadn't needed a visa to enter Senegal, they were required for The Gambia.
The Gambia is a small country—about 300km long and an average 35km in width. Except for 80km of coastline, it is entirely surrounded by Senegal. The Trans-Gambia Highway traverses the country's width connecting Senegal's northern regions with the Casamance region which lies south of Gambia.
Because of our late departure, we would go only as far as the border that day spending the night in the small Gambian town of Farafenni.
It was getting dark as we pulled away from Kaolack. At its southern edge, the city dissolved into mounds of garbage. Improvised shacks amongst the garbage housed the poorest of the poor. Soon we were back in the flat terrain of low scrub and dispersed trees common to the Sahel region of Africa.
The old mini-bus that was taking us south was over-filled. Every bit of space is used on the vehicles—there is no schedule. Evelyn and I were travelling with Lisa and Ebrima. Lisa had met Ebrima upon her arrival at Dakar's airport a few days prior. We were en route to a village in eastern Gambia where we would spend a few days with Ebrima's family.
The four of us had taken seats where we could and thus were scattered about the bus. I was up near the front, squeezed in next to Ebrima. We chatted. After some six weeks in French speaking African countries, I was glad to be heading for Gambia, a former British colony where English is the official language.
But we were still in Senegal so the link language on this bus was French. I was thus surprised to hear Evelyn speaking English. She was seated in the back. I turned to see she was talking with an African man and figured he must be from Gambia.
As we approached the border passengers periodically disembarked and thus space was freed up. I moved to the back of the bus to join Evelyn. The man she was talking with was from Nigeria. "We'll try to help you," Evelyn was saying.