The Gambia – Travel Diaries 2019

Day 1 – Welcome to The Gambia

Passengers arriving on the 6 hour flight from London Gatwick to Banjul Airport were greeted at the airport with songs, dance and drums.
What a welcome!

Thank you, The Gambian Experience for the warm welcome.
And to top it all off, at the end of the day, as the sun set, the sky greeted us all with a similar dancing spectacle…

#NoFilter !

Sunday – Day 3

I worshipped at Winner’s Chapel International Church, overflowing with Nigerians. It all felt very familiar and very loud! I left inspired, but tired…

 

Winners Chapel Congregation, The Gambia
Winners Chapel Congregation, The Gambia

So I returned to the hotel to relax and tucked myself away in the safety of the hotel walls. I didn’t dare venture to the beach, which was less than 50 metres away from where I lay by the pool. Why? Because the non-stop cooing over the first two days of my stay had gotten too much. I’d travelled to The Gambia for some peace, quiet and relaxation, after all.

On reflection, it’s pretty ironic that, only a day ago one of the security guards on the beach had asked if I wanted him to shoo people away as they approached and I’d gently declined his offer.

Despite feeling ‘annoyed’ by the constant heckles and hellos, I’m glad I did decline his offer. I only needed a day to reset and then I was back out there, buying from my fruit lady, saying ‘hi’ and giving thumbs up to some who shouted my name/nickname, and every so often giving into my frustration by playing deaf, ignoring calls and heckles or reprimanding a few cheeky guys who went too far in their persistent calls and selling tactics.

Monday – Day 4

Visiting a school supported by Colfe’s School, London gave me so much hope.

Three girls I spoke with in the girls’ canteen told me of their career aspirations – to become a pilot, an air hostess and a journalist.

School Girls at School in The Gambia

From left to right: Future air hostess, journalist & pilot. I’m the one in the middle wearing pink!

I wrote a short excerpt about this visit here, but if you have any questions on this or anything else I’ve wrote about, just ask in the comments or drop me a message.

Wednesday – Day 5

I broke down in tears today. The reality of slavery and the slave trade continues to break my heart. Yes, I know the slave trade or human trafficking is still very real to this day, but not in the way it was seen as ‘normal’ and accepted in society for hundreds of years against one particular people group. It still feels too real and too fresh for me to not feel broken up about it.

Perhaps it was that. Or perhaps it was the way a group of men from the village in Juffreh surrounded me in a desperate attempt to sell their wooden carvings and other items. In their desire to get my money, they actually chased me away. I understand, but I don’t understand at the same time. If they’d allowed me to walk around and actually look at what they had to offer, I would have made several purchases as gifts. I’d intentionally brought out the money to do so. But, in the end, I retreated to the safety of the jeep and left with one item I didn’t even want because I’d felt so pressed by them and wanted to escape as soon as possible.

I carried my anxiety, frustration and sadness from the above incident into the slave museum with me. So when the first thing I read there is a manifesto of 700+slaves shipped from Africa with only 372 reaching America alive, I am undone. That brings me to tears.

By the end of my day trip to Kunta Kinte Island, I was physically and emotionally drained. But I’m glad I went. Despite the tears and that minor incident, this was truly one of the highlights of my trip. P.s. It’s a long 3+ hour trip from the hotels in Banjul (car –> ferry –> car OR car –> boat), but still worthwhile because the trip in itself is part of the fun!

Statue by the Shore

This statue stood at the foot of Juffreh by the sea, just before you crossed over to Kunta Kinte Island

Kunta Kinte Island Fortress
This was a replica of the island’s fortress where slaves were held before the journey to Europe/America.
Horrifying

Horrifying illustration of how slaves were chained in isolation for misbehaviour in the tiniest of spaces. 20 slaves at a time could’ve been chained up here for 24+ hours.

Ruins on Kunta Kinte Island
Ruins of the fortress that held the slaves and the soldiers watching them on Kunta Kinte Island

Museum
Just outside the slave trade museum on Juffreh

Lifestyle – Expectation vs Reality

I believed I was going to The Gambia to see the ‘other side of Africa’. The Africa you don’t often see on the news of wealth and prosperity and beautiful beaches. But I was met with the same images of poverty and struggle…

If I could’ve bought everything he had, I would’ve.

He carries these hand-woven baskets, bowls and bags through the 38 degree heat each and every day, 7 days a week for 6 months of the year – during the busy tourist season.

 

Thursday – Day 6

On my final full day, I didn’t plan to leave the hotel and beach. And I was almost successful in this endeavour until the evening when my holiday mates and I dined at the nearby Caribbean restaurant, Mosiah’s.

IMG-20191103-WA0002.jpg
A picture of us on the boat on the way to Kunta Kinte Island, but I also went with this group of friends (minus Ibrahim, our tour guide) to the restaurant.

I’d previously eaten all my evening meals at the hotel as I’d paid for half-board and wanted to make the most of it, but I’m glad I checked out this Caribbean. I’d recommend it to everyone!

Friday – ‘We Will Miss you’ – Day 7

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My international friends from left to right: Simone, Christiene and Judith.

All the staff and random strangers on the beach miss you when you take an excursion for the day. (I think they miss my custom more than anything). But either way, they’re pretty upset when I tell them I’m leaving today.

So my fruit lady – that’s what she calls herself – real name, Yai told me to take a picture so that I won’t forget her and so I can share her image with my friends who visit so they’ll know who to buy their fruit from.

The Gambia, thanks for a very interesting, unexpectedly eye-opening holiday!
Abs xx

One thought on “The Gambia – Travel Diaries 2019

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  1. Thanks for sharing this. As you felt regards the slave trade I also feel regards the holocaust and plan to visit Auschwitz soon as a mediation on the depth of our inhumanity to each other. Did you travel entirely alone or through your church, friends etc. If so well done and I admire your confidence.

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