1. Image: Florio-2009, Khalaji village and our camp site with an audience (kids, cows and donkeys!), The Gambia, West Africa

    A Short in The Gambian Bush team are now on our 6th day of walking.  We are on our way to village #6 and a much needed day off by the River Gambia (which is where the small West African country got its name from)

    Blog Entry: 6th November 2009

    A Gambian audience (akin to reality tv!); the sound of mating bulls during the night; Jones gets a Gambian name; curious and bemused Neil and Paddy (the donkeys); leaving Khalaji (6.30am) and Janneh gets an excruciating toothache!

    Khalaji has been the favourite village that we have stayed in for us all so far. And, that’s not to take anything away from any of the others but if you look at the images, then we hope you will get a good sense of what we experienced. We arrived around 2pm to the sound of afternoon call-to-prayer. It seems most of the Alkalo’s, in each village, live next to the mosques.  A male and female voice in unison, chanting the prayers…from the minaret …hauntingly beautiful and our gracious host, Alkalo Lamin Jammeh, and his extended family (again, including about 30 kids – I counted them!) made us feel as if we had come home.

    We began to pitch our tents in the middle of two pastures in between the Alkalos’ compounds (there are two in this particular village), beneath the shade of a gigantic mango tree – the hub of any Gambian community. We tethered Neil and Paddy and left them grazing happily on the verdant grass. Mid-pitching, we turned around to see around 100 cows and more than a few bulls lumbering through the very same pasture that Momadou had tethered Neil and Paddy (who seemed completely unaffected by this), chomping as they went on the way to their pasture on the opposite side. It was quite a sight to witness as the cumbersome herd picked their way through our campsite, with their own slightly bemused expressions. Cows are curious creatures, who will stare at you for an age. However, these cows turn out to be the culprits who keep us awake all night with their megaphone-like mating calls! That, along with honking donkeys and farting goats,its wonder we get any sleep at night!!

    Then the village children got on their donkeys (barebacked), three at time on some of the poor little creatures, and galloped past an instantly alert and curious Neil and Paddy (quite a show has been put on for them today!). The kids were laughing and screaming with delight, followed by clapping and whooping by the other kids who were watching, as one of the donkeys bucked and toppled the three kids off its back, fortunately onto the soft grass!

    There are so many kids in each compound that we have stayed in and they all seem to have such a happy disposition; all growing up very closely together , the older girls (from 7 or 8 years old on) often looking after the babies and younger kids.

    As mentioned, in this particular compound, there was around 30 kids who were our chaperones right up until torch lights out in our campsite. Nothing was going to get past these kids. Every little thing we did seemed to interest them – even if it was just me washing my smalls in a bucket!! Our team were like a mini theatre to them, in that they brought out chairs and wooden benches and placed them as close as possible in front of our tents. One woman even brought her embroidery! We felt like we were in a reality tv show! The villagers are fascinated by everything that we ‘toubabs’ (or ‘toubabo’s’ - white people/europeans ) do and that’s quite something to get used to.  Not a lot of choice really. Personal space isn’t even in their vocabulary!

    I was greatly honoured by the alkalo’s son, Soloman Jammeh,  giving me a Gambian name – Mariama Janneh (after his wife).

    11.30am - on the road to Tendaba Camp

    We have a minor emergency this morning. Janneh has a really painful tooth ache and his jaw is very swollen. He is definitely not his usual chipper self. We have been asking at every village we have passed through since leaving Khalaji if there is a dentist around. No joy. We have visions of having to resort to giving him a few hearty slugs of whiskey, tying a piece of string around the tooth and then tying the other end to a doorknob! Well, you know the rest…….poor Janneh. So, Florio and Janneh have set off ahead of the rest of the team to hurry onto Quinella village, where we have been told that there is a dentist.

    Big respect to Janneh as, as much pain as he was in, he would not resort to getting into a passing car (not that there are many!)  to take them quickly to the village. Like us, he wanted to walk the whole way around the country - on foot. He felt it would be cheating otherwise.

    We eventually catch up with them over an hour later and find them sitting outside the local police station, munching on freshly picked groundnuts, with their new best friend, the chief of police of Quinella. Alas, no dentist to be found here either. We now have to try Soma village on Tuesday. Thankfully we have plenty of painkillers for Janneh and clove tincture!

    So, we set off on the hot dusty road for the last 5 km’s to Tendaba Camp to begin our ‘holiday’ (we have whats left of today and the whole of Sunday off). That 5km’s seemed more like 10kms because of the scorching heat of the midday sun.

    Who knows when we will get on line next but please keep checkin in as usual.

    A Short Walk Team Update

    Total km’s walked so far: 133