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Echo’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 22 Jan 2008

Location: Gambia

MapWell as you all know I went away for a weekend getaway. Yep a quick little vacation away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Instead of heading to the nice little cabanas on the beach I chose to head off upcountry to the village.

This is not an easy task as you can't just drive to a village, show up and stay in the local hotel, you must go with someone who has a village. Fortunately, I knew just the person so Tracy, myself, Mino and his brother Kara headed off to their mother's village. Mino and his brothers were all born in the city and most of them have no been to the village in ten years so it was a perfect opportunity to go so Mino and Kara could see family and Tracy and I could see a village. Well getting to the village is not an easy task. I left work at 11:30 and headed home to pack. The beginning of the trip was smooth sailing as I packed, we departed, crossed the ferry rather quickly but that was when the problems started. Across from Banjul is Barra the starting place for any journey. We hurried off the ferry and into the gelli-gelli (big vans or small buses) area. Everyone shouts at you and then when you tell them where you are going they shove you into the proper gelli gelli and you go as soon as the thing is full. Well the gelli gelli that we got into was not full and did not fill up with the first ferry full of people that we came in with so we had to wait for a second ferry, which means that our ferry had to load, cross, load and return to our side, this takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes. So we waited and waited and then finally Mino started talking to someone and found out that they put us on the wrong gelli gelli so we got off and switched. This was a little better cause the other one we got into had more people in it which is a good sign so that it will fill quicker and leave quicker but unfortunately when we got to the gelli gelli the "good" seats were gone. So we decided to take a chance and sit in the very back where there was a little bit more room for our legs but after we sat and the gelli gelli started to fill we realized that three people had to sit in the seat that was for two people and this made the trip not very fun. It was an old gelli gelli as well so it didn't move very fast. All in all the trip started crossing the ferry at about 1:30 and end with us reaching the village finally at about 10:30, nine hours. (just to give you an idea, Mino and I returned home on Sunday in 4). It is a total crapshoot with the transportation but hey that is part of the adventure hey.

Before we got to the village we stopped in the closest town which is called Soma to go to Mino's uncle's guesthouse. I was in heaven as they had the coldest and the only beer that I had all weekend. It was a treat especially after travelling for that length of time. Someone arranged a taxi for us to take us to the village so we killed time there first and then bought some Afra (BBQ sheep, it is really good, sorry Leisa) and then headed out to the village.

Of course when we arrived it was already quite late so most of the village was quiet. We went to the first compound of Mino's grandma's brother and they told us where we were staying. We took off and went to Sidi's (I think he was a cousin). We were greeted and shown our rooms and then they pulled out the food. It was wonderful, there was a huge pot of rice with fish and cassava waiting there for us. So we ate our Afra first and then had the fish. After that we went outside and the boys made Ataya for us. It is a fantastic green tea that is made in a very ritualistic way. I will write about that one in a bit and show you pictures after.

We sat up and visited our first night, Mino's cousin luckily spoke English so it was nice that we could chat with him. After a couple of hours we all were exhausted so we took turns having cold bucket showers before going to bed.

I am leaving off here and will write more tomorrow.