Jan 2 2010

The Gambia – diary 2009-12-15 to 2009-12-19

2009-12-15 – 2009-12-18

The Gambia has been a wonderful experience. The people we have met have been so generous, friendly and genuinely nice. The saying, ‘it’s nice to be nice’, sums up everything about Gambia. Our first night was spent at Tendaba Camp which was established in the 1970’s as a hunting camp. The camp was situated on the banks of The Gambia River and right next door to Kiang West National Park. When we arrived we were told that the camp was full and that they only had the VIP room left. We asked if we could camp but the area designated was in full view of all the other guests. They were also going to charge us the same price they would have charged for a room. We opted for the VIP room, it was only D900 (€24) and it had an en-suite room. It also had a beautiful view of the river and the nature that came with it. The Camp was full of UN workers who were having a conference to discuss the upcoming projects that they were to be working on. We enjoyed a buffet dinner with the officials and had a delightful conversation with Iris who was working on an education project. Her knowledge about South Africa was vast and we enjoyed a catching up on political discussions and The Gambian’s situation.

 We left Tendaba the following morning and drove east towards another Camp called Tumani Tenda. This camp was run by the local community of Tumani and they had done a great job establishing this camp. There were 5 huts that were fairly basic but very comfortable. The locals were so welcoming and made us feel right at home. Kirk and I decided to take one of their dug out canoes for a paddle and to test the new fishing rods out. The paddling proved to be a real challenge at first and I sat dead still for fear of us toppling over. Eventually Kirk got the hang of it and was casting his fishing rod from the boat with minimal wobbling. I would love to say that we caught 2 great big fish that we cooked for dinner but unfortunately we had no such luck! That afternoon we watched the local ladies tie dying fabric and I managed to get one f my white tops dyed. It made sense to have a green and purple shirt as it hides the dirt quite well. White tops in Africa are a bad idea! We enjoyed BBQ chicken for dinner and spent the evening playing Ludo with the locals. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Tumani Tenda and highly recommend it!

 The driving distances in The Gambia are very small. We drove for all of 30 km before reaching our next stop for the day. We drove to Sukuta Camping which is close to the Senegambia tourist area. Sukuta Camping is owned by a Dutch couple who were once overlanders themselves and cater for all the needs a travellers could have. We made ourselves comfortable and did all the necessary chores like washing, filling up water tanks, cleaning etc. We went for a long walk towards the beach and took a leisurely stroll along the squeaky white sand. The locals were very friendly and always interested in finding out where we are from. The minute we say we are from South Africa, they get so excited and call us their brother and sister from Africa. We made our way back to camp where we cooked dinner and enjoyed a few drinks with Pete and Muna who have moved to The Gambia from Cambridge and hope to work here for a year.

We had heard that Sanyang Beach was a spectacular place to visit and so drove the 20km along the coast to see ‘Paradise Beach’. It was very quiet and almost deserted. We enjoyed a cold drink at the beach bar ad then took a 2 hour saunter along the shoreline. There was a lot of reef around the area and the shells were plentiful. The area is still quite undiscovered and it was evident by the number of cowry shells that we picked up off the beach. We even found a live one and managed to rescue it by placing it in a little rock pool. The sun was blazing hot but the coolness of the water was a relief to the sweltering heat. We had planned to camp at Paradise Beach but there was no running water so decided to head further South to Kartang where there was a Beach lodge ‘10 steps’ from the beach. We arrived at Boboi Beach Lodge and made camp under the palm trees. We had a good nights sleep and departed early the next morning.

Pics to follow…

 2009-12-19

The roads seemed particularly quiet this morning and it was only after the 1st police stop that we learned why. The government has implemented a ‘cleansing day’ that happens on the last Saturday of each month. The ‘cleansing day’ means that no cars are to be on the road until 1pm and the locals are expected to clean up their villages and rid them of rubbish. Because the last Saturday is a public holiday they moved it forward. We managed to get waved through because of the UNICEF stickers but as we got closer to Sekuta we encountered a police man who took his job very seriously. He asked to see our permit to drive before 1pm of which we could not produce. We managed to talk him out of ‘impounding’ (sitting stationary on the side of the road for the next 2 hours) our vehicle by explaining that we had been waved through at least 4 other police checks and that on one occasion we were flagged down by 2 police officers in search of a lift to the next village. He was not very pleased to hear this and said that those policemen were not doing their jobs properly at all.

He turned out to be a very nice man and we took the time to chat to him. He had done some special deployment work in Sudan and was awaiting his next call up. He let us go after 15 minutes of chatting and wished us well on our travels. We made our way to Sekuta Camping again and waited in the shady communal area until 1pm approached. Kirk has been considering buying a solar panel to connect to our fridge when we are stationary for a day or more as the battery is running dry quite quickly so that was our mission for the afternoon. We found a hardware store that specialised in almost anything. We found a solar panel that suited the purpose and Kirk managed to get it for €180. Whilst Kirk rigged it all up I caught up with e-mails, blogs and photos.

That evening we decided to explore the Senegambia tourist strip and went to one of the many restaurants for dinner. The streets were very festive and it felt like we had stepped into a European tourist resort. The locals were dressed in their best gear and the girls certainly dressed to impress. It became obvious why later on in the evening. After dinner we decided to visit one of the bars for a night cap. It was extremely busy and all I could do was sit and watch how the local girls threw themselves at the European men. Prostitution is rife in these areas and the girl’s main aims are to hook up with one of these men and possible get an invitation back to Europe. This did not however put a damper on the evening. We stayed out until after 4am and eventually dragged our weary bodies back to the campsite where we had to get some much needed sleep before we departed later on that day.

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