My trip to The Gambia, part 3

After my visit to Sotokoi, my friend’s home village, I continued my way to Janjanbureh, a village on an island in the river. In addition to Janjanbureh, it is also called Georgetown (the English colonial name) or Makati (in the language of the Mandinka people).

The island has a rich history and is best known for the slave trade, which took place here. Most slaves could not swim, so they were held captive on this island. The former slave house is unfortunately not maintained, but you can visit it and one can well imagine how the people have suffered under appalling conditions. In the village is also a meeting place where the “tree of freedom” used to stand. The slave traders “played” with the slaves: they were given freedom if they could reach the tree and embrace it. Along the way, however, they encountered dogs and slave traders with guns. Only few have reached the tree unscathed.

Those who were free could go to work for “two bob” (2 pennies) per month. From this term comes the word “toubab” that children on the street shout laughing and waving at you as a white person. The children don’t know any better, but actually it’s a swear word and means ‘white slave driver’…

A few kilometers from Janjanbureh is a large banana and papaya farm, which is run by people from India. About 150 Gambians find work on this farm. The manager from India gave me a tour and of course I got a thick bunch of bananas.

About half an hour’s drive from Janjanbureh are the Wassu stone circles. First you take the ferry across the river and then you hope that there is a bus that can take you to Wassu. I was accompanied by an employee of the lodge where I was staying. We had to wait a long time for the bus. It was there, but it must be completely full otherwise it does not drive because that of course costs money. But you have to sit down so that the driver can see how many people are already there. Eventually the bus was full, but then it would not start. With increasing amazement I saw what happened then: We are fully packed in that bus and a number of men and children try to push the bus, with us in it! Yes, because we are not allowed to leave because it could be that we take another bus… On the third attempt, the bus started, spewing out thick smoke….

The Wassu stone circles are very interesting. A guide told us that the purpose of the circles is not entirely clear, but they suspect that they are graves. The guide had a lot of knowledge. He was even aware of the “Hunebedden” from Drenthe in the Netherlands! Visitors put on the stone columns small stones. The story goes that the moment you put down a stone you can make a wish, which will certainly come true. Of course I also contributed…

The last day in Makati I had booked a boat trip on the river The Gambia in the hope of seeing hippos. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t with me. I have seen one hippopotamus, only in the distance and only half of its head protruded above the water. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful trip, because there was plenty of other flora and fauna to see, such as exotic birds and monkeys.

During my stay in Janjanbureh I stayed at the Sitaba Camp Lodge. I was the only tourist there. During my entire trip I did not encounter many tourists. It was still in the middle of the period of strict travel restrictions due to Covid-19, so few people dared to take the trip.

The lodge was located outside the village, but on the riverside. A lovely place. In the morning I did yoga on the riverbank and at the end of the afternoon I enjoyed the sunset. Sometimes I was joined by Betty, the dog that belonged to the lodge.

And there I saw a lot of monkeys. They go from left to right (and viceversa) on the riverbank to look for food. But when I sat there, they were afraid. Then they waited in trees and shrubs until the coast was safe. Within 1 minute after me leaving, they went in large numbers to the other side. Very nice to see.

There is a picture of a tree in the video. If one looks closely, one can see in the larger dark spots the shape of some monkeys..

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