Life has been busy at the Little Baobab but I finally have some room to breathe. I don’t always make it easy for myself; organising pizza nights, curry nights and several parties in the middle of already hosting several guests and also trying to work on my next book. Meanwhile Gulliver and Alfie, who beeps and buzzes like a little indestructible and unstoppable R2-D2, continue to both delight and exhaust us.
My parents enjoyed a (mostly) relaxing three weeks or so with us and in the final days we were joined by Modou and Yaya – professional bird spotters (Yaya is a registered speaker for the RSPB no less) for a couple of days of scouting the area and discussing some itineraries for guests to visit on bird spotting tours from the Gambia.
Dad and I awoke early and joined them on a walk around the local forests and wetlands as the sun rose and they spotted close to 70 varieties. Later I took them over to Kassel and around the islands where pelicans breed. They were very excited to see a white-crested tiger heron, something they hadn’t seen in the Gambia for many years.
Here’s Yaya’s list of birds spotted over 2 days:
We then drove up to the Gambia, deciding against taking Kermit who’s receiving some major work to the engine. Here’s Kermit with the roof removed:
We spent a pleasant afternoon at the Plantation in Brufut, with Daddy Cool and then I picked up an old work colleague and mate, Owen Jarvis. The following day Mum and Dad caught the plane back to sunny England whilst we went back to Abene.
As always, it was a pleasure to share my life with someone who knows me and we spent a few days relaxing, exploring the village and wandering along the beach to Kafountine. Friday was the first day of the carnival, so we arrived early in time to see some street processions – brass marching bands, koumpos and drummers.
In the evening, not wishing to get caught up in endless speeches, we hit a bush reggae party in Dianah at the home of Belgian friends Tom and Sara. They have a beautifully lit compound deep in the forest where Freedom Sounds operate the sound system. We sat back on nearly horizontally reclining chairs and stared at the myriad of stars, then later walked home through several miles of bush.
On Saturday we were invited by Khady’s brother Moustapha, to see a Diola ceremony in their village, Madina Dafe.
There would be knife cutting he explained, where dancers, protected by herbal concoctions and plenty of gris-gris, slice themselves with razor sharp knives but, given the magical protection, don’t even break the skin.
The ceremony was to send off boys who were heading into the forest for their initiation ceremony. Owen, Moustapha, Emma – our other guest from Canada – and I arrived in the cool of the afternoon to see a big circle of clickity-clackety women beneath some mango and cashew trees. A group of men and boys danced in circles, some occasionally breaking out to diola flap.
Moustapha danced himself into a dance like frenzy then took a knife and started viciously slicing his arms and neck with a manic expression on his face. All whilst some jester made us jump out of our skins with cannon like explosions. Later, when I have a better connection (I’ve not really had a good connection since November), I will post some video footage.
It was Owen’s birthday and when we arrived home, Khady had organised some drummers and Eva, a pop singer, who sang a rousing happy birthday before we all diola flapped the night away.