i can't claim to be a prolific traveller but i like alternative holidays, lying on a sunbed is boring. i want to be seeing amazing things, experience the culture, meet interesting people, be a bit outside my normal comfort zone, do things i've never done before, and if there's a story to tell i want to remember it, so the notes and observations i make on each trip can now be read here by anyone who has the patience.

THE GAMBIA

  November   2009
 The Gambia

river gambia

Sat. November 21st  FIRST DAY
Got here all good no probs, no delays at airport but had the usual scramble with the porters to carry our bags 20 metres to the coach, its easier to just let them- a pound coin keeps them happy and saves the hassle.

Got to hotel and went for the obligatory first walk on the beach, was already about 5pm by this time but still quite hot. Got a few beach sellers following us, its kinda nicer to chat with them than ignore them but that does encourage them a bit and it did to the extent that a lad called Moses stuck to us like a limpet. We ended up having a drink at a beach bar he took us to and he even sat with us while we drank reeling out his tourist speel. We ordered some food and discovered that ready in 10 minutes in The Gambia means ready in a hour or just.... whenever, because of this it was now getting dark and Bec was worried about walking back across the beach in the dark as there was no lighting and we dont really know where we are! Finished our grub and went to pay inside, it was dark by now and they had no lights inside whatsoever so we settled our bill using the light from a little pen torch which seemed completely normal to them but quite weird to us. Started walking back quite briskly as 1. its pitch black 2. we had ended up walking a long way down here 3. Bec was busting for the toilet!  Moses insisted on walking back with us jabbering away as we walked until we got to a stream that crossed the beach to the sea and then I think he didnt want to get his feet wet and left us alone. Werent sure which was our hotel being as we didnt recognise anything yet, being pitch black didnt help too much, then with local bumsters mithering us Bec was getting nervous. Got back ok in the end and had a quiet night at hotel. Off to sleep now, am feeling shattered like a bag of broken biscuits, have been up since 4am and now its about 11pm so early night and go explore tomorrow.....

Sunday 22nd HERE COMES THE PRESIDENT
In morning went for a wander along beach and cut in towards golf course where we met a lad with gold teeth who followed us along for about 20 mins or so. Inbetween trying to sell us drugs he claimed he used to live in London and was reeling off lists of place names, he seemed fairly harmless although his appearance would suggest drug crazed maniac and we just read in our rough guide book that this area is a hotspot for muggings. He gave up following us in the end and walking back we went to a bridge where watching tropical birds was supposed to be good, we got hassled by several 'professional bird watchers' who were quite persistant considering it had now become too hot and all the birds had retreated to the shade.


running
Had a lazy afternoon sunbathing and went for a run along the beach to explore further, fancied a run after all that lounging around (get very bored sunbathing) and thought it would be a good way to explore without getting approached all the time.  As we jogged away from the tourist areas there was about 2km of beach that was packed with local lads playing football on every available patch of sand.  We were right in thinking running would avoid all the traders until one lad decided run alongside us chatting until eventually when we stopped at a beach bar for a drink he had built up his chat to trying to sell us a fishing trip.

At night we got a taxi to Senegambia where its busier than near our hotel and had a meal in restaurant called GTS which is run by a charity.  Food was top notch, had a Gambian dish called Domoda made with peanut sauce, the waiters are really friendly, laughing and joking around. As the night went on went for some drinks, watched some bongo band and aquired a friend, or at least a lad who followed us and sat with us while we had a drink (?).  The funniest bit of the night was when the president paraded past, there was an enourmous entourage of police and military in front and behind, the locals all lined the roadside and when he finally came past on his open top truck wearing a dazzlingly bright white african suit everyone cheered and waved.  It was like an FA cup winners parade but with 10 times more security, apparantly its a regular occurance and one which Gordon Brown could only dream of.

the gambiaMon 23rd Nov BILIJO FOREST
In the morning we went to hire some bikes out and tried to haggle the price with some limited success but they are far better at haggling than me.  Cycled down to Bilijo forest park which is a few km away although we ended up cycling twice as far due to poor map reading.  Hired a guide to navigate us round the forest, his name was Dansa, he was a nice bloke and liked being in our photos "here, take one with the guide".  There were loads of monkeys bouncing around and wrestling each other and further down the trail we found tropical birds, massive spiders, geckos, lizards and huge termite mounds.

