I thought I would just update this with the information I learnt after making the visit to Sine Ngayène in Senegal. There was very little information on visiting this site to be found anywhere so hopefully people may find this information of use.
This was a really rewarding place to visit in properly rural West Africa. The local towns were mudbrick with thatched roofs and wells for water so it is quite someway off the beaten track. Any semblance of paved roads ran out soon after leaving the main road at the border and by the time we reached the site itself it was only really navigable by 4x4 or an exceptionally skilled driver, fortunately we managed to come across a very skilled driver and a BMW saloon that could handle a fair battering.
Right the logisitics
Sine Ngayène is located at 13°41'42.37"N 15°32'7.70"W about 15km north of the border post at Farafenni/ Medina Saback. This is where we came from.
The site is actually signposted from the Trans-Gambia Highway. If driving from the south then there is a large site saying welcome to the "Bienvenue dé la Area Mégalithique du Sénégambie"
(or something along those lines my French is not particularly good) then on the right hand side of the road there was a small white arrow stating Sine Ngayne Site du Patrimoine Mondial
There are signs every time you need to divert of the main course of the road, however there are long gaps between the signs and the road splits several times, thus some local knowledge would be useful (we picked up someone at the border who was able to help guide us there and ask for additional directions when they were needed).
The rough route these signs take you is Trans Gambia Highway -> Medina Sabak -> Sangap -> Loyene -> Ngayène -> Thiekene -> Sine Ngayène
(approx 22km and approx 1hr 10 mins driving time)
This is not the most direct route there however the most direct route seems to cross a river bed which may cause problems in the wet season. I would hazard to say that this would be an impossible trip after heavy rain and certainly only attempt it in a 4x4.
On the way back we came a slightly different route of Sine Ngayène -> Payama -> Diguimar -> Medina Saback-> Straight to the border.
In terms of the Roads, the Trans-Gambia Highway was paved but riddled with potholes. From there to Medina Saback and on to Sangap it was a sort of laterite gravel road. After Sangap any form of paving soon disappeared and it was mostly dirt track. The section around Thiekene was particularly poor
and our drivers skill was what got us through this.
The bad roads around Thiekene however did allow us to get a look at the quarry from which the stone pillars were hewn a thousand or so years ago.
Also if you do travel through Payama keep an eye out for some stones that have been relocated here to form the foundations of buildings in the village.
From the border and back including about 30/45 mins at the site took 3.5 hours in total.
At the time of our visit (December 2009) there was no set entrance fee and this required bartering with the villagers to gain access, having someone that can translate from Wolof was an absolute God send in this situation. We paid 10,000 CFA (€15 approx there were two of us a tourists + our driver/fixer/translator Muhammed and a local to the area we picked up at the border to help with directions so 4 people altogether) which in terms of the region was a large amount of money however we were left with little other choice, and I wouldn't really think twice about that entrance fee for two people at sites in Europe.
Once inside two guys from the village gave a very good description of the site, which was translated for us from Wolof by Muhammed. I had read the Advisory body report and the original Nomination file prior to my visit and the information that came back to us was spot on, and they also gave us more information when we asked question about specific issues, they really knew their stuff.
We visited on a long day trip from Kololi on the Gambian Atlantic coast, the centre of the regions tourist industry.
We looked at several different options but in the end we managed to arrange for a car and driver to pick us up from our hotel and drive us the whole way there and back. This included a ferry crossing from Banjul - Barra. The whole round trip took a little over 12 hours.
This was arranged through Hidden Gambia
and I must admit our guide Muhammed was brilliant and this trip would have been nigh on impossible without him.
You could do it under your own steam by getting to the border and negotiating with a driver to take you to the site and back. The Gambia drivers I spoke to were mostly unwilling to drive beyond the border. I seriously doubt it would be possible to make this complete round trip in a day unless you had a private car as even with the best luck with bush and private taxis you would still spend a large amount of time waiting around and negotiating.
I got several quotes from Gambian Tour operators for the cost of the trip and I will put them up here a little later, needless to say Hidden Gambia's
quote was the most competitive and after making the trip it seemed like exceptional value for money.