And so, the final instalment of my Gambian adventure. No birds in this one but a recollection of the impression the country made on me in my first trip south of the Sahara.
To a poorly travelled, habituated westerner like myself The Gambia was something of a culture shock and so I took the opportunity to snap what I saw on my phone, more often then not as we trundled by in the bus.
Beyond the tranquillity and perfection of the hotels and their grounds was a mad conglomeration of peoples concentrated around the main conurbation hubs or in the case of Kotu, the main road through the middle.
The traffic was chaotic with no apparent rules other than try not to hit a pedestrian, other vehicle, cow, donkey or importantly a traffic cop desperately waving their hands in all directions at once whilst standing on the white line in the middle and trying not to swallow their little referees whistle.
The roadsides were as congested as the two lane road itself with ranks of gleaming yellow and green Mercedes Taxis parked up amongst the skeletons of other vehicles that were not so lucky and had expired and were left to become street furniture for all and sundry.
|Cool Runnings! Had to watch it when I got home...|
Dotted amongst them were countless umbrellas that seem to have originated from the same mobile phone company that had obviously got a job lot on a trillion of the things and gave them away with every contract.
Underneath said umbrellas sat all of Gambian life selling almost anything you could possibly imagine. Water Melons and Peanuts were definitely in season but were being sold alongside miscellaneous unidentifiable fruits and vegetables, bundles of faggots, sacks of charcoal, phone cases, dried fish and suitcases.
|Donkey off to the bank to pay in a cheque...|
|The Chat Up...|
Mobile hawkers touted their wares from barrows with phones, glasses, hats and cooking utensils and others set up stalls selling what I presume would become lunch.
|Quite simply the coolest man in the Gambia...|
It was amazing. I have never really looked closely at the other non wildlife things around me on foreign trip especially the people but the sights, smells, sounds and above all colour took me unawares.
This was repeated at both sides of both ferry crossings over the river but was compressed into even tighter spots with corrugated iron shack seeming to hold each other up by will power alone. Each commercial enterprise was bustling and a satellite dish wired to the roof was as much a prerequisite as the umbrellas out front.
Above all they were a happy people, for the most part immaculately dressed in vivid colours that contrasted strongly with the general orange dustiness of the rest of the world around them.
|The Golf Course Running Club|
The Ferries were an experience in themselves with utter chaos at the point of entry and exit with no one in particular calling the shots and just how pedestrians did not get squashed in the melee I do not know.
Looking down on the crowd from the top deck was a kaleidoscope of colour and diversity and when the gate open they flowed around the cars and vans and bikes off up the road into Barra carrying impossible loads on the heads and some with babies on their backs. The air smelt of dried fish, dust, sweat and two stroke fuel.
|Private boat crossings required some improvisation|
Once out on the road there was very little traffic with as many donkey and traps as cars and trucks but everyone smiled and waved as we went past. Even when out on foot in the forest or scrub we would come upon some kids who would high-five us as they went through or people working their fields would stop and look up and wave a greeting. We even all got invited to share dinner with a family in one of the huts in the village up behind Tendaba.
All in all I can say that I have seldom felt more welcome in a new country than I did in my week in the Gambia. The people make a country what it is and the Gambians have got that bit of the deal sewn up tight.
|The wedding party on the beach - Feel the tension...oh dear, who bought the same fabric?|
|Meanwhile on the road past the hotel a mobile wedding celebration was also taking place...|
I would like to think that I will get the opportunity to return to this wondeful country again in the future.