We have decided cycling is the way to go for a number of reasons;  see more local life along the way, good exercise to work off calories from our daily beer intake, costs less than taxis, and.... well... we just like it.

19:30hrs
Just been running on the beach again, ran a few km along to same beach bar as yesterday.  Lots of Gambian lads all along the beach playing football, running, doing press ups (seems a popular passtime), or just generally hanging around.  Every 20 metres or so someone is shouting "hey, good running!", "the boss lady runs good!" or "hey! strongman!".  We got to beachbar called The Seaview and had a drink, some fella ambles over, asks our names and sits with us playing a song on this weird string insrument.  He starts singing a belter of a song "ooh Becci and Johnnnn, ooh Becci and Jooohnnn, oooh on holidayyy,  ooh Gambia is nice,  Becci and Johnnn..." etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.  I gave him 10 dalasis which he seemed a bit peeved at and asked if he could have the change after I had paid for our drinks (he didnt get it).  I didnt ask him to play his weird song and if I pay everyone who approaches us I'd be skint already!
 We jogged back and were joined by a local lad who quite refreshingly wasnt trying to sell anything and just wanted to run with us and talk, he was a decent runner and we struggling to keep up with him although I did beat him when challenged to a sprint.  He asked if he could join us for a run next time so we'll keep a look out for him.

~Midnightish   FAJARA
Erm... bit of a strange night!  Just got back from a night out in Fajara which from what we had read has the finest restaurants in the area, so with the expectation of fine dining at reasonable prices we went to grab a taxi.  The tourist taxis by the hotels have fixed prices, I managed to haggle long enough to get a better price but only from 400D to 350D for a return, which is about £9, but I suppose thats ok considering the driver is gonna wait for us all night until we are ready to go back.  Our driver doesnt know Fajar very well and even after stopping to ask he cant find the place called Eddies we asked for (somewhere we read about).  We are near a place called Franciscos and so decide to go there instead, we get a table and I started grumbling that I didnt want to eat here but nevermind we'll just go with it.  Bec says she doesnt want to stay if I dont like it and refuses to choose anything to eat, the waiter shifts about all awkward while we argue and eventually slides away, Bec says lets go and I'm not fussed on the menu but we cant leave now we are sat down holding menus.  We decide to get a drink at the bar and then leave and I can tell the waiter thinks we are a bit mental.  We go back out to the taxi a bit embarrassed but he just laughs and says no problem and drives us round looking for a place called Flavours (another place we had read up on), we cant find it and after fruitless and very bumpy drive around numerous side streets we stop and ask a few times only to discover it doesnt exist anymore and many of the "finest restaurants in the area"  have closed down some time ago.  It now dawns on me that our Gambia travel books were printed in 2003 and may be a little dated so we end up in the only other place thats open, an Indian place called The Clay Oven.  Fajara was a lot quieter, darker and deserted than we had anticipated.
 The Clay Oven turned out to be nice enough food but also has to be the most expensive place to eat in the whole of The Gambia or actually make that Africa.  I was worried about having enough money with me to pay and so we had no starter or desert and shared rice.  It was empty in there apart from a group of Indian people in the corner and we got the impression it was a bit of a shock to see some customers walk in!  Even so they had enough staff to comfortably serve the population of Delhi, they had so many waiters a different one was at our table every few minutes and there was even 2 barmen who just stood like statues.  It was very surreal that this really quiet area has a well presented Indian restaurant tucked away by itself, its understandably empty looking at the surrounding area but curiously over staffed.  The bill came to just over 1000 Dalasi which okay its only £25 but being as we had paid less than 500D the last few nights I only just had enough with 50D spare.  It was a funny experience and we apologised a hundred times to the taxi man for making him search for places that dont actually exist.

