Cairngorm Wildlife Diary for

Allan and Heather's Gambia trip in 2002


Enjoy this very special diary and please do get in touch if you have any comments to make.

You can click here to email Allan or Heather

or phone 01479 831768 or 07787 323264

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Cairngorm Wildlife, 23 Craigie Avenue, Boat of Garten
Inverness-shire PH24 3BL Scotland



Allan and Heather Bantick in






The decision to go to the Gambia in January had much to do with our involvement with Scottish ospreys.   The ospreys migrate to West Africa for the winter, so why shouldn't we. 

With the decision made, it was then a question of how and with whom to go.  There followed much surfing of the internet and scouring through brochures, and in the end the choice was easy.    The "Gambia Experience" offered a wide choice of packages including a variety of bird-watching options which made designing a balanced programme of part activity and part rest a simple matter.   We were quite new to this, and it was reassuring that each time we telephoned the Gambia Experience office we were able to speak to a member of staff who had actually been to the area and could answer our questions from personal experience. 

When the time came to leave home we were both still recovering from recent illnesses so it was with some trepidation, and lots of sniffing and wheezing, that we packed our bags and escaped from the gloom of the Scottish winter. 

This is how it went................... 

Thursday 10 January 2002 

With the water turned off, most of the electrical plugs pulled out and the back door key given to Tom and Agnes next door, we set off on our African experience at 1230. We drove to Inverness Airport in the white van.    There is no long term car parking there so we left it in the normal car park with the crook-lock on and hoped that it would still be there, with no flat tyres, in a fortnight's time. 

The Easyjet flight from Inverness to Luton was fairly uneventful.    We bought our train tickets in Luton airport and were informed of a problem because the overhead lines were down in the Kings Cross area.   We were told to change at Kentish Town onto the Northern Line, underground to Blackfriars then pick up the Gatwick train from there. Shuttle bus took us from Luton Airport to Luton Airport Parkway Railway station.   There we were again told about the problem but advised to take the Northern Line to London Bridge to pick up the Gatwick train. 

We arrived at Kentish Town along with, it seemed, a million other people in the pouring rain to be informed that the Underground Station had been closed due to congestion!    "Go to Camden Town" the staff advised "your ticket can be used on the bus".     Undaunted, we hopped on a bus (it was more a weary drag than a hop with our heavy cases, soaking wet and still feeling the aftermath of 'flu) and got  off at Camden Town.     We took the Northern line to London Bridge, hurried through the station and waited for the Brighton train which was not running too late!!! 

Packed like sardines in the train, we eventually arrived at Gatwick.     Given the state we were in, this was not the smooth start to our journey we would have liked.   However, the next part was easy.   We telephoned the B & B who told us exactly where to wait and came and collected us. Very nice room.    The owner recommended a nice pub for our evening meal then even drove us there (we must have looked very weary).     We had a nice meal and walked the short distance back.   We were ready for our bed! 

Friday 11 January 2002 

After a self service breakfast, the B & B owner took us to the airport (along with another couple who were also going to The Gambia but who we don't remember seeing again).     We changed £100 into dalasis at a rate of only 23 to the £ - we did a little better in the Gambia. 

Checked in for Monarch flight MON4514.    We were only one and a half hours late getting away due to the aircraft being late in arriving from the Carribean.   A reasonably pleasant six hour flight, though the large Sierra Leonean next to Heather meant that she did not have much room. 

Through passport control, Heather was asked by what appeared to be an official if she was looking for a trolley.   Replying "yes" gave us our first taste of hassle.   The official, who appeared to be a policeman, adopted us during the chaos of the baggage carousel.     The story we were eventually given was that the plane had to be re-aligned before our bags could be taken off!    Our policeman escorted us to the coaches and got £1 for his troubles.   The Gambian Experience had laid on a welcome complimentary drink of water at the airport and we were given a fan. 

Coaches took us to our hotel, the Bakotu along one good road, tarmac roads full of potholes and dust tracks.  As the week went on we got to prefer the dust tracks to the pot-holed tarmac roads.  

Our room F3 was in a block of three rooms, F Block, with a table and two chairs outside, comprising a large room containing a double bed that was actually two single beds pushed together and a bunk bed, two chairs, a table, two bedside tables and a chest of drawers, a small corrider containing an alcove with a hanging rail behind a curtain and a bathroom with a shower. 

The hotel was one of the cheapest we could find and it showed in the "extras" - or lack of them.   No tea/coffee making facilities, no telephone, TV, radio, alarm calls, one tiny piece of soap,  in need of redecoration - but it was clean and comfortable. 

