|The Gambian post was even more basic. There was no power—the only light, a kerosene lantern. While we went through the entry process, Issa stood discretely in the shadows. He was never noticed.
We'd made it. Issa was home-free, I thought, but I was mistaken. He was still travelling in a foreign country without documentation. And in this part of the world, police checkpoints are encountered frequently on any road.
We got to know Issa a little better that night in Farafenni—eating dinner in a dark porch along a dark road. He's a prince, he told us. "A black prince in Africa", he said with a slight smile. In other words, an heir to nothing.
The next morning we set out again. The five of us would travel together south across the River Gambia to Soma. From Soma, Issa would go west towards the capital of Banjul while we were heading east to Bassé Santa Su and beyond.
There's no bridge across the river so it was by taxi on one side, mini-bus on the other and by ferry to cross. Just shy of the ferry loading area at the muddy banks of the river, we were stopped by a customs official.
We handed over our passports and the official gave them a quick perusal. He started to wave us on but then noticed Issa. Here we go again.
We told the official Issa's story and we lied saying that the Gambian border guards had allowed Issa to pass. The official didn't believe us. He said he would telephone to confirm.
But as it turned out he didn't really care to do that. He preferred, of course, to pocket a bribe. Ebrima worked out the details. We handed over 20 dalasi - US$2. And we were free to go.
How many more of these checkpoints would Issa encounter before reaching Serekunda? We'd never know. We reached Soma without further incident and there said goodbye. We'd been paying Issa's way ever since we'd met him and now we asked how much money he had. He'd changed his CFA to dalasi in Farafenni. He showed us what he had - 20 dalasi.
We gave him the bus fare for this final leg of his journey and a little bit more and off he went. Grateful and gracious.