Tues 24th Nov. BAKAU
the gambia
We hired cycles again to go to the crocodile park which is a few towns away in Bakau.  Getting a bit better a haggling, they wanted 300D to hire 2 bikes but we agreed on 225D, he's a nice guy so we will keep going back.  The lads that hire the cycles sit all day brewing a potent green tea in a little red metal tea pot on a charcoal stove, they drink it from a little glass cup.  Its called gunpowder green tea and they told me "It makes you a man!" so obviously I had to try some.... it really is strong! very strong bitter green tea flavour but with a slighly sweet caramel taste.
  With our trusty little map we cycled through Fajar and then Bakau to try and find the crocodile park.  With it being a famous tourist attraction in the area I was looking out for a grand entrance sign on one of the main roads but it turned out to be a modest little gate down a long narrow sidestreet with open drains and a bumpy track covered in sand.  50D entry fee got us in to see the croc pool which is full of seemingly friendly crocs some of which we were invited to touch, pat and shake hands with.  There is also a huge 500 year old tree and an interesting little museum showing traditional drums, tribal ceremonies and Gambia in the world wars.  As we left we chatted to school children about football, one of whom was very proud of his Leek Town shirt which a tourist must have given him.
We walked back up to the road and got non of the hassle we've been used to near the hotel just friendly hellos and how are you?  Decided to stop at a little beer hut for a Julbrew and as we sat drinking the shady bloke with the gold teeth who we met the other day turns up, he sat with us talking about yorkshire pudding, drug dealing and how to bribe the police if you get caught drink driving.  I quite like the fella although he is 100% dodgy which is why I declined to go fishing with him and said I couldnt go to his house to eat yorkshire pudding with his family.
 Cycled back to hotel to relax by the pool and I nipped over to a market to get a plate of rice and sauce, I sat round the side of a shed on some concrete blocks with some local lads who wanted me to go smoke some spliff with them (and probably buy their weed for them too), I said no thanks, the boss lady is waiting for me.  The food was good, a huge plate of rice with domoda sauce which they called peanut soup, it only cost 25D so i'll be back for more i think

At night walked round the corner to Paradise Beach restaurant, its not far but its down a quiet dark road and we have 2 stoned bumsters following us which puts us a bit on edge.  Had some good food, Bec had yassa, I had fish stew and we had some deep fried prawns which were absolutely fucking amazing! (sorry for swearing but they were rather tasty)  Afterwards went to Tiger bar for a few drinks, got talking to a few local lads throughout the night which usually leads to being sold something but there was one exception, a lad called Lamin who worked at Tiger Bar, we chatted at length, laughed and joked without any hint of a sales pitch, seems a really nice person.

Weds 25th Nov.  SERREKUNDA
Hired cycles again to go to Serrekunda, a busy town a few km inland.  Really enjoy biking around, you see so much more local life and I enjoy the banter with the lads who hire them out.  On our way down suddenly all the traffic stopped and pulled over off the road and the cars around us were waving to us to pull in, we had no idea what was happening!  A load of military trucks, jeeps and trucks filled with gun carrying soldiers rolled past in the opposite direction, it was clearly essential that all traffic must grind to a halt to let them past.
the gambia
 Got to Serrekunda and just wandered around stopping occasionally to sit and do some people watching.  There were lots and lots of rams on the streets and being led around in little herds, the town is really busy with everyone preparing for Tobaski on friday (muslim festival which involves slaughtering a ram).  There are loads of taxis whizzing about, men pulling carts, women carrying baskets on their heads and people tying rams to bus tops!  we stop for food and drink in a beer shack near a busy junction, our food takes over an hour to come, they really dont rush at all, it was unbelievably cheap though compared to the tourist areas, 145D for two meals and 6 drinks (about £3.50).  Although we were the only white tourists to be seen for miles we got no hassle at all, just the occasional "hello, how are you?" and children shouting "toubab" which is their term for white foreigners.  Fascinating place to spend time and sample true local life and it annoys me when I get back to the hotel and see the same people lying on sunbeds all day with no interest in whats outside the walls of the hotel.