 As advised by Steve (The excellent Gambian Experience Rep) we had dinner in the hotel restaurant, The Sir William (we never did find out who it was named after).   We organised our safe deposit box (£20 deposit and 125 dalasi per week) 

The village had its own electricity generator which seemed to have some sort of switch in the early evening as the lights all went out for a few minutes.   When they came back on it was as if there was reduced power and all the lights were very dim. We were in bed very early. 

Saturday 12 January 2002 

We were up for breakfast at 8.15am having slept not too badly though we had both found it a little chilly so we put a blanket on the bed. 

The Gambian Experience had organised a Welcome Meeting at the Kombo Beach Hotel (just up the road) where we were given a lot of useful information about guides, shopping, money changing, taxis etc. including how to handle the hassling.   The hassling takes the form of people, usually men or boys, asking you how you are, what is your name, where do you come from etc and they all want to do something for you however small in the hope that you will give them money.   They are usually not aggressive just a little wearing.    We were then walked through the "village" shown where the official guides were, where the money exchange, telephone exchange, mini-markets, local shops were and walked down to Sailors Bar for a free coke.    The Gambian Experience wanted to sign us up for excursions - we booked one and the Sailor's Bar wanted to book us up for their buffet that evening - we signed. 

We walked back along the beach and were given a complimentary "green" orange by Anna Marie - Stall Number 15.    This was her way of encouraging us to use her stall and not any of the other hundreds of fruit sellers in the area.    It turned out to be a good investment. 

We had lunch of crisps and chocolate bought from the local supermarket and eaten on the tables outside.   We finished it off with a banana purchased from Anna Marie for 1 dalasi each (probably about ten times the real value). 

We were walking along the beach when one of the lads introduced himself as Solomon, the pool boy from the hotel.   He said he was going to the local market and pointed to some buildings ahead.   We thought we would join him but the market turned out to be not those buildings but "just a little farther".    We were joined by another boy who claimed to be an entertainer at the hotel.    The "just a little farther" had taken us way into the town of Fajaro and the market had changed into the crocodile pool.   We felt uneasy about the whole thing and their reassurances that they were both Muslims was not helping.    We insisted on a taxi and to their credit they did find us one.   Usual haggle about the fare and about how much we should help the boys with money to buy rice.   An uncomfortable experience which we survived and maybe would have handled better later on in the holiday.   We did not see either of the boys again! 

At 5 pm we were taken for our first bird walk.   This was with Modou Jarju, one of the guides that Steve had introduced us to in the morning.   It was just to be for an hour behind the hotel along the golf course.    We were joined by three other people (who had negotiated a much worse rate than we hadJ)    It was a lovely introduction to birding (including our first osprey) and to the process of hiring guides.   The walk lasted nearly two hours and included Kotu Stream. 

At 7.30 we walked, in the dark, to Sailors bar for a very nice buffet by candlelight.   (the generator playing up!).    We were escorted home, at the insistence of the manager, adding another 25 dalasi tip to the bill. 

In bed very early. 

Sunday 13 January 2002 

Tanji Day, the first day of the birding tours that we had pre-paid.  Up at 6.15 for breakfast at 7 then collection by the minibus at 7.50. 

There were seven other people on the tour, including Neil, who features again later.   The guide was Buba.   We went firstly to Marakissa, via Brikama, and wandered about in the bush.   There being no school on Sunday we were joined by a collection of little boys, 14 in total, apparently a record number!    Heather spoke to the children while the rest of the group spotted birds.  We had a refreshment stop near the village of Kabekel.   

We then drove to Paradise Inn, near Tanji, for lunch of fish, chips, coleslaw and sauce followed by coffee.   There was then a long break for rest.   This happened on several trips and we never worked out if it was because it was siesta time or prayer time!    Some of us walked down to the Tanji River and around the grounds.    When it came to paying for our drinks, we discovered that meals included did not include coffee 

We then drove to a wetland area called Sambou Kunda Birds Reserve where a monitor lizard was seen, though not by us, and we saw another osprey.   Heather collected another new family - only five boys this time.   Drove back to the hotel for 1830 - tired, thirsty and feeling over-birded! Dinner was a shared pizza in Ali Baba's.   In bed soon after 9pm 

Monday 14 January 2002 

Second day of our pre-booked birding tours.   This was "Birds and Breakfast".   We (and nobody elseJ) were picked up at 0625 by our guide Dembo Sonko.    We drove through Serekunda (the largest town in the Gambia) to Lamin Lodge.    We were paddled in a dug-out around Lamin Bolong (it is about 5 miles from the main Gambia River) among the mangroves.   Highlights including Marsh Harrier and a Monitor Lizard (which we both saw this time!)   It was quite chilly. 

