A journey to visit a hospital in Dakar, Senegal from Legs4Africa’s Banjul base in The Gambia provided many obstacles. The mission was to visit their prosthetics centre and see if it matched our criteria so we could supply them with legs in the future.
Myself and Tom (Legs4Africa UK) set off with Bamba the driver and Bob (Legs4Africa Gambia) who was sporting a massively swollen foot due to a Christmas Day motorcycle accident, his pool cue walking stick as his aid.
The four of us had a real adventure, which (for now) I will summarise:
28thDecember – Car ferry crossing to Barra and drive to Senegal border, only to be turned around because they had ran out of Visa papers there, back on the ferry, leaving car in Barra overnight.
29th December – Get visas in Banjul’s Senegalese Embassy and head back over the river Gambia on a tiny passenger boat. Get through the border. Bamba’s love of speeding gets us in trouble with the Senegalese police and we have to pay a fine. Bamba’s love of speeding keeps making us hit sleeping policemen at high speeds and narrowly avoiding cows, donkeys and big horned ox-like beasts that enjoy hanging-out on the roads. Dakar’s roads are so over populated that we would be gridlocked for hours, but Bamba comes into his own, driving over roundabouts, cutting up every car possible and some prolonged hard shoulder coasting. Arrive at hotel and share 2 rooms, go for a few drinks, Bob falls out with Bamba for smoking weed in the hotel room (“We not in Gambia now Bamba – Senegal not Relaxed”) and locks him out, so he sleeps in the car.
30th December – Visit ministry of health in Dakar, we are not allowed in the building as we are wearing shorts! We think this is silly as we are offering the country free prosthetics for the foreseeable future. We conduct the meeting in the foyer. Visit the prosthetics department, and it fulfilled everything we wanted, an excellent professional setup that would distribute and adapt the legs freely, we give them a few legs to get them started and do some official handshakes and then rush off to get back. Although we couldn’t leave straight away as Bamba had disappeared – 1 hour later he turns up, he’s had his car cleaned, Bob calls him an idiot and we set off on our way.
We began driving home full of good cheer, only to be phoned up saying that there has been a military coup in The Gambia, and an attempt on the president’s life. The car ferry will be closed so we now have to drive hours out of our way on a terrible road to cross the river further down the country at Farafenni. The car takes a battering in pot holes that could swallow a bus. We manage to cross at midnight to the south of the river. At ~2am we realise the cars fan-belt had come off over one of the many potholes and has now over heated. We all sleep in the car at the side of the road.
31st December – We jumpstart the car thanks to a passing jeep (left the radio on) and Bamba goes off to get it fixed before it overheats again. We take the 3 hour bus-ride home on a passing coach. Go and relax for a while and wave goodbye to 2014.
Next time we saw Bamba he had somehow managed to smash his entire windscreen to pieces.