At night went to meet Lamin to go and watch the football at a bar down the road, Lamin is a big Chelsea fan and is proudly wearing a Chelsea shirt that a tourist gave him.  Got to the bar where a handfull of local lads were sitting watching the game, they all sit quietly concentrating on the game, not much banter or cheering, maybe because most of them dont drink beer. (Chelsea beat Porto 1-0 which puts them top of their champions league group with a game to spare).  Had food at half time, I had benachin with grilled fish, Bec had fish domoda- very good grub.  Lamin called the place Ali Baba but I'm sure it says something different on the sign.  Walked back to Tiger bar as Lamin had to go back to work.  had a few Julbrews and talked to Lamin and he invited us to join him on friday for Tobaski!  We are really honoured to be asked as its such a big thing for everyone here.  we will be going to his home and celebrating with his family so we are excited and also nervous about what to wear and how to act.

Julbrew
I am taking a strong liking to the local beer, Julbrew, its great stuff!  I have realised though that I became rather fond of Tusker beer in Kenya and the Chang went down well in Thailand, then there was Mount Gay Rum in Barbados etc. etc.  so on reflection maybe I just like whatever alcohol is available at the time, its good to sample the local drink though :-)

Thurs 26th Nov.   LAMIN LODGE, BOAT TRIP
Originally had planned to get a taxi to Lamin Lodge because its quite a long way but having got into the biking we planned our route and cycled all the way.  It took about an hour to get there, we went via Serrekunda and past the markets and cattle markets which turned out to be an intense cycling proficiency test weaving in and out of busy traffic, stopping and starting, lots of beeping, shouting, dust and fumes.  Theres lots of last minute ram buying ready for tomorrow with people haggling next to herds of rams and then bundling one into the boot of a taxi or tying them to bus rooftops, then theres lots of little places busy working sewing machines finishing peoples nice clothes ready for Tobaski tomorrow.

After passing through Serrekunda we carry on and on down the same road hoping we have read our map correctly and taken the right road out of Serrekunda, they dont have any road signs here so you need a bit of nouse and a bit of luck.  As the road gets quieter and more rural we eventually spot, or should I say Bec eventually spots a little sign with and arrow saying Lamin Lodge (I had gone straight past).  We turn off down a rocky path lined with little huts, small brick compounds, little farm patches and a splattering of people wandering up and down or sitting in the shade, very relaxed compared to Serrekunda.  The track is about 3km long and not all of it is ridable on the bikes due to being very sandy.  As we go by there are children playing who stop and shout "toubab, toubab" and run alongside us, sometimes there are six or seven of them and we have no choice but to stop, they are shouting "swee!" (sweets) but we didnt have any and others just want to play with our bikes and shake hands.  We teach some of them how to high five which becomes a look how hard I can slap your hand contest along with lots of giggling.
river gambia
  We come to some rice fields and are now miles from anywhere, there are women working in the distance wearing bright coloured dresses and carrying baskets, its all very picturesque.  As we get closer to the lodge a lad appears from nowhere through the long grasses and starts chatting, we are pushing the bikes because the path is now not ridable so we get talking.  His name is Lamin (very common name- traditionally first born son is named Lamin), he says he is a 'boat captain' and when we get to the lodge he fixes up a boat for us.  I had imagined Lamin Lodge to be quite grand and maybe even a bit posh probably because the word lodge made me think of the plush safari lodges in Kenya but infact its quite basic.  Its definately functional and well looked after but very modest and patched up here and there with whatever works. Sat and had a drink talking to the locals asking them about Tobaski tomorrow before going down to choose a boat and haggle over the price. 
We said we hadnt brought much money and just wanted to go out for an hour or so through the mangroves to some sandbanks further down the creek and then back.  He asked for 1200D which I said was way too much and that I only had 400 Dalasi to spend, I had another 1000D in my back pocket but I stuck and stuck to 400 while he protested "but you have chosen the nicest boat!".  I got 400 in the end (about £10).  They then all started arguing, tring to drag us onto their different boats so we just climbed onto the nicest looking one while they still bickered.  Bec was worried at first as to what all the comotion was about and about the safety of the boat but we both really enjoyed it in the end and talked lots to the two lads who were rowing/paddling for us.  They told us about harvesting oysters from the mangroves and how they used the mangrove trees to build everything, they showed us some wildlife and took us searching for cockles on the sandbanks.  they were good lads, I asked if I could paddle for a while at which point we started moving considerably slower!  One of them, Abdoulie, gave me his address and email asking if I could send him some of our photos.  It was a good trip and afterwards we sat and chatted with Lamin's bongo playing brother at the lodge and drank some gunpowder tea.
  The cycle home was more of the same fun eg. "toubab! toubab!" and it was now getting really hot as we tackled the crazy traffic again in Serrekunda.  Really enjoyed the day.
Went shopping for gifts for Lamin's family to take with us tomorrow, we got a box of green tea, sweets for the children, and a pack of fresh kola nuts which the man from the shop (another Lamin) specially arranged for us as they dont sell them in tourist areas.  Went to eat in place called Boss Lady restaurant later then went for drinks at Tiger bar. It was Lamin's day off but the two girls we also talk to called Haddy and Benda were working.  Haddy really liked Bec's ear rings and when Bec gave them to her at the end of the night she put them in straight away. 

