#11 – The smiling Gambia
As soon as daylight struck the first trees I packed my stuff and moved towards the border to The Gambia. Now, there was a lot of vegetation in the area I was passing, and I even had to get used to the shadows that were dropped on me regularly. For the past two months I haven’t experienced too much shadows on the road.
Entering The smiling Gambia
The border to The Gambia was very easy and there was no tension at all. Just a few kilometers after the passage I had to take a ferry, of which almost every square meter was covered with a human, a car or trading material. After the ferry it was time to move to Serrekunda, where I would meet Marga and Bert, my neighbors from my mom’s house.
They are here for holiday and to meet friends. I met them at a resort where they were staying at. It was very pleasant to see familiar faces, and after a beer we went to meet their friends Bashirou, Awa and their five children. My neighbors are always invited to have dinner at their place. It has been a long time since I laughed so much and I couldn’t imagine a better start in The Gambia.
Luxury of a chair
Surrounded by 24 kids and the taxi driver we play football on a gravel field. The young boys are fast and very enthusiastic, eager to take the opportunity Bashirou gives them to learn football. With his football academy, he teaches 50 kids the techniques of the sport.
After the match the taxi driver takes us to a chicken farm. Marga and Bert provide eggs, rice and cooking oil for Bashirou and his family every now and then, and it is delivered by the owner of the chicken farm. The owner has been helped with setting up the farm by Henk, a Dutch man who Marga and Bert know.
That afternoon we go back to the resort we are staying at. The luxury at the resort is in big contrast with the cycling and camping that rules my lifestyle at the moment, but I enjoy it nevertheless. In fact, I enjoy it even more than I would otherwise. The delicious food and beers, the swimming pool, the air-co and even a chair. It’s a life of kings.
White, red and brown skin
I look around me. Nobody there. I take out my pants and jump in the swimming pool with just my boxer short. Some hidden skin now becomes visible and looks strange. Like scars, my body shows signs of a story. My limbs are half tinned and many would wonder how a ginger can get so much color. When my white skin sees sun for the first time, it might get burned, but after a few days of sun, the same skin becomes resistant of burning and starts to color brown slowly. I get out of the swimming pool and find some shade, to prevent white skin turns red.
“Tubab, tubab” some children yell when we pass by in a taxi. It means “white person”, and the happiness of the kids reveal that it’s a good thing. We wave back and say hello. Every street we pass, we hear the kids voices saying the same thing.
We visited an SOS Children’s Village, which is a private primary school. When we entered one of the classrooms, everyone stood up. All children have a so called sponsor which allows them to go to school.
Today Marga and Bert would fly back to home, which also means that I had to move on. I found an address to stay at just 24 km further away, so I stayed at the resort for a while. Saying goodbye to people you know is not fun, but I was glad for the time we could spend together.
Internet is a very useful way to meet new people. Somehow I came in contact with Bamba on Instagram a few weeks ago. He followed my journey closely and as soon as he notices I arrived in The Gambia, he invited me to his home. That’s where I went to today.
He told his family, friends and other people in the small village about my coming. They were all very excited and Bamba showed me around and introduced me to them. He is also part of an organization which collects bikes and school material to support kids in school. It was all a very impressive time.
Glorious bush life
My host Bamba and I walked to Makasutu Culture Forest. Maka means ‘holy’ and sutu means ‘forest’, explains a guide on the boat we were on. Bamba’s father works in this park and peddled the boat over the creek, which was full with mangroves, special birds, fish and the guide said that there is even a crocodile.
Baboons, a primate specie, were walking freely over the terrain of the center of the park. This visit was followed by a tour through the forest. We ate fruits and seeds from the trees and visited a medicine man, who sold me parts of a tree which can be put in drinking water. When drinked, it should solve stomach problems. We also learned how to climb a palm tree, something they do to collect juice from the top of the tree.
It was all a fantastic experience. On our way back, everyone greets Bamba and me. Everyone know him by name, probably because he is an entrepreneur and does do things different in his village. Being president of two small organisations, being the only person with medical knowledge and participating in the student council of his school are all activities that gave him this status.
Departing to Senegal
The presence of a soft smoke on the compound is a pleasure for the eye and the nose, it creates the feeling of a cozy place. The compound is the terrain of the family of my host. It includes 13 small houses and about 30 people live here. I’m about to leave.
My host Bamba knows the area very well and cycled with me for a while. We crossed the border to Senegal, and as soon as his bike started to malfunction he returned. I took it easy and simply enjoyed the enormous trees I was passing.
While cycling slightly uphill I thought this might be a good spot for camping. When it started to get dark, bright flashes could be seen behind the tall trees. I wasn’t sure what it was, but my best guess was that it was coming from a electricity pole. The sky was clear and a thousand stars could be seen when I looked up from my bed.