My parents and brother plus his family were visiting – each for a two week stretch with a one week overlap in the middle. Not only that, but I’d be hosting other guests including Tony the blind and deaf traveller who was back for the second time and then 21 people with Overland West Africa.
I went up to the airport with Gulliver, spending a morning mopping up a few places around Brikama that I needed information for the Bradt guide. One was Marakissa river camp, near the Senegal border, a beautiful spot with a lovely bantaba overlooking the river where there’s a myriad of birdlife and even some crocs. That reminds me. I just found out that bantaba (a hut used as a meeting place) is the origin of the word “banter.” Seems obvious but I hadn’t made the connection before. Same goes for palava huts further south in Sierra Leone.
As usual we were warmly greeted at the Little Baobab and settled in for a few days of relaxing.
We took the opportunity of another Diola boys initiation event to visit Khady’s mum’s village, Madina Daffe and were lucky to see the Koumpo.
This was not a tourist event. All the ladies of the village bowed to the koumpo before the festivities began. Inevitably I was dragged up to have a dance. there is a video that I’ll add at some point to the video page.
Khady’s sister Fatou and her son Demba.
Young boys climb trees for a better view.
A week later we had to visit the Gambia again to collect my brother and family, so took a couple of days to explore, first visiting the snake and reptile farm in Kartong. They’re attempting to educate people that it’s not necessary to kill every snake and most are harmless, so I wanted Khady to see that.
We spent a relaxing afternoon and evening with David at Footsteps lodge.
The next day was quite an adventure that I’ll cover in a separate blog post. Come Monday, we were stranded at the airport as the driver I’d arranged hadn’t turned up (it turned out he’d broken down and left his phone off). A local guy overheard me ranting and offered me the use of his minibus. This is Africa and there is always a problem but this is Africa and there’s always a solution.
Once more we were relaxing, eating Khady’s wonderful food and visiting the beach. Dad, Edie – my niece, Jeremy and I walked to Kafountine and visited the fishing village.
Actually, things did take a turn to the bizarre when Jeremy and his family tried to visit the beach. The first time, just as we were arriving at our regular beach bar shack, a badly decomposed body was just washing ashore. A couple of days later, they tried again only to find Ibby, the bar owner, had just killed a crocodile. Only a small one, but still – a crocodile on the beach…
So, they made a third attempt and were thwarted by kankurangs, out in force to protect the boys undergoing circumcision ceremonies. Anyone that’s read Chasing Hornbills will know that the kankurang is in fact potentially dangerous and not simply a masked spectacle. Later, one hung around outside our gate all evening, making chicken noises and clanging two machetes – Khady said it wasn’t a serious one though.
A few days later, other British friends were visiting the beach. I told them the above story, only to find out later that one was stung by a stingray – she said she’d rather go through childbirth again than that agony.
Then Tony turned up. Tony who is blind and can only hear with hearing aids had travelled solo from Ghana, passing through Burkino Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. Tony had last showed up back in 2012 and often threatened to return. When he came to my book launch in Oxford he’d declared he was only there to see Khady and that I was lucky to have him – he was off to Papua New Guinea the next day.
We were also visited by Overlanding West Africa, this time with 19 guests and two leaders, for whom we put on the usual koumpo performance, meals, chatting at the bar and a lower key drumming performance on the second night.
Karen, Edie and Gulliver hide from the Koumpo.
Come to the Little Baobab and meet a womble!
The dancing continued under the full moon.
And they’re off:
Other guests came and went.
We visited the big tree.
The kids played outdoors all day every day.
And our cat Marina had kittens.
After mum and dad had left, the rest of us took off to my friend Jean Christophe’s on the island of Kouba.
Finally, it was time for Jeremy and Karen to depart. Other guests had arrived, so Khady stayed behind as Jeremy, Karen, Edie and I headed up for a couple of last days in the Gambia – mostly on the beach and round the pool. I arranged a taxi ride with my friend Allah. I considered praying and hoping he’d turn up, but in the end gave him a call.
I fed them a final meal at Lamin lodge, but we were in competition with the monkeys.
And we had a quick stroll around Abuko national park before hitting the airport.
When I got home Gully and Alfie were asking for Edie, so we looked at some pics on the screen: