Neither of us wanted to leave, but Mohammed had to return to his business and I had promised to celebrate New Years Eve and see the New Year in with my ex-pat friends back in the Kombos.
Saying what were quite emotional good-byes to so many people took some time .. and were repeated with those who waited with us by the roadside, until a passing minibus gave us a ride into Basse.
Boarding and crossing over to the island didn't take very long, but when we arrived at the second ferry to cross to the North Bank, we had to take our place at the back of a long queue of cars, minibuses and a large truck with 'Janjanbureh Prison' emblazoned on its sides.
In the back of the truck, around 20 guys were lounging in the sunshine, no handcuffs, no prison uniforms and evidently under no supervision !
Walking up to the driver who was sitting in his cab .. I asked if it was wise for him to be transporting his passengers like that and could he trust them to stay in the back. Not a problem, said he .. they were all going to have a game of football against a neighbouring village. "Well, lucky them, I hope you will make sure they are all back in their cells before dark", I replied with a grin. Laughing .. he said that if he did, they would not be very happy, as they weren't prisoners, but were in fact the island's football team who had hired the truck from the prison for the day !!
Knowing it would be some time before we reached the head of the queue, we went in search of a cooling drink. We found a riverside bar in a small guest-house, 200 metres from the ferry terminal next to the ruins of an early building .. enthusiastically described to tourists by a host of local guides, as originally a "slave house", but much more likely to have been a warehouse for perishable goods.
The rest of our journey back to Barra was uneventful, but notable for seeing many gloriously
Because of delays en route, we had to drive a long way in the dark, not the safest way to travel .. arriving very late at Barra. The last ferry had just arrived and was supposed to be leaving at 10.00 pm .. so, after a quick coffee in the taxi garage, we made haste in getting aboard. We need not have hurried. The ferry filled up with cars, trucks and passengers .. 10 o'clock came and went and no one else had boarded since 10.15. Another twenty minutes passed and all around people were getting noticeably anxious, wondering what was causing the delay. I climbed up to the bridge on the top deck to find out what was happening and was told the captain was below aft, waiting for the 11.30 departure time ! "You must be joking", I said and went to find the captain. Not that my wishes would carry any weight, but I was certainly going to give him my views on the matter !!! Informing him, in case he had forgotten, that it was New Years Eve and that I and most of his passengers wanted to see the New Year in with our friends, not sitting on his ferry in Barra harbour or bouncing about in the middle of the River Gambia ! He didn't seem overly concerned, but I was not the only one to voice their opinion, some expressing theirs very much more forcibly .. and whether it was coincidence or not .. within 10 minutes we were underway.
The normal crossing time is around an hour .. so it was 11.40 pm by the time we had berthed, rushed off the ferry and into the mayhem which is the taxi pickup point just outside the ferry terminal gate. Grabbing the first of many drivers waiting there, I gave him the choice of a normal fare or extra bonus dalasis on top, if he made it to Francisco's bar and restaurant in Fajara before midnight . . where I knew my friends would be celebrating. By pure chance, we had picked Michael Schumaker's African brother .. and .. despite Mohammed turning a pale shade of khaki in fear for his life, we made it safely with 7 minutes to spare before the turn of the year !!
Paying the driver his bonus and enough to take Mohammed home .. he also made it before midnight .. I wished them both a Happy New Year, grabbed my bags and dived inside Francisco's. Covered in dust from the journey, glowing like a ripe tomato from exposure to the previous days of bright sunshine .. I looked a happy and healthy, but dishevelled mess, compared to the celebrating crowds of smartly dressed ex-pat Toubabs and Africans !! "Not a problem", said the manager, taking my bags for safe keeping and guiding me to the bathroom, so that I could quickly tidy up.
Midnight came .. lots of toasting, singing, handshaking, kissing and exchanging Happy New Year wishes. The booze had been flowing all night, some having had far too much and acting accordingly. A typical Toubab celebration amongst sparkly Christmas decorations under bright electric lighting, with amplified and somewhat slurred singing of European traditional old favourites blasting out .. some spending over the equivalent of a month's wages for many of the locals, on one night's revelry.
-i I think you can guess my answer.