Some things random Gambians always say to us;
"your happiness is my pleasure"
"Its nice to be nice"
"Boss lady"
"Happy couples"
"toubab!"

Friday 27th Nov.   TOBASKI
Today we spent Tobaski with a Gambian family, we went to the outdoor mosque for prayers, I helped to skin and butcher a ram (yes me a veggie), and ate with the families in the family compound.  Never once imagined we we experience Gambian life this close up!

Lamin picked us up at 9am with another English couple he has known for a few years.  He drove us to Bakau where he lives, his home is in a compound which has 3 families.  The compound has a tall metal gate at the front and then inside a communal outdoor courtyard with a few small buildings, there are 2 families both with lots of children and Lamin lives with brothers and friends, one of whom is called lamin just to confuse us further, then there was Babou and then I'm not sure who else as different people seemed to come and go.  There are so many Lamins!  I'm gonna go and stand in the middle of Banjul and shout "Lamin!!!" to see how many people turn around.  We sit in their front room which is really nicely done out, its very small but fits 5 wooden chairs, a chunky little wooden table in the middle and a tall thin cabinet in one corner with a hi-fi and a portable tv on top.  The walls have red material hanging down all the way round with a parting leading into a backroom that ahs their beds and a toilet.  Everyone was dressed in new specially made colourful Tobaski clothes.
  We make our way to morning prayers and the whole town is converging through the sidestreets to a large open space which I guess is an outdoor mosque, everyone has prayer mats which they lay down next to each other in organised rows before removing shoes and sitting.  The priest(?) says the prayers from a small stage at the front over a loud tanoy and slits the throat of the first ram (despite the ram having made a break for it whilst everyone was knelt down praying).  There was a real sense of occasion both before and after and the sight of so many people wearing colourful clothing was amazing.  We walk back and visit neighbouring compounds, we meet lamin's mother and extended family and theres handshaking and greetings a plenty, Bec gives the children some sweets and is quickly surrounded by little aces appearing from nowhere.
gambia
The ram killing starts, the throat is slit and the blood is drained out, there are 3 rams in our compound, one for each family and right up until they are killed they are treated very respectfully still being fed and watered.  I help to hold one of the rams by holding its back legs up while it is skinned and butchered and watch fascinated by the speedy skill and precision.  Every part of the animal is sectioned up to use for different things and then we go and sit in an empty room with some of the men and drink gunpowder tea whilst the cooking is prepared.  They keep brewing more and more tea on a little charcoal stove and passing it round, they use the box of tea i brought as a gift and make it very strong with loads of sugar, its too strong for Bec so I drink all hers too, I'll be awake for days!  A big plate of food arrives in the middle made with the goat meat, onions and mustard, everyone crowds round and tucks in using their hands.  I had decided in advance to make a one day exception to being a veggie so I could participate fully in the occasion and I have to admit it was delicious.  We are made to feel hugely welcome, constantly being engaged in conversation and they happily leave Becci holding the babies without any concern.  The community spirit is obvious, everyone helps and shares everything from food, tea and firewood to childcare.
Later the men go for Friday prayer at 2pm and they leave us to relax in the sitting room where we become a source of amusement for the children who keep popping in and out dancing and laughing especially when Bec dishes out the rest of the sweets.  I take a photo of them and the flash causes screams of excitement!  When the men return from prayer more food is made, this time the goat is cooked in a spicy sauce with vegetables and and lots of rice placed in a large dish, everyone shares tucking in with spoons or just hands.  We sit around chatting for a while and also meet the family elders who are very friendly but dont speak much English only their tribal languages.  It has been an amazing and privelidged experience and one we never expected to have especially to be invited on such an impoertant day for them.  Lamin drives us back about 4pm as he has to go to work, we go and see him later at night in his bar to chat over a drink.  A very different but very good day.

