Tuesday, 30 April 2013

G Adventures West Africa. Day 23 and 24: The Gambia

entrance to the historic Albert Market in Banjul
Zodiac convoy along the Gambia River,
UNESCO-listed James Island showing ruins of the slave-era fort

Day 23 and 24: The Gambia

A curious political kerfuffle thwarted our landing in Guinea Bissau.
Something to do with the US DEA capture of a renegade military officer for
drug offences and the presence of fifty-odd American citizens aboard being
sufficient motivation for the authorities to deny us entry into their
territorial waters. This bypass however allowed us to recover some of the
lost time accumulated due to unfavourable winds and currents off the coast
of Liberia and Ivory Coast. So be it.

Our morning arrival at the wharf in Banjul saw another local dance and
musical troupe turn out for us with a short but energetic performance before
we boarded buses for the now ritual tour of the city and its sights. Our
most northerly landing to date reminded us that the vast deserts to the east
were not far away. Rains are not due until June or maybe July, so the wide,
tree-lined but dusty streets bore resemblance to the southern ports we
encountered in Namibia and Angola. Mercifully the roads were sealed and
better maintained although the heat began to take a toll as the day
progressed.

A bird and mammal spotting stroll through the Abuko Nature Reserve on the
edge of town turned into a long wait as our local guide lost us and departed
for the next venue without us. Reunited, we continued to more gardens,
Makasutu for lunch and a tie dye factory for the obligatory shopping fix.
Not much for such contrived creations, however one could help not but be
impressed by some of the eye-catching designs on display – evidenced by the
many extra shopping bags boarding the buses in that dusty side-street. Those
not exhausted by the cultural, natural and retail events were set loose in
the Royal Albert Market. Running on something of a Sunday skeleton staff, those
vendors who opened their stalls nonetheless pursued us with all the vigour
of a full-fledged market day.

Back aboard, the charity auctions and raffle raised $5000 for the Planeterra
fund for Sierra Leone baby packs before a hard core contingent set out for a
some night life in downtown Banjul.

The following morning comprised Zodiac excursions along The Gambia River and
a visit to the UNESCO-listed James Island, known colloquially as Kunta
Kinteh Island. The fort, now in ruins, was the scene of numerous occupations
during its 200 year history with the last occupiers abandoning the tiny, but
vastly strategic site in 1870.



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