Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Border crossing Karang/Amdellai and Ferry crossing Barra/Banjul

While travelling to the Gambia or the Northern Senegal, the border crossing Karang - Amdellai is a must, as well as the ferry crossing from Barra to Banjul. 

Once we were in the Sine Saloum area, we managed to arrive Karang by taxi (Details on the post Unexpected Senegal). The driver then dropped us at the border. If you are travelling by public transport, the bus will leave you at the Gare (bus station) of Karang, from where you can take a taxi or scooter with a driver to reach the border which is just one or two km away. As we got out of the car at the border, people tried to sell us something, especially money exchangers who wanted to sell Dalasi (Gambian Currency), in fact we immediately converted 100 euros to Dalasi, we thought it was more than enough for our three days in the Gambia. If we had waited, we could have had a better exchange rate on the Gambian side.  We advice to  inquire among the money exchangers who at our every single step tried to sell us Dalasi or cfa (Senegalese currency). The border is not separated by a gate, then it is not absolutely necessary to convert the money in Karang as soon as you arrive. You can also walk down the Gambian side and then decide where it is more convenient. They always tried to fool us and since the place was very chaotic, you easily lose control and feel tricked later. It was  such an interesting site, with police men from the both Gambian and Senegalese side going around, such a strange immigration office with plenty of prisoners closed in their cells, looking at you while you wait your turn to get the passports stamped, children who follow you with no reason, teenagers selling phone cards, ladies selling food items and water bags, shops with  unimaginable things, animals like hens, goats and dogs going around here and there, even inside the immigration office, stalls everywhere selling second hand of everything. The police man at the Gambian immigration office, watching, soap opera while inspecting our documents was the funniest thing we have ever seen: He was so interested in the story that we felt like we were disturbing him. Sadly photos were not allowed here!!! Nowadays (September 2016) tourist visa is not required for Italian passport holders to get into The Gambia and Senegal. At the immigration office (Gambian side this time) someway they tried to get some money from us even if it was not technically correct. They didn't explicily ask us but they made us realize; they tried to make us uncomfortable with unexpected questions. In fact the immigration officer began to ask me the yellow fever vaccination card which was at that moment not required to enter in to the Gambia. Don't give up if you really know the rules. If you insist on nonpaying they finally let you go. Use your common sense of course; they are able to wait all day. I had to say that I was a student to make him thinking that I was travelling with such a modest budget. Every police officer was swayed by money probably because of the poverty of their country. It certainly took more than an hour before we were done with all this bureaucracy. After the customs we immediately hopped on a bus to Barra for the ferry. The bus stop was just a few step away from the Amdellai immigration office and regular busses run (15 minutes) from Amdellai border to Barra for 30 Dalasi. Barra Ferry station!!! Oh my God!!! Here came the memorable part of our vacation. The first thing we did as soon as we got to Barra, was standing in line for the ferry ticket. The que was very long and people hardly respect their turn, so, you must be strong enough to reject them and push them away from you. If you don't do this you will never get your ticket. They will just pass through pushing you out from the que. Of course immediately we didn't realize what was happening, but after some minutes we understood their method: we did the same and finally got it done. After purchasing the tickets we walked into the station and reached the huge waiting area. We had been waiting for long, the time was running but the ferry was not arriving. Usually there were two operating ferries and there should be a departure approximately every fortyfive minutes. But that day one of the ferry was out of service so it was taking time. As we already knew that the ferry doesn't run after the sunset, we were little bit afraid. When coming to Senegal, minutes of delay early in the morning could not a problem but 2.5/3 hours in the evening could really screw up all the plans. People just kept on coming and the huge waiting area was getting full and full with passengers carrying animals and loads of bags with goods.  We were told to watch out our pockets and keep our camera safe. Observing this crowd waiting for the last ferry of the day to come was something unbelievable. Among them, there were also vendors selling diffrent kind of stuff: food, water, dresses, electronic items, face creams and so on. The ferry arrived just some minutes before the sunset! After having finished disembarking the vehicles and passengers coming from Banjul they finally opened the gate which linked the waiting area to the ferry. No one of you can imagine what happened at that moment: there are about 200 m distance between the gate and the dock, the crowd started to run towards the ferry, pushing and pulling each other dragging their animals and bags behind them. there were also ladies carrying babies on their back. Even if we had not immediatly understood the real reason for what people were running so aggressive, we did the same. We only realized it once on the ferry. They didn't get everyone on board; at some point they closed the gate again, leaving out a lot of people!!! The ones who already had the tickets!! From the top of the ferry we could see people behind the gate trying in any way to come through. At that time we felt lucky and relaxed. As the ferry was overcrowded, we couldn't find a seat, but it was not a problem at all. Well, we have done it! Taking a Senegalese guide with you during the ferry crossing could be a good idea, especially if you are self-driving, you won't get stressed. But since it is not dangerous at all, if you can, try to do it by yourself to see lots of backgrounds daily life that tourist don't usually notice, in short to feel the real Africa. We reached Banjul very fast and the journey itself was not more that twenty minutes. At the Banjul ferry terminal we could easily catch the taxi to our hotel! After all, nothing can surprise us anymore. After relaxing three days in the Gambia, we crossed the border again to turn back to Barra and then to Senegal. Our last experience helped us to take some precautions. The very important thing was leaving in the morning, at least before 11 am. Now we knew that the ferry hardly runs to a schedule and may take hours to make the crossing. Instead of the normal 30 minutes it used to cross the stretch, it was not unusual for them to take more than two hours or even more to complete the journey. Remember that there is no toilet on the ferry, there was one at the ferry terminal but it appered terribly dirty, so I personally decided to drink less water, I can't wait more that five or six hours (even more) without a toilet! When we reached the Banjul ferry terminal, the ferry has just left so there was no que at the ticket office. The second ferry had not been repaired yet, therefore still one was running. We have waited as we did before. We could take some good pictures and enjoy spending our time observing the Africa at work. We had been able to handle the trip back to Senegal with relaxed mind. NOT TO BE MISSED! <3.This experience will last forever in our hearts.