SAT 28th NOV. - BANJUL
Bec is annoyed with me because I am rubbish at getting up in the morning (just like at home).  When I finally get myself together we get a taxi to Banjul, the capital.  Its normally very very busy during the day particularly at Albert St. market but we are expecting it to be fairly quiet today because families are still celebrating Tobaski.  Our taxi driver parks up to wait for us and the moment we head towards the market we have a follower chattering away to us who is then promptly chased away by another man claiming to be market security (he's not) and shows us his homemade ID card.  He then tags onto us which was irritating as we just wanted to wander by ourselves although I suppose he had some use in guiding us round to different parts of the market and showed us the way to the river bank.  The place is to be blunt a bit of a tip, its dirty, messy, litter everywhere and lots of flies.  Many of the stalls are closed because of Tobaski but the ones that are open are displaying skanky shrivelled fruit and veg or piles of fish with a generous covering of flies which surely nobody would want to buy.  We ended up at some craft stalls and thought we'd look for some souveneirs but its hard to look properly when the traders wont leave us alone and we still have Mr 'Security' man following us chipping in with "it costs nothing to look" or "have some bargaining".  We find some carved wooden face masks we like and having shown an interest suddenly an array of similar items are layed on the floor around us, we pick some and ask how much and the fella says they are 800D each, I tell him I want a pair but its way too expensive so he comes back with 1200D for a pair.  I start to walk away (my new haggling tactics) and he grabs me asking me to negotiate so I offer him 400D and he bursts out laughing before dropping his price to 950, I stuck to my 400D as his price kept tumbling until he reached 600 as his absolute minimum, I got 500D out of my pocket and he quickly stuck them in a bag.  A job well done and feeling on a roll we carry on looking on another stall.  Bec feels shady and says we cant buy anything else because I told the other man that 500 was all of my money and thats why my price couldnt go any higher but they knew that wasnt true just like I knew the things we bought werent carved from ebony and mahogony.  We find some more things we like and Bec leaves me to go through the same routine, this time he starts at 1200D and I start at 400, we end on 450D so its worth sticking to your guns.  As we leave the market the security man is still following us even though we have told him numerous times we're okay on our own but he wants some money for his 'tour'.  Becs tells me to give him something to get rid of him so I just give him 5 Dalasi which he exclaims is not enough to buy a drink!  But he was annoying us not helping us so why encourage him to do the same to others by paying him?!

the gambia
 We walk through town to a huge monument which is a massive arch over the road entering the city.  we walked up a long spiral stairway to the top for a birdseye view and photo opportunity.  The arch is very grand and apparantly cost millions as a monument in honour of the president which is all very well but the rest of Banjul is much more in need of investment with its run down buildings and open sewers.  As we walk back we become the source of amusement for a group of young children who get very excited when Bec takes their photo and they all crowd round to see it on the camera screen. We taxi back and rest on the beach, its cloudy so not much sun soaking for Becci, she is hoping for a sunny one tomorrow as its our last day and we have planned a free and easy day with no activities....probably.....  We go for a run along the beach before I thrash Bec at table tennis a couple of times, yesterday we had a 21-0 game! brilliant!  Off out to Kololi tonight to Senegambia area for a meal and drinks, think we will go to the GTS restaurant we went to last week.

