At the height of GPTC operations, there wasn’t a better drive than sitting in a GPTC bus traveling from Kanifing to Basse. Going from their depot in Kanifing to Basse was less than 30 Dalasis in those days and as a student attending high school in Basse, taking the Bus to Basse was always a trip I looked forward to.
My world was confined to Bundung and revolved around Serrekinda and its immediate environs. Banjul was too far for me and so was Bakau although I have walked from Bundung to the now-dilapidated stadium on several occasions. Mostly, Bundung was my world. You can understand why a trip to Basse felt like an eternity given that everywhere I needed to go was within walking distance.
Because I boarded the GPTC bus on so many occasions, I would become familiar with some drivers, conductors, and inspectors who came to check your ticket to ensure you were not one of those Badibunkas who loved to be on the bus but don’t like to pay any fare. From Kanifing, the first major stop was Brikama and as soon as the bus stopped, hawkers will throng the sides selling anything from Lamarrsess (ask Njundu what that means) to biscuits, bananas, and water. I hardly ever bought anything in Brikama. I saved my money for Soma.
Once we get to driving deep into the Kombos, I start getting lost in the music the drivers played. It was on GPTC buses that I was first introduced to Guinean and Malian music. I fell in love with Saikouba Bambino of Guinea and Ma Hawa Kuyateh (1) of Mali and to this day, listening to them reminds me of the countryside of my beloved home. I was also fascinated by the names of the communities that litter the main highway. Those GPTC rides enabled me to know a bit more about the Gambia. Though I had never visited places like Bwiam, Kalagi, Bansang, or Brikamaba, I would come to know where they were. I loved names like “Yero Berry Kunda”, Jangjangbureh, and Somita. Of course, I loved all the names of the communities in Kiang, especially Kiang Kaiaf.
Of all the stops I looked forward to, the stop at Jarra Soma was the most meaningful to me. Not only could I get off the bus and stretch my legs, but I also get to buy food. As soon as the bus pulled into the Soma Depot, the aroma of Dibi attacks your nostrils, overcharging your salivary glands! And the bread was pure, unadulterated tapalapa. That Dibi makes you want to slap any man calling himself Njundu! I don’t know about now but in those days, no other people made better Dibi than the people of Jarra Soma! A can of Splash or Vimto after that Dibi was the ultimate treat.
GPTC was so organized in those days. The drivers were good and the buses were well-maintained and timely. The roads were not the best but the ride was still fun. I miss those days! And there was nothing like being on a GPTC as you travel during the rainy season. The greenery, the smell of fresh rain.
The colorful birds. The smell of the soil. Observing people on their farms. It was all so beautiful to me. And I miss that beauty of my old home. GPTC gave me a memorable Gambia and I thank all their drivers that may have driven me through Gambia. As GTSC adds this route once again, I hope their customers gain as memorable an experience as I did with the GPTC.