Friday, 7 March 2014

Gambia, the smiling coast.

The blog has been a little quite over recent weeks as we've been preparing for our holiday, the first one in a wee while, so a lot of preparation had to be done before hand. As we were going to The Gambia one of the jobs to be done was to organise injections and ordering malaria tablets. This was my first time to Africa and not really knowing what to expect was a little daunting. You see lots of images on the news and in books and on the net, but seeing first hand is an experience you won't forget.

Gambia is a country surrounded by Senegal on three sides and the Atlantic on the forth and named after the river that it surrounds. We travelled to a small place called Kotu which is close to the coastline and one of the quieter destinations in the area. The second map shows the Kotu area and our hotel is where the "A" pin is. We were lucky enough to have a lodge room facing the golf course and would watch the pigs walk across it each day!

The Gambia -

Kotu - Google maps

After flying over the Sahara I was surprised at how green Gambia is, lots of woods and forests and along the main road to Kotu there was even a nursery selling plants and flowers. The end of February is heading towards the end of their summer and the rainy season is fast approaching. Even so the many trees and plants are still green and lush.

A view across the fields not far from the hotel. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

On our first trip out we followed a cycle path that led to bustling Sene Gambia a small town with shops, banks and places to eat. Here we spotted our first market with many brightly coloured fabrics and bags. We weren't brave enough to go and have a proper look, so carried on to the beach.

Local market Sene Gambia. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

 Palm and coconut trees are all over Gambia as are mango and cashew nut trees. I loved the way the branches on this tree had only been partially cut away to reveal a lovely pattern, something I will explore once I get my drawing things out.

Palm Tree. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

This cute little fella was enjoying a free peanut in a reserve we visited. He is a Green Vervet monkey and is the same species as the ones that visited us in the hotel. At the hotel if you left a banana within reach they would steal it! They mummy had several "toddlers" and one tiny baby that clung to her as she made her way through the trees.
Green Vervet Monkey. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

One of our trips was to Makasutu a forest and mini resort a short drive away from us. The forest was found and preserved by two English guys who then set it up for visitors. As part of your visit you go on a boat trip around the mangroves, past the oyster farm and then to base camp an area that serves as a relaxation for the guests at the grand Medina lodge (a very posh hotel). From there a guide takes you on a walk through the woods and points out birds and gives interesting facts and stories about the trees. 

 Oyster Farm on the banks of the mangroves. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

Pretty flowers on a canopy. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

As my other half enjoys bird watching we went on a few trips to see some of the many birds of Gambia. It was great being able to use my new camera and get some shots of the pretty birds. My favourite is this one the Abyssinian Roller, with it's beautiful aqua and lavender coloured feathers. Another amazing bird was the Hornbill with his big red beak.

 Abyssinian Roller. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

 Hornbill. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

Oh you know those pigs I mentioned, here's one crossing the road!

Piggy crossing. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

On days off e.g: when not on a trip, we would walk along the beach and enjoy the sunshine, collect shells, watch the fishermen and avoid the bumsters! Bumsters are people who approach you and try and befriend you, asking your name, where you're from and how long you are staying in Gambia. Mostly harmless, just annoying and often want to sell you something or want you to go and visit their market stall. 

Everyday as we sat and ate lunch at the beach side cafe, we would watch the fishing boat come in and haul the net in. Then the freshly caught fish would be sold right on the beach, to locals and to the cafe and restaurant owners. Marek had fresh fish for his dinner most nights. 

 Kotu beach. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

The sun rising over the hotel, while we're eating an early bird breakfast before a trip to Brufut woods. The garden of the hotel was very pretty and lovely to sit in after a trip out. The maids who cleaned the rooms would leave fresh flowers on the bed every day too.

 Bakotu hotel, Kotu. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

Tanji beach watching the fishing boats coming with the days catch and the women preparing the fish. This was a fascinating place to watch local life. The long boats were stuffed full of men and nets and would come in at this time everyday laden with fish. Boys and other men would help bring the boat in and then pass buckets and bowls along full of fish. The locals would wait on the beach ready to buy or to take the fish to the market area and prepare the fish. A place full of hustle, bustle and colour.

 Woman preparing fish. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

I found the trees and plants fascinating and often asked the guide what they were called. This one he wasn't sure what it was called, but I loved the seed pods and the leaves so took a picture anyway. Once all my washing is done and out the way I will sit and draw it.

Pods in Gambia. Photo Tracy Bidwell 2014

I hope you liked my mini tour of Gambia and perhaps one day you might want to visit. It was a lot greener than I thought it would be and we saw every type of housing from cobbled together shacks to brick built mansions. The locals are friendly and smiley and say the more you smile the darker your skin gets! At markets you have to barter for everything nothing has a price, so it's a bit daunting, but we had a go and have now got some lovely pieces to remind us of our time in The Gambia.

Books read while on holiday
Like this, for ever by Sharon Bolton. A gritty murder mystery that has you on the edge of the seat. (strictly speaking I'd already started this one and just finished it on holiday)
Sister by Rosamund Lupton. Written as a letter to a missing sister a murder mystery with a difference.