SUNDAY 29th - LAST DAY  :-(
Last day, go home tomorrow, have had a real good experience and feel like I will always have a little bit of Gambia in me forever.  We have kept busy at the expense of Bec's sun tan but I think she will look back on good memories and we have done a bit of sun soaking too.  Went to GTS restaurant last night, GTS stands for Gambian Trust Society or something like that, its a registered charity that has local projects such as developing schools and funding school fees.  We both had fish yassa with rice which has an onion and mustard sauce, it was delicious but not quite as nice as the one Lamin and co made on Tobaski day on their  little stove.  Played a few games of pool, beat Bec 3 times (sorry Bec) and then played a Gambian lad who I thought would thrash me but somehow managed to beat him too.  As we leave GTS the streets are really busy, all the locals are out celebrating Tobaski, socialising and dancing and although most are out to party we are getting mithered by a couple of bumsters so decide to taxi back.
  This morning we are just chilling on sunbeds at hotel pool, went out to see the Abe who hires the bikes for a bit, I bought him a box of gunpowder tea as a little gift and sat with him while he brewed some up.  They heat up a little metal teapot on a tiny charcoal stove and then spend ages pouring the brew between two small glass cups to mix it and froth it up, just when you think its ready it gets tipped back in the teapot and the process starts all over again.  By the time its ready to drink the flavour is really strong and all the sugar thats piled in gives a caramelised taste, the brew is dark brown with a froth on top.  I sat talking for a bit and then came back to the hotel to help Bec get a sun tan......

**Newsflash** SPOTTED!
We spotted one of the male staff leaving next door's room late at night just as we were returning which I can only assume was to provide some kind of 'room service' to the women staying there.  I think she knows that we know what shes up to due to her sheepish look when we see her around the hotel.  Theres quite a bit of it going on. All I'm saying is that I've noticed that some middle aged European women always tip the young male staff quite handsomely, thats all I'm saying!

Nicknamed 'The Twitchers'
The birdwatcher types who get up super early in the morning to spot birds before the sun gets too hot. They can be identified by their distinctive green flanel clothing which sports many, many pockets and will always have binoculars dangling around the neck with camera bag and tripod also about their person.  Typically aged 40-50 although younger twitchers are certainly active.  They can usually be seen at around 8.30am coming back from their mornings twitching just around the same time as I am dragging myself out of bed.

Sunday PM 
Couple of Julbrews late afternoon at hotel then accross to tiger tiger bar.  Wilson the taxi driver keeps blagging me to trade my sandals with him but there's no way I'm letting these trusty friends go!  After a couple of beers Lamin appears bouncing around saying something like "I'm smiling so much right now".  He has a big grin due to Chelsea having just beaten Arsenal 3-0.  We go over to Boss Lady restaurant to get some grub, they had a Gambian buffet night on and then we go over and join Paul and Elaine(who we met on Tobaski day) back at tiger tiger.  Shortly after we are joined by some local lads who Paul and Elaine know; Sanjul, Mo and Bobby.
Sanjul and Mo are getting drunk with us which makes for some humourous banter from Lamin who is calling them plastic muslims.  A band of frantic bongo players has started drumming as soon enough I end up crazy dancing with Sanjul and Mo.  The Julbrews are flowing nicely now and Paul who likes a good drink has aquired the nickname Beer Man from the lads.  Bobby is quieter than the others and sits grinning at the others while drinking his Malta, he doesnt drink alcohol either and chips in with the odd comment to back up Lamin's plastic muslim jibes.  Lamin was quiet tonight but probably only because it was hard to get a word in sometimes over the Julbrew banter but he comes out with a few dry comments and keeps up his plastic muslim argument towards Sanjul and mo all night.  Lamin is sat with us but is working too and has to keep getting up and down to serve drinks etc. so Bec helps him out by collecting our empties and bringing drinks from the bar and gets raptourous cheering and applause from everyone each time.  Sanjul is sat next to me and every time we agree on something we high five and shake hands.  He likes a beer and puffs away on cigs all night and passes spliffs round later but defends the plastic muslim comments saying he knows he shouldnt but as long as you are a good person then good will follow you, he hates the bumsters saying they are not true Gambians, have no jobs and leech off tourists which gives a bad image of Gambia. He's right.  Mo simply shouts "fuck off" whenever one of the bumster lads comes near us and goes mental when one of them asks me to buy him a beer.  Mo is the loudest and talks constantly, I like the English phrases he has picked up, he starts half his sentences with "To be frank..." I call him Frank for the rest of the night.  I cant not mention his most profound quote "One roast potato spoils the whole bag of potatoes"  No idea what he was on about but we were all in tears at the time! had to be there i guess.  Later at night they are trying to persuade us to go to Sizzlers in Kololi with them where there is a reggae party on the beach every Sunday.  We change our minds several times but eventually decide we've had a good night already and being as I'm quite drunk we best save ourselves for the flight home tomorrow.  We say our goodbyes with lots of hugging and hand shaking.

