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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

The Gambia: Basse Santa Su

The main bus station in Basse Santa Su
The main bus station in Basse Santa Su, where I completely failed to get any hassle from ticket-selling touts

The blister bug bites I discovered on my last morning in Jangjang Bureh were just the beginning of a strangely frustrating day. I'd decided to head east to Basse Santa Su (commonly known as Basse) so I could cross the border into Senegal and then head northeast to Tambacounda to catch the train to Mali... and luckily the five other guests at the Jangjang Bureh Camp fancied a day out in Basse too. I say 'luckily' because travelling as a group makes things much easier in Africa, not just because the onus of the trip is spread among the whole group, but because buses and bush taxis fill up much quicker when a group of you turns up at the station. I reckoned that it would take no more than an hour and a half to get to Basse, a very short trip by African standards.


'Never mind,' I thought, and picked a decent-sounding hotel from the book before heading off to explore Basse. Wondering what I could find to do in the Gambia's easternmost town, I started wandering round at random.

Beginning of the End

Things started to go wrong as soon as I got back to the inaccurately named Jem Hotel. The women who ran the establishment knocked on my door at 6.30 to apologise, but it turned out she couldn't cook me dinner after all, because the boy who had been supposed to paint the kitchen that morning hadn't started painting until the afternoon, and he wasn't going to be finished until tomorrow, so the kitchen was closed. I'd ordered dinner at the hotel because I hadn't been able to find any decent-looking restaurants in town, so this was a bit of a blow.

Family-sized Bed

That night, as if to make sure I left Basse with only the best impressions, a family of fleas hopped out of my pillow and bit me to shreds. It was quite fascinating; at first I thought it was mosquitoes, as the fan was directly above the bed and it was impossible to put up my mosquito net. I lit a coil and tried to relax, but the sound of the hotel's generator at the end of the block kept nudging me awake, and the bites didn't stop, so by the time the generator was switched off at 1am and the fan died, I'd hardly slept at all.