Apologies for the hiatus. I’ve moved on to The Gambia – a tiny anglophone slither of land sandwiched between Senegal. European minds really thought this one out when they carved the continent up. It’s Africa’s smallest country, I think, dubbed the smiling coast, and could be cycled across in half a day.

Unfortunately cycling is not yet an option. The bike and most of my gear  I’ve left back in Dakar – several hundred kilometres north of here.

Over a month has now past since the machete attack that severed four of the extensor tendons in my left wrist. The scar looks clean, but full recovery is a long way off. The swelling continues to go down and there is a gradual improvement in the flexibility of both fingers and wrist. It’s still too early to  know when I’ll feel strong and confident enough to re-start cycling.

I travelled here by shared taxi – a 6hr journey through baobab-dotted savanna, followed by a ferry crossing over the Gambia River. I expected more discomfort from the battered seven-seater Peugeot estate. The other passengers sat silently, breaking into voice when the car hit a pot-hole too quickly or narrowly missed colliding with a cow crossing the road.

One of the passengers introduced himself as Tony, told me he was Gambian and that his Mum lived in Dakar. It was refreshing to have an English conversation with an African. It’s been a long time coming. He instructed me to follow him once the taxi finished it’s journey. This was a mistake, for I found myself in another taxi heading into The Gambia without an entry stamp in my passport. In the chaos of money-changers and fruit-sellers at the border I’d walked right past Gambian immigration unnoticed.

Tony didn’t think this was a problem. I told him it would be. When I bid him an early goodbye and returned to the border the immigration officers agreed, but were far more interested to hear about my machete wounds. “Senegal is a dangerous place. Those people cannot be trusted”, voiced one of the officers whilst kicking a squawking chicken from under his desk.

An hour later with my free entry stamp I was standing on a ferry crossing the River Gambia. Amongst the locals were a handful of white faces. I met and got talking to two young Australians. They called themselves ‘Amateurs in Africa’ – backpacking through the continent with less French than me and hoping to make it for the World cup.

I’ve been here a week now, as has my Mum. She’s joined me in India and Egypt before, although this holiday looks likely to involve less travel. I’ve been taking a break from the computer, not least because Internet connection is painfully slow. Mungo Park’s trials and tribulations in travelling this part of the continent over 200 years ago currently dominates the reading matter. Lots more to follow.

Clean scars

Holiday reading