MONDAY 30th Nov.  HOMETIME
After breakfast went to say a few last goodbyes.  Went to see Abe on the bikes on gave him a bag of stuff; shorts, socks, sprays, razors, hotel soaps etc. much to his appreciation and I took a letter for him to post at home to some friends he has in Birmingham.  He shouted me over when I walked back past later and had one last brew of gunpowder tea with him.  Went to see Lamin from the shop (shop Lamin - not to be confused with Lamin, Lamin or Lamin).  Got our snacks and drinks and said our goodbyes and swapped email addresses.  Went to see Haddy who was working for breakfast in one of the hotels.  Bumped into Sanjul from last night and said more goodbyes.  Lots of handshaking with the taxi boys and others around the hotel front and then went to wait for the airport transport.

Its been a trip of great experiences that I will treasure, a place I will never forget and faces I'll always remember......

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

photos to be added?

sprinch said...

some photos on now, rest of diary will be up shortly

Anonymous said...

cant wait to read the next bit thanks

Bill said...

Great write up. Looking forward to the next bit.

Anonymous said...

Flavours is the restaurant of the Safari Garden Hotel in Fajara and as far as i know it is still open. The best in the area? well that is debatable!
good report thanks

sprinch said...

flavours still exists? oh well, if we'd found it straight away there'd be no story to tell. thanks for your comments, i'm chuffed that anyones actually read it! will be posting more up today...

sunny said...

hi where is the tiger bar?
thanks for the heads up

blackthorn said...

brilliant read, thanks very much

Anonymous said...

brilliant read...keep it coming!

sprinch said...

hi sunny the bar is called tiger tiger and its in kotu opposite kombo beach hotel, its quite small but smart looking, friendly staff. also try boss lady restaurant next door (same owners)

Anonymous said...

well informed report,give us more!

Anonymous said...

finish the story off dude..... :-)

Anonymous said...

really enjoyable read, some of it made me LOL , good sense of humour and some good tips... thanks matey ,looking forward to next instalment....

Sandy said...

Great read, would love to hear about your Tobaski day!

bruffdug said...

A good read,glad you were out and about and enjoyed it,

sunsetmob said...

fab report!!

kingontheroad said...

What a fantastic blog, glad to see you got out & about off the beaten track! Really enjoyed reading this, had a smile on my face, remembering little things that we also love about The Gambia, you have captured so many details, and summed up local life so well! Have you any plans to return?

sprinch said...

yes hope to return but dont know when as theres so many other places to see and can only afford to travel once every year. met some amazing people in the gambia who we still keep in touch with. this year its vietnam so maybe next year. i appreciate everyones comments! thanks

Anonymous said...

wow talk about detailed, we are thinking of going late dec early jan, i love to get out and about also but deb [ my better half] is a slob and stays by the beach/ pool. look forward to reading the rest of this epic tale.

sprinch said...

haha, epic tale! i wrote some of it when i was drunk! you should do a deal with deb- alternate days of activities and sunbathing. one day on, one day off, cant say fairer than that

sunny said...

GTS is Gambia Tourist Support
fantastic blog, thanks for sharing

elly said...

Really enjoyed reading your blog, thanks.
I'm back for the 6th time in 2 weeks and have some new places to visit thanks to you!
I'm off to Vietnam in August:if youre going before that I would be very interested in your findings!

sprinch said...

thanks elly! just got back from vietnam last week, have started writing up my diary which i hope to finish in the next week or 2 (click link at top of page) where in vietnam are you visiting?

david white said...

Tobaski a real treat. I have lived in Gambia 17 years now and still love tobaski. Interesting the price you got for the boat, I need to hone my negotiating skills as I have never managed to get such a good price. Please write some more about Gambia, some of this had me in stitches LOL.

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