Off to the Gambia? Here is a lighter look at one of the “perils” (Not really) facing anyone visiting the smiling coast of Africa for the first time, the phenomenon of “the bumster”Ask most people about the Gambia and they will probably know very little.It is not a huge tourist destination, but those who have been there would mention the friendly people, the relaxed way of life, the value for money and the bumsters.
Who or what are?
They are young men who frequent the tourist areas, offering their service as a tourist guide, or trying to attract tourist to go to certain restaurants, or visit certain villages, or even simply ask tourist for money for transport.
The intention is good. They need to buy rice or the local green tea (Ataya) which very few Gambians seem to be able to live without.
Bumsters are harmless enough, but can be overly persistent and have acquired a bit of a reputation. Many tourists say they prefer not to leave their hotels so they don’t have to bump into them.
Sometimes a bumster would say to a tourist “Hello do you remember me” I’m Lamin, from the hotel, which is a lie of course. They have never seen the tourist before and are trying to trick the tourist into starting a conversation.
The Gambia is a poor country and there are not so many tourists, so when a bumster see a tourist he sees a chance of making a lot of money.
On the whole, as I said, bumsters are harmless and the tourist should simply smile and say “No thank you” and move on.
A casual observer on the beach will often see a bumster approach an unsuspecting tourist hands overstretched so that the tourist is forced to shake hands and then attempt to lead the tourist to a particular cafe or restaurant.
The tourist is obviously not interested but the bumsters refuses to take “No” for an answer and persists, often walking along with them even though it obvious there is going to be no “Sale”.
Likewise, when walking along a road somewhere, a tourist will quiet hear the word “excuse me” these words, uttered by a stranger, inevitably lead to a request for money, or help of some description.
Many people in the Gambia are unemployed. And even those who are fortunate to have employment can earn as little as $30 USD a month.
Take away the cost of transport and the fact the food is seldom provided at work, and you can see how hard it is simply to survive, let alone bring up a family.
A bag of rice alone can cost a person’s entire salary.
Malaria is an ever-present problem, medications are expensive life in such is far from easy for the average Gambian.
so should you ever come across a bumster a simple sympathy and understanding wouldn’t come amiss
Bumsters should never put anyone off from visiting the smiling coast of Africa. There are many more positives than negatives when it comes to visiting The Gambia.
And bumsters are little more than a small negative. Indeed many tourists have never come across one, and if they have, well, it wasn’t that bad of an experience after all.
Nothing a nice cold jule brew won’t make up for at the end of the day.
Image Flickr, CC0 License