Africa | Gambia | Banjul – Surely the last 500kms can’t be that hard……
After a 48 hour rest at the great Zebrabar campsite in the fantastic town of St Louis in northern Senegal we were expecting the last 500kms down to Banjul to be a breeze.
During that break, the Yellow Peril had decided to give us our brakes back, she was now starting on a half-turn of the key and her horn had miraculously starting working again. How difficult can this last stretch be? – we’re travelling in a convoy of 10 vehicles, with a customs official guiding us through (so we don’t sell any of our vehicles on the way!) and the roads are all sealed. Easy!!
The first 50kms was easy. The brakes then failed again – that’s fine though, we can cope with that now, even though the hand brake’s dodgy too – just take it easy and use the Muji flip-flop routine. 100kms into the journey, we couldn’t find any gears – we managed to narrow the problem down to bent gear selector forks – not something we were prepared to spend 2 hours repairing by the roadside.
400kms away from Banjul and we were going to have to be towed the final stretch – a little frustrating but we’re still going to make it. The first 100kms we were towed by the Mercedes 190E of the Junk Yard Dogs – a really tight rope tow with roll mats cushioning us as we went it to the back of them every time they braked – we had absolutely no brakes by this stage.
Once we caught up with the rest of the convoy again we transferred to being pulled by the Pajero with a metal bar and what a nightmare that turned out to be. During that last 300kms we managed to have 2 punctures (the final one being unrepairable even with 3 tyre welds squirted into it so we only managed the final 70kms by stopping every 10kms to pump the tyres again!). At one point we jack-knifed our car in front of an oncoming bus – the screeching of our wheels, as we slungshot back the other way at the last moment, was only slightly drowned out by the screeches of fear coming from Chris and me. Driving at 100km/h in the dark behind a slightly erratic hulk of a vehicle that blocked out all view of the heavily pot-holed road ahead has got to be one of the most horrible experiences of my life.
At some point during this final journey our clutch also burnt out and during the final procession around Banjul (where we’d transferred back to being towed by the Mercedes) our bull bar finally snapped off pulling the front engine mount away with it in the process. Yellow Peril was dying rapidly!
But at least she made it to Banjul – and during the auction today some Gambian has just paid about 160 pounds to buy it (only 10 pounds less than what we paid for it 3 months ago!!) – young guy bought as a bit of a project for him and his mechanic friends. Great feeling to hear the crowds cheering and clapping as we pushed YP into the auction (and the door lock falling out as Chris finally closed it! Some Senegalese kid had previously pulled it out and asked for it as a ‘cadeau’!!).
What a fantastic trip – 6000kms completed – all the odds against us but with an enormous amount of luck the Yellow Peril managed to get us through. Photos will follow.