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Published: April 11th 2017
Petting a Crocodile
Kachikally Crocodile Pool, Bakau
Hello my fellow travellers!
This is the first and only post I'll make about a trip to Gambia from December 8 to December 14, 1999 that I did together with my parents and my uncle Anders.
We stayed in Bakau, which is located west of the capital of Banjul but also took a trip into nearby Serrekunda, which is the largest city in Gambia and which is well known for it's markets. Here I bought a wooden bird to add to my growing collection of animals collected abroad.
Gambia is chaotic, lot's of people, much poverty and certainly a risk of theft. While we visited the market in Serrekunda the tour agencies told us we could walk around freely at the market since they had undercover guards protecting us but we shouldn't stray beyond the market for our own safety.
People were clawing at us, forcibly trying to drag us into their market stands. It's understandable though, poverty here is widespread and much of the cities are built by thick paper and flimsy wood. One of the employees at the hotel told us that during rain season much of the city simply just rains away.
the hotel they also gave us several warnings, at the beach for example we shouldn't move more than a mile in each direction, that's where the hotel had armed guards posted but beyond that the risk of kidnapping and theft was a real concern and the hotel would no longer accept responsibility for us.
If we wanted to leave the hotel grounds we should only do so together with a licensed guide for our own protection so for all our excursions we always had staff with us and the staff always carried his credentials with him which gave him access to roads that was otherwise only open to whites, it was quite surreal to walk along the walls of heavily protected compounds with armed guards and broken glass mixed into the mortar to prevent people from climbing the walls.
Even at the hotel I had people trying to scam me for money due to my young age. Still, despite all this chaos, risk of theft and scamming I still really enjoyed myself. The people were very friendly but we all preferred to take it in small doses and we spent a good amount of time just laying on
My second day in Gambia though involved one of the coolest experiences of my life so far! The same guide we used the day before for our walk around Bakau took us out for a new tour, and this is one that I will never ever forget, even if I live to be a hundred years old.
First off we took a look on the largest tree in Gambia, it's big enough that you can even walk inside it. Sure, compared to Redwoods I imagine it's kind of small but nonetheless it does strike and impressive figure.
The tree however wasn't the memory I will always carry (as cool as it is to walk inside a big tree), no, the best memory of this trip came from a visit to the Kachikally Crocodile Pool where I got to pet wild crocodiles. It was a really cool feeling, when you pull your hand over them they are rock hard but if you push down they are soft and almost cuddly. The staff of the park was with us at all times, telling us which of the crocodiles that could be petted and which ones that would
eat us if we came to close. It was a very adrenaline-filled experience and the high-light of the trip.
It's been almost 20 years since I placed my hand upon that crocodile and I can still remember the sensation, the feel of it's skin, my blood rushing and my heart beating. During my travels I've met many exotic animals, ridden elephants and camels and so on. But at this young age, petting a crocodile, is the coolest experience of them all. There are few memories I have to rival this one! If you ever considered going to Gambia but wanted a reason to do so, then this is that reason!
Another day we joined up with a new guide, a young and highly ambitious man with a contagious smile across his whole face.
He took us on a bicycle tour of the region and we tried a local palm wine, drinkable with a fair amount of alcohol straight out of the tree. I really liked it, quite sweet since it was from a new tree, it apparently becomes more sour for each time you take from the same tree. My mother however wasn't a fan off it.
We also visited a really big family, like really big, tonnes of kids running around. Almost felt like a school. When we asked the father how many kids he had he just shrugged his shoulders and said plenty. I guess that's how the overpopulation here came about.
After that we mainly just spent the remainder of the trip laying on the beach together with a couple of Swedish girls we met here, just relaxing and enjoying a sunny vacation.
Until next time I wish you all peace and happy travels!
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