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 GAMBIA     28/3 - 11/4 1996

                                            DIARY  1

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Diary 1 2

My mother was enticing, she wanted warmth, and as the good son I am, I felt compelled to go along. (It may have been me enticing.)

28/3 1996. After a relatively short flight, with a stopover on one of the Canary Islands, we were in Banjul, Gambia. On the runway we were greeted by dancers and singers. Into the buses, and around to the hotels. We were the only ones going on the river safari and all the way to the Bungalow Beach Hotel. Luxury beyond all expatiations. Actually, the two apartments on both sides of ours have gold taps and are usually used by royals.

29. Early the next morning we were picked up by a bus and our little company of 12, started our journey in through The Gambia (The The is to avoid confutations with Sambia), on the southern side of the Gambia River. Our travel companions were experienced globetrotters, our one guide a native, who has lived in Denmark for some years.
Along the way there were time for visits to villages along the main road. Like other places we came, the natives were friendly but also quite indifferent to us. No begging, no suffering distress, (almost) no possessions, but masses of joy of life.

In the middle of the afternoon we arrived at Kendapa Camp. A short walk through the overheated landscape (43C in the shade, maybe 75C in the sun). We end down at the river's mangrove. Here are snails and four-eyes. The camp offered a crocodile zoo, where there were also pools with huge four-eyes. There was also a pool for humans.

As the temperature drops at 17, we were loaded onto a Land Rover, and got a long drive beyond the scorched salt plain, through the green bushes, between termites, over vadas, under and through branches, and past Terminal 3, which just are 3 twigs and 4 palm leaves. The air was still as hot, you couldn't sit on the roof of the Land Rover; it was like sitting in front of a giant blow dryer.

In the evening, communal dining was arranged. Here, as elsewhere, it was mainly fish and chickens with vegetables and peanut sauce on the menu. Afterwards there was a dance performance - yes - yes - then you got to bed early. The "rooms" were small round clay huts, with something reminiscent of a bed.

30. Early the next morning there is a botanical expedition led by a local. We were 4-5 guests, following him down through the village, and out through the fields. We end up at a "nursery" where our guide tells us about the plants. Both farmed and local plants.

Well back to camp we got breakfast. Then it was into the bus, and into The Gambia. Despite driving on the main road, we met nothing but a few crowded buses, no trucks or passenger cars.
In the middle of the afternoon, we arrived at the old Swedish coastal cruiser, which should be our home for the next 3 days. On the quay there was a larger supply of goods and people.

Room for 36, we were 12 = good room. There is something special about sitting on the deck of such a boat, with a cool drink in hand, looking at the river's varying wildlife and plant life, while the seductive scents of the galley pierce the belly.
Dinner in the middle of the river. The boat's engine and generator are stopped, and the ensuing silence is broken only by the chuckle of water along the hull, scattering unidentifiable sounds from the primeval forest along the shore.

31-4. The next days are spend with visits to villages along the river. At first, it seemed strange that the villages did not lie completely down by the river, but snared on the other side of a hill or a dense forest. The explanation is logical: this is one of the most used slave gathering sites (Kunta Kinda (Roots) just came from here).

The only settlements out to the river are a couple of peanut mills. It is out of season so they are deserted. So is the river, with the exception of a handful of hollowed-out tree trunks with local fishermen.
Outside the villages we are greeted by the children. A big bunch of smiling and laughing faces who have come to know the generosity of tourists. It's different with the adults. They smile and greet again, but seem pretty indifferent to us. The villages seem primitive, but should probably be described as unspoiled.

The visits to the villages were interrupted by zodiac  expeditions of tributaries and around small islands. There is a wide range of herons, cormorants, kingfishers, storks and other species that cannot be identified. On the muddy shore, we see fresh traces of crocodiles.

I got a minor shock when suddenly a fish landed on my lap. Four eyes crabs and crabs are found in copious amounts on the banks, and fish are clearly seen in the relatively clear waters.
On one tour, the propeller gets hold of one of the very few fishing nets we've seen. It had sunk, and has twisted hard on the shaft. We laugh, but I stopped, when I saw the mate's tangled face as he feverishly tried to free us from the yarn with a nail clipper. There are hippos 2-300 away, the net is not just sunk by itself and as most people know; Hippos are the most dangerous animal in Africa, requiring the most deaths. We got off, but then sailed directly back to the mother ship. I am sure that the helmsman will always have a good knife on these trips in the future.

On the shore we saw monkeys, among others a Chimpanzees, wild boars, deer, a selection of different jungle and beach birds, monitors and other animals. The air above us was patrolled by vultures and eagles.
The nights were very hot on board. Despite having single cabins, being able to open the bunk, and creating a symbolic draft through, the morning bath was an exceptionally pleasant premise. The food on board delicately, the chef worked almost constantly in his not too clean kitchen. Lots of fresh fruit and local delicacies.

As we passed Kendapa Camp, we got the owner's wife and girlfriends on board. African upper class; tall, beautiful women in brightly coloured clothes, with many heavy gold jewellery around their arms and neck, and a sea of ​​well-behaved children. They seized the shade of the sun deck, but they are available for the afternoon sun. The wooden deck is so hot, that you can't even walk 3 steps without footwear. A soda bottle that has been in the shade for a few hours, is so hot it is uncomfortable to hug it. My brass belt buckle gave red marks on the forearms, without being in the sun.

 We get ashore, but continue the adventures in Diary 2


Diary 1 2    Map + Plan  Photos