Most of my blogs this year have been about the big things – the festival, the hot air ballooning, the situation in Gambia, trekking in Guinea and further guide book research trips. A couple of other things have happened, but I’m saving them for future blogs and a book. Behind the scenes, Khady and co have been working tirelessly to keep the guest house running whilst I’m off enjoying myself.
So far this year we’ve hosted 63 guests. Of those, 24 are returnees and of those, 6 are back for the third or fourth time. I take that as a good sign. But it’s not for everyone and one couple left after one night as it was “too basic.” I’ve since taken further steps on the website to ensure I spell out that we’re in the bush on the edge of an African village without the same amenities enjoyed in neighbouring Gambia, but I’ve always felt our prices reflect “how things are.”
We’re slowly but surely finishing the latest – and final – house. The floating staircase has my builder stumped, but we’ll find a way.
We’ve also built a new gateway – I’m holding back on pictures until it’s finished. The rocket stve is in operation (to be discussed in a separate post) and we’re improving the bar furniture.
After all the trips, it was great to spend time with the family.
What is meant to be a pond attracting birds in a secluded forested corner of our land has turned into something else:
I gave the kids “Daddy hair cuts,” Khady wasn’t impressed and had them shorn:
Then she cut off her own locks saying it was due to a head ache:
Which means she has to mess around with weaves and so on as African women are wont to do – unless I get there first:
Eddie, the Irish guy written about in Chasing Hornbills rocked up bearing bounok (palm wine):
My friend Baks had these t-shirts made (for sale in our bar):
Gulliver has a new best friend who he’s named Tundu:
Most days, if not touring, building or gardening, are spent writing. Sometimes with palm wine – a perfect day:
Perfect until Gully and Alfie find me:
And I pick, then eat our homegrown food:
One day I fancied pizza. It’s not quite as simple as calling up a delivery company. First I have to travel to the next town to buy olive oil and cheese:
Meanwhile, Khady prepares dough and Oeff stokes the fire:
Then I make the sauce, this time on our rocket stove:
Eventually the pizza is ready:
It’s not easy and patience is required – I can cook two or three at a time, but I reckon they’re getting better with time and the guests wolfed them down. Very often our guests like to learn about Senegalese cooking – they’re very welcome to join the girls in a visit to the market and then get involved in the preparation and cooking:
Khady is now helped in the kitchen by Sadio, shown here in beautiful Senegalese dress:
There’s usually a large diola male initiation ceremony each year somewhere in the province. This time it’s for for the lads of nearby Albadar.
I haven’t quite worked out how these things work, but the diola of Khady’s village had a celebration and I took my English and German guests to see it. Khady’s brother, Mustafa, was keen to give them an experience to remember and danced across the forest clearing slashing manically at his neck and arms with a knife – I was quite shocked to see after that it was my expensive global kitchen knife that he’d grabbed from our kitchen and he had some nasty looking welts across his skin – the ju-ju medicine had prevented the skin breaking.
The next day I took the British guests, Matt and Gabi, on a two day island trekking trip. We taxied to the small diola village of Kassel, waded several hundred metres down a muddy mangrove channel to the boat – the tide was low – and puttered across to the island.
There ensued a two hour or so trek through the varied landscapes, from trails through the mangrove to bleached out salt pans to cool palm and cashew forests. I pointed out many of the local fruits growing wild including these baby mangos:
I greeted one chap who was chopping wood. He replied in perfect English:
“Hello, I’m James from Sierra Leone.”
“Wow, how did you end up here?”
It’s a long story,” he shrugged with a smile and returned to his wood pile. He clearly didn’t want to tell us.
It was early afternoon and roasting when we arrived at my friend Jean-Christophe’s house. I’d tried contacting him but it seemed his number had changed, so we just showed up. Never a problem in Senegal.
He pulled out some plastic chairs and we cooled down in the shade and chatted for a while, before descending into the way conversations tend to so often here – just sitting in silence and throwing out the occasional comment.
After a while I showed Gabi and Matt down to the river where there’s a great swimming spot and I had a poke around in the mangroves looking for the ninke-nanka – you’ll be hearing more about that over the next year or two.
And that’s all folks – another typical month at the Little Baobab.