just leaving now on the out flowing tide, some photos with the last of our credit
I have just put a few drawings up on my sketchbook page from our time in The Gambia
We have had a busy last few days provisioning the boat. We have been well positioned in Oyster Creek between Serekunda ; the urban sprawl – Gambia Style- of Banjul, and Banjul its self. Westfield in Serekunda has several of the bigger shops and a bustling market. We went there on Sunday and again on Monday. We went to a ‘super’market and got a few items which we needed for the long hall on the boat, but often the smaller shops are just as good or better, we did a lot of shopping around. Its always difficult thinking what you need for a sea passage, what will keep etc. We wanted to be well stocked up, in case for what ever reason we pass by the Cape Verde and head directly across the Atlantic. We found some good snack cafes in Serekunda, Dan enjoyed the Shwarmas: meat, salad wraps. Serekunda also has a post office, where we went to buy stamps but were told ‘stamps are finished’. We had more luck in Banjul today. The Geligelie (bush taxi minibus) cost 10 dalasi from Oyster Creek to Serekunda and the same in the other direction to Banjul. Today we completed our shopping from various shops and street market sellers in Banjul, topping up on eggs, onions, potatoes, bananas, coconuts, groundnuts, hot sauce, and cornflakes.
We have loaded up with fuel and water as well from Oyster Creek. There is a fuel station we can row the dingy very close to and it has a stand pipe for water. Dan has carried our some maintenance on the self steering wind vain and epoxied the mast step to stop a creek when she’s sailing. I stowed the new provisions. I vaselined the eggs to help with their longevity ( read that somewhere?) and scrubbed the veg to hang in nets. I also made some flapjack. We have a lot of porridge oats onboard and neither of us have felt like porridge recently, so thought that was a good use for them, and makes good sea food. I used slightly salted ground nuts which I crushed, bought from one of the street stalls, various dried fruits, some chocolate, golden syrup ( from the ‘super’market) and olive oil, – no butter. Turned out very well, nice sweet / salty thing.
We went to immigration today to check out of the country (sadly). The very nice same chap who we met when we arrived was in the office. He stamped our passports for tomorrow, we plan to leave on the out flowing tide, mid day. We are aiming for the Cap Verdes, and estimate 5 days or so, be there Christmas eve? That is if we don’t go direct to Caribbean.
The weather has been windy, and in the night a little rain. The Harmattan dust is heavy in the air and the sky a warm white. Today was probably the windiest. We went down to the beach in Banjul where the fishing boats are tied up, and the passenger boats which travel across the river mouth to Barra on the other side. All Pirogues, beautiful, crude, heavy and decorated. The beach was full with them new and old, high and dry and on anchors. We watched the passenger boats come and go, arriving on the beach. We decided that we would (despite our jobs) have time to go for a trip. The sea was rough and the waves crashed on the beach. Today Barra was obscured from view due to the low visibility. The boats beach on the sand with an anchor out the stern to sea. They are fairly deep drafted so they can’t come right up to the beach for people to step up onto, so there is a system where there is a big team of men who give people piggy back lifts for 10 Dalasi, out to the boat for you to climb up onboard. The crossing costs 25 D. There were 100 plus people aboard, 2 fights broke out before we left the shore. we all had life jackets (not enough for all on the way back) There was a team of two boys constantly bucketing out the incoming water. The outboard stopped half way across , but restarted after a few pulls. These are amazing boats, huge deep open boats, we all sat round the edge with feet hanging down inside and people sitting down below on the floor boards. Lots of bags and luggage. Like the Geligelie ( bush taxis) the boat doesn’t leave till its full, really full. But it didn’t take too long to fill up, even though there are so many boats operating. This is one of the few crossing points on the whole river. There is also an ancient car ferry which does the same crossing, but it takes hours! Very slow and more expensive. When you arrive on the other side, there is a near scrum of men running down into the waist – deep water to offer lifts onto the beach.
Barra, unbeknownst to us turned out to be the boat building capital of the Gambia, or so it seemed. We walked along to a yard on the beach where they were making several of these amazing boats, and lots were lined up on the beach further along, as yet unpainted. I did some drawings which the boat builders enjoyed seeing. Dan told them he is a boat builder and they showed us what they were doing. They didn’t have much english. One man was shaping the shear- line with an adze. The wood they were using was local mahogany, the planks were pined through with re-bar. They were stopping for lunch and invited us to join them. They had two big stainless steel bowls filled with rice, vegetables and fish, spicy, very delicious. We all ate from the same bowl, afterwards we had watermelon. It was so nice to meet them and see their work.
So back on Hestur now. Few more jobs to do tomorrow and we will catch the tide out. It has been a really amazing experience to come to The Gambia. We have both loved it and are sad to be leaving. Excited too about the next…
We reached Banjul yesterday evening and went ashore for a celebratory something to eat in the beautiful evening light. There is a distant hazy atmosphere now and impaired far visibility. The sky is white, and distance has lots its crispness. It is a touch of the Harmattan winds which bring dust. Its not thick though and it brings a whole new colour pallet of chalky pastel colours. Its not so piping hot. It had been nice to have had so long in the county without it, but interesting too to experience it as we have read a lot about it and I gather its pretty common.
Now we are at the start of the next part of our Gambian experience : Victualling the boat and getting her, and ourselves, ready for sea again. We have come down to Oyster Creek, an hour and a quarter from Banjul, up a narrow, bendy, not always too deep, channel through the mangroves. Here we can hopefully get water, diesel and a ‘Geligelie’ (a bush taxi) to Serekunda and the towns nearer the coast where the bigger shops are for stocks and supplies.
It was lovely coming back down the river, nice to see some of the people and places we had gotten to know on the way up and also to find new ones.
I think one of our favourite places was Bansang. We spent a few days there when we turned round to come back west. It is a town rather than a village, but small. We felt it has such a nice atmosphere, very relaxed and contented. We felt that we were completely free to walk about and do our own thing without anyone wanting to be our ‘tour guide’ or to sell us anything. The people we did meet and talk to were extremely friendly and were just interested to talk. We anchored just off the main concrete pier there, often a busy scene with washing going on, horses drinking from buckets lifted up from the river and dusty lorries being washed to a sparkle. We enjoyed a very fun swimming session with various local kids we had got to know over the few days. Lots of jumping off Hestur in the WARM water (30 degrees) and playing in the dingy. The local style of propulsion in the fishing boats (apart from with the outboards) is a very elegant and proficient paddling, like a canadian canoe, or for the ferry passenger boats : sculling, so our 2 oar rowing with rowlocks was very funny for people, the kids and adults enjoyed trying this new technique on various occasions in our little dingy. It was in Bansang we saw the school Marathon. The people we saw race mostly ran the 10 k barefoot , or with football socks. In the evening we went to the fundraiser party which was held in the ‘Bansang Youth Centre’. It was raising funds to send the athletes to Banjul where they would race against other students from all over Gambia. It was a really lovely experience. The dance was held on some flat land behind the Youth Center, there was a flood light and some really big speakers. Apart from organisers, we were probably the oldest there, there were tiny children, right up to late teens dancing and running about. We went with the kids we had got to know. We stayed for a while, but tired after our trip to Basse that day we left, in the bright moon. We could hear the music from the boat. It was live music later on, sorry to have missed it, it sounded lovely. Lots of singing from the audience , it went on till 5 am!
Bansang like the other towns and villages (away from the coast) have electric in the morning till 12 o’clock, then the generators are switched off to save diesel, till 6 pm again. We met a really nice blacksmith called Bamba who lived and worked there. He had a great workshop he had built himself and he had a homemade welding plant. We have one of his little charcoal burners made to heat a tea pot up for Attaya ( china green tea , very good stuff, drunk sweet) He also taught me some Wolof words and phrases. There are more than 7 different African languages spoken here by the different groups, Wolof is the most common (after English which is the standardised language and the one taught in schools) . I was taught some Mandinka words in another place too! I have some way to go with these though, to say the least.
I have been doing more drawing and some painting. I have been taking a sketchbook and paper around with me while we have been visiting villages and going on walks. People who see me drawing are always interested, adults and children. The children often want me to draw them, so I now have a nice collection of drawings of little faces looking inquisitive. I usually draw on loose leaf paper so it has been nice to give some paper out to who I am with, and pencils and draw with people. This has happened on hill tops, by ferries, at market stalls…
We stopped in a few new places like Kau-ur on the way back. A nice market village where they were unloading boats with a cargo of reeds. Little donkeys were waiting by the slip way to transport the material. All the donkeys we have see here look very healthy and happy ( as happy as a donkey can look) same for all live stock, goats, chickens etc . At Kau-ur we also saw a production line of a few pirogues (plank boats) being built. They were using mahogany which grows here. We met Morrice here, a really nice chap. He showed us the village and also the ground nut warehouse there. Along the river there are several huge ground nut collection depos which were built in the 1960s. Massive warehouses with de shelling equipment (now defunct ?) these always have impressive concrete piers along side where the ground nuts would be loaded onto the barges and taken down to Banjul. At Kuntar we met a chap who works on a tug with some of these barges.
We stopped again at Tendeba Camp, where we had stopped with Ruth and Martin on the way East. We met up with Ib again, a really nice chap who works there. And who had taken us on a bird spotting walk. We had a delicious beer, the coldest ones in The Gambia! They have a brewery in Banjul called Julbrew where they make the namesakes beer.
So victualling tomorrow ….