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Published: March 25th 2006
Aili in Abuko
Abuko nature park
The Gambia is like a well-deserved oasis of communication in this Francophone desert of western Africa.
One chat, bargain, order and enquire, all in English. This making The Gambia an excellent recreation point, not only for us but also for package tourism.
There are massive resorts, beach erosion, widespread sex tourism and all the other paraphernalia of mass tourism.
To see old, tubby, pale European women snuggling with their Gambian 25 something, paid "lovers", is not uncommon when you're down at the beach.
For me this was of less interest, since the life of a Swedish relative in Africa arouse my curiosity about alternative ways of life.
After numerous plastic bags with iced fruit drinks (Baobab, Hibiscus, Ginger and Tamarind are a few in the odd variety) we left the ferry taking us across the Gambia River, from Barra
, the capital.
Walked around in the tiny capital for a while; looking at cheap hotels, before we decided to call my aunt Ida, who was (to our delight) more than happy to let us stay with her for a couple of days.
A most interesting time followed. Catching up with relatives I
never met nor even heard of. We philosophized until late in the evenings about freedom and fear, politics and religion, life and death. With martinis, camparis, and gin&tonics adding more and more emotion to the initially rational reflections and analysis’s.
Having better food than in a long time and enjoying good company.
We had more than enough time to visit nature reserves and parks, villages and take pleasure in beach life/ nightlife, buy expensive visas for neighbouring countries and endure the bureaucratic boogie of ordering new passports - as we awaited my camera to arrive from Sweden.
Saw crocodiles, different species of monkeys, hyenas, snakes, bats, monitor lizards and a plethora of colourful birds.
After twelve days of (more or less) normal life and a good glimpse of African family life from within a family compound, we left my aunt for the south of Senegal, the Cassamance province with its capital Ziganchor
being a nice, peaceful town in contrast with the Atlantic resorts. Full of mosquitos and with a taste for high volume blues music throughout the nights. The vegetation grows higher and thicker the further south we go, and with the harmattan (annual
desert winds blowing sand down south from the Sahara) less intense than in The Gambia everything feels more lush.
Spent another two days in good company with my aunts employees and then left for the tiresome journey to Bissau
. With the presence of military increasing, cashew plantations growing even bigger and people getting more and more drunk in the back of the cramped bus, we crossed the border into Guinea-Bissau..
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