Published: January 1st 2012January 1st 2012
It’s been a while since I updated my blog; I’ve been busy entertaining my Mam and Dad on their visit, so prepare for a bit of a long entry. I have lots to catch up on.
First thing I made my Mam and Dad do was cheer me on in the 10k run. I was a bit worried about it as I’d had a nasty cold and had had an unusual busy week at work the week before meaning that I hadn’t been out training for 2 weeks before hand. The event was organised in typical Gambian fashion. An email went out to some of the runners at 4 o’clock the night before saying that the start time had changed to an hour earlier. Needless to say when we got there at the new time there was no one there. After lots of standing around waiting the run eventually started 2 hours late at 10 o’clock, just in time for the weather to get really hot. We were running on a main road so the start involved us trying to find a slight break in the traffic to block the road which vaguely stopped the traffic and off we went.
We’d been told that there would be water stops at every 3k. They were lying though. So we had no idea how far we had run or how far we had to go which made it really difficult. The lack of water didn’t help either. Plus the last 2k was on a sand road. Am I making it sound hard enough because it was bloody hard!!! Anyway I did it. I managed to run all the way which I was well chuffed about. When I say run I mean it in the slowest sense of the word, but still, I was pleased with myself. Thanks a million to all those that sponsored me. I’ll keep you updated with how the garden project goes.
We’ve done all sorts since then. We travelled the length of The Gambia and, as Mam said, gone from one extreme to the other. We went from sitting in the dark with no electricity eating rice in Basse to the luxury of sitting by the pool for the day in a 5 star resort on the coast plus everything in between. A highlight was our trip to Baboon Island, a rehabilitation park for chimpanzees,
where we stayed in safari tents that were set up on wooden platforms looking out over the tree tops. They were surprising luxurious inside. It was amazing. The chimps live on three islands in the middle of the river which we were taken around by boat. Humans aren’t allowed to go on the islands but the chimps come to the riverside so we got a really good view of them. We also saw hippos in the river, well their eyes and ears poking out the top.
We spend 2 nights over Christmas staying at Sandele, an eco-lodge that is right in the bottom corner of the Gambian coast. That was luxurious too. For Christmas Eve entertainment they took us to a nearby village for a 'programme', a show that involved lots of drumming while the women and men danced to each other in an almost trancelike way. It was like watching animals doing some kind of mating ritual. Plus there were these two people dressed as what I can only describe as haystacks with great big metal spikes poking out the tops of their heads who strutted around and then occasionally stuck the spike in the ground
and spun around manically. I wish I knew what the whole thing was about but it was mesmerising and fascinating to watch. A definite change from Midnight mass anyway. On Christmas Dad we ate proper turkey and roast veg plus Christmas pud and mince pies, although after a day sitting on the beach it seemed very funny to think that it was Christmas. In many ways it was just like a normal Christmas, lots of food followed by lots of sleeping, it’s just the setting was very different.
I’m really sorry to see my Mam and Dad go. I’m really glad they’ve had a chance to see what things are like here plus we’ve done all the things that I’ve been wanting to do here but can’t afford – mainly eating good food and drinking wine!!! I was consoling myself from their leaving with the fact that I was going to be spending New Year with my mates up in Dakar in Senegal, however, it was not meant to be. 2 nights before we were due to set off I realised that I’d only gone and left my passport up in Basse. I’m a complete idiot. I
just didn’t think at all about the fact that I would need it to get over the border. Basse isn’t exactly a hop skip and a jump away either. It would have taken 2 days to go up to get in and come back again. I was persuaded that there might be a chance that I could get over the border without it. Gambian’s are allowed with only their residence ID which I have so I set off with everyone to see how it went. No luck though. I think I could have managed it if I’d started to give money to certain officials but the whole thing felt far too risky. Us Brits aren’t used to breaking the rules like that, I’m certainly not anyway, so I had to come all the way back again. Still I reckon it was for the best. My mates had gone to a lot of trouble to find a driver with a decent van to take us in, had met up with him weeks ago to make sure it was alright, but on the day he turned up with a clapped out old banger instead. Who needs keys when you can get it
going by hot wiring it whilst praying Inshallah inshallah (God willing god willing) as you do it. It didn’t go over 40 miles an hour and in the end I heard from them that it took 17 hours to get there (is should have taken more like 8). I think I’m better off back here.
In the end I had a lovely New Years Eve in a bar on the beach, eating nice food and watching the fireworks go up all along the coast, huddled under a fleece blanket (it’s actually getting a bit nippy here on a night with the Harmatten winds blowing from the Sahara). Not quite as exciting as I’m sure Dakar was but great all the same.
So Happy New Year everyone! 2011 has been an exciting year with lots of changes and challenges. No doubt there are a lot more ahead this year. I hope everyone I know had a good night and great Christmas and see you all soon in 2012!
There are more photos below