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Phespirit goes to Gambia
Kotu     November 2003


Map of Gambia

1 Banjul

In the capital of Gambia, Phespirit .....

  • climbed the stairs to the top of Arch 22 to enjoy panoramic views across the city and along the coast;

  • strolled around Albert Market and down to the Town Beach where colourful pirogues adorn the sand;

  • hung round the docks, waiting for passage across to Barra or further up the River Gambia to Albreda.

This is a very small capital.

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2 Bakau

Phespirit visited the Katchikali Crocodile Pool at Bakau.

This is supposedly a sacred place where bathing in the water can cure almost anything. Dozens of crocodiles lie motionless around the banks of the pool, seemingly indifferent to their visitors.

For 25 dalasi (about 50p) Phespirit was able to walk in their midst and give an unrestrained male crocodile a cheery pat on the back. Females are not to be patted in case they are protecting babies.

Question: what's with all the Birmingham football graffiti around Bakau?

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3 Kotu

Gambia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its people are hard workers yet unable to afford simple luxuries such as obesity. Consequently they must remain lean, fit and athletic.

Compare this to the spectacle of European blobs of lard - white or black - dolloped on beach towels strewn around Kotu Strand.

Phespirit was embarrassed to be counted among them.

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4 Serrakunda

Serrakunda is the largest town in Gambia. Its potholed streets are alive with people weaving in and out of slow-moving traffic, bustling to and fro little shops or simply watching the world pass by.

Phespirit passed by a couple of times but stopped only briefly.

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5 Tanji

Tanji Village Museum is the one significant attraction of this small fishing village. Its displays cover all aspects of Gambian village life and the natural habitat. The resident koru player is a bit of a star.

King Kombo fruit liquors may be purchased not far from here.

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6 Sanyang

Phespirit headed for Sanyang Beach via the town of Sanyang and the surrounding Bush.

In the Bush he tasted a fruity 'Jungle Juice' (2%) and a fiery 'Palm Wine' (55%) at Uncle John's compound.

In town he attended Sanyang Lower Basic School for a lecture by the Head, some songs by the kids, and to give a donation.

At the beach: chicken, chips, rice, Bumsters, swimming, music.

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7 Albreda

Located about 30km up river from Banjul, Albreda is where visitors disembark for the short walk to Juffureh.

Albreda has historical significance as a port used for the export of slaves during the colonial era. Two crumbled buildings and a rusty British cannon are the only physical reminders of this time.

Now it is a place to pass through and reflect.

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8 Juffureh

Phespirit turned up at Juffureh with a boatload of other Europeans. In keeping with tradition and income requirements, all should have been greeted by the village chief, who happens to be one of a very limited number of women chiefs in the region.

Disappointingly, however, on this occasion a young (male) relative was deputising because the chief's husband had recently "kicked the iron bucket" and she was mourning.

Could that have been phrased any more respectfully?

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9 James Island

The ruins of Fort James crumble beneath the skeletal branches of autumn-dead Baobab trees. Their parched brown leaves, all fallen, shroud the small circle of earth that is James Island.

When the island was first colonised it extended over six times the current size, yet soon it may cease to exist entirely.

Burrowing crabs and twitching spiders keep the last watch.

This place is heavy with atmosphere.

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10 Jinack Island

This is the most wonderful place Phespirit that visited in Gambia.

Getting there involved:

  • Driving from Kotu into Banjul;
  • Taking the ferry from Banjul to Barra;
  • Driving off-road from Barra into the Niumi National Park;
  • Taking a pirogue up the Niji Bolon creek, north across the Senegal border, then looping back into Gambian territory;
  • Disembarking on an unspoilt Atlantic-facing beach.

All for the simple pleasures of fine sand and serene tranquility.

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  1. Banjul
  2. Bakau
  3. Kotu
  4. Serrakunda
  5. Tanji
  6. Sanyang
  7. Albreda
  8. Juffureh
  9. James Island
  10. Jinack Island
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Banjul Bakau Kotu Serrakunda Tanji Sanyang Albreda Juffureh James Island Jinack Island