Read also:
Things to do in Senegal
Lamin Lodge
Jinack Island

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Bugatti Automobili, (La fabbrica blu) dove il tempo si è fermato

Casualmente abbiamo scoperto, tramite Facebook, un’associazione chiamata “I luoghi dell’abbandono” che appunto promuoveva una visita guidata allo stabilimento Bugatti a Campogalliano (MO).
Arrivati sul luogo, siamo stati accolti dagli organizzatori dell’evento e da Ezio, ex operaio e attuale custode del comparto abbandonato che ci ha guidato durante la visita durata quasi due ore. La prima impressione non è quella di trovarsi in un luogo abbandonato, bensì in un luogo in cui il tempo si è fermato. Ezio, da quasi vent’anni, assieme alla ex moglie ed al figlio, si prende cura a titolo gratuito della manutenzione e della protezione di questo luogo. A differenza degli altri posti abbandonati che siamo abituati a vedere, la storia della fabbrica Bugatti è piuttosto recente e particolare. Ci viene raccontato che Romano Artioli, ex proprietario della fabbrica, acquistò il marchio francese Bugatti nel 1987 con l’intenzione di dargli nuova vita. L’investimento di  250 miliardi di vecchie Lire diede origine a questo gioiello dell’industria automobilistica, collocato nel cuore del villaggio industriale di Campogalliano. 
Allo scopo di rendere la visita meno caotica, i visitatori sono stati suddivisi in tre gruppi con partenze ad orari differenti. Lungo il percorso Ezio ha potuto descriverci i luoghi e le vicende che hanno caratterizzato la nascita e la disfatta di questa avventura imprenditoriale durata solamente una decina di anni. Pur trattandosi di un comparto industriale abbandonato, è ancora percepibile, nella qualità architettonica, la passione e l’investimento di Artioli. Strutture e materiali hanno resistito al tempo e lasciano tutt’ora trasparire l’attenzione e la cura verso la manodopera e il gusto estetico. Il primo fabbricato da noi visitato è stato quello della produzione con il suo prospetto caratteristico verso l’autostrada e i suoi interni luminosi che sembrano solo in attesa degli operai.
Ad arricchire la descrizione, Ezio ha avuto cura di posizionare alcune immagini raffiguranti i luoghi prima dell’abbandono. Dopo una visita al fabbricato contenente le celle prova motore, siamo entrati all’interno della palazzina uffici, caratterizzata da un’architettura in vetro e cemento. Ciò che ha particolarmente colpito la nostra attenzione, è stata la presenza delle stoviglie rimaste dall’ultimo catering nella sala convegni, quasi come se gli invitati fossero dovuti scappare improvvisamente. Il giro guidato si è concluso visitando i vari piani della palazzina, i luoghi dove le 150 autovetture uscite da questa fabbrica sono state pensate e progettare. Successivamente ci è stata data la possibilità di girare liberamente e scattare fotografie. 
Generalmente chi va a fotografare certi luoghi trova affascinante l’abbandono e la fatiscenza, in questo caso però, rimane la sensazione di un’occasione mancata per il territorio della Motor Valley; questo posto, a nostro parere, può ancora avere qualche chance. Difficile immaginare oggi una nuova attività produttiva, vista l’attuale appartenenza del marchio al gruppo Volkswagen, ma presenta sicuramente le caratteristiche per l’insediamento di un museo o di un luogo di rappresentanza. Concludiamo citando una frase detta da Artioli ad Ezio, durante la sua ultima visita: “nella vita può capitare che per  cento anni non accada niente, ma in un giorno può accadere ciò che non è accaduto per cento anni”.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017


Activating the HNB Hard Ware Token

Customer care doesn't mean only smiling faces but mainly giving the correct advice at the correct moment, so making the work done easily! This is what the HNB bank should still have to understand. While asking the procedures for online money transfer at the main branch in Sri Lanka, they made going there more than three times. As a Sri Lankan citizen, living in Italy, for me was a very loss of time spending my days with bank during my vacation.
I thought everything was finally done perfectly when I left Sri Lanka but once back to Italy I realized that they didn't say me something very important so still the wire trasfer was not possible: THE HARDWARE TOKEN!!! Yes, living abroad means necessarily using the device.Then I wonder why they didn't tell me that and why they didn't advice me to withdraw it when I was there in Sri Lanka since I went to them more than three times? I had to contact the bank again by email ( and finally after two months I'm now able to transfer! Here following I'll give the details about the online hardware token application and activation in order to save you some time but specially in order to prepare yourself with information. Before the online hardware token request go to your personal settings on the right corner of the internet banking web page and update the phone number and address because after the application, within some days they will call you for the confirmation and also without a correct phone number (don't use 00 but only + for overseas contacts) the application is not possible. After this it takes about two weeks’ time to get the hardware token to the confirmed address.
Since after the application while you try to enter your home banking it will be automatically prompted for the token, press no if you didn't received it yet and press yes when you finally receive it. Because once you receive the token you must activate it. At that moment it asks for the serial number (red marked on my photo here) of your hardware token which is quite difficult to identify because there are several numbers on the device. After few attempts it finally turned up! Generate then the one time password wait until the display goes off and generate then the second one time password. Click ok to be finally done. This procedure could have been easier and quicker if the girl at the HNB bank front desk, had said me the exact details when I, for the first time went there and specially if she had suggested me to apply while I was there in Sri Lanka.


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