Back to Lamin Lodge for breakfast of bread, round pancakes, Spanish omelette, oyster omelette, honey etc.  Coffee included in the price this time! 

Then a walk with Dembo in the cultivated area between the bolong and the jungle.   Crops included tomatoes, grapefruit, bananas, sweet potatoes, cassava, hot peppers.   There were wells at regular intervals, each with its own dragonfly. 

Drove back through Serekunda (which was very busy) to the hotel just before midday.   Tired, we had to wait for the cleaner to do our room before we could flop! 

In the afternoon, we changed some travellers cheques (24.45 dalasi to the £) did some local shopping (water, cheese and biscuits, postcards etc) then went for a swim in the hotel pool - it was freezing!     Then another sleep! 

Dinner at Bungalow Beach (the hotel right next to ours).   Heather had Peanut butter soup and pasta with chicken.  Allan has chicken soup and the BB special - steak with all the trimmings.   Local dancers performed by the pool - a long, complicated and loud production that seemed to tell a story.   The drumming was amazing but a bit wearing after a time. Managed to stay up until 10 pm. 

Tuesday 15 January 2002 

Picked up at 8am for the Abuko Nature Reserve Day - the third of our birding tours.   Our guide was again Dembo and we were joined by Neil. 

Landrover to Abuko Nature Reserve which we walked around until lunch time.   We then went to Lamin Lodge for lunch (with the monkeys) and the afternoon break.  Back to Abuko in the afternoon stopping in Lamin village on the way for a look at a Scops owl who was roosting in a tree above a crowd of twitchers! 

Most of the mammals on our mammals list and the crocodile were seen at Abuko.   The lions and the hyenas are kept in the "Orphanage" though there was no evidence of any orphans!  Back to the hotel by 1730. 

Allan went for a discussion with the local "official" guide boss and established that the rate for a guide for the whole day was £4 (100 dalasis) plus taxi fares.   We were thinking of maybe arranging something for our second week. 

Dinner at the Sir William.   We were in bed early (again!)     

Wednesday 16 January 2002 

This should have been the rest day from our prebooked tours but because we were the only ones going the Boat Trip Day had been brought forward to today.   We were collected at 8am (both still with dodgy tummies) again by Dembo and the same driver Baba and taken to Denton Bridge.   There we boarded our boat with Ousman, the helmsman, in charge. 

Taken through lots of bolongs (mangrove creeks) and soon saw our first osprey, then another one - standing on one foot on a mudbank amongst a lot of waders. 

The outboard motor kept cutting out but we eventually got to Banjul harbour before 10am.    We walked through a busy shoreline street feeling nervous partly because Dembo had said not to take photos because many of the people here were Sengalese (illegal immigrants maybe?) and partly because of the large Bin Laden poster in the back window of a car. 

We walked along the main road between the sea and the mangroves and saw lots of birds - some of which were enjoying their mid-morning snack - two pied kingfishers, a giant kingfisher and an osprey each caught a fish and a pied crow was eating a rat.   We sat on the top of the pumping station and watched all this activity.   Dembo handled the local who claimed to work at the station and demanded money! 

Lunch was up and down in the swell on the high sea - (Heather could not do justice to hers) followed by a trip around Banjul harbour and bay to look for skuas (seen) and dolphins (not seen). 

The voyage back to Denton Bridge was via a different set of bolongs, highlight of which was a close encounter with yet another osprey with a fish   It flew off with its meal when we got too close. 

We could have had a walk into Banjul market and along Denton Bridge but we declined both on the grounds of being hot and tired and still not fully recovered from flul.   (Something we would not have been able to do if there had been others on the trip)   We got back to the hotel by 1600.  

Ate at Ali Baba's and had quite a long chat with the resident Kora player who offered to take us to his home and workshop.   With hindsight and the experience of other kora players, he was not a very good musician! 

Thursday 17 January 2002 

Our first lazy day!  Wrote our postcards and gave them to Steve (the Gambia Experience Rep) for posting (since learned that they arrived home four days after we did!). 

Walked along to the Kotu Stream bridge collecting the usual bumsters - two young boys who were not at school because they could not afford the fees.   Continued walking to the sewage farm where we hoped to watch birds.   Two men who claimed to work there tried to extort money from us.   We refused to pay and walked away. 

Lunch of cheese and biscuits in our room followed by fruit salad at Anna Marie's (stall No 15) on the beach - £1 each - wonderful.  Walked back and forth on the beach including a paddle.    The hassle became more and more annoying. 

For dinner, we went to the buffet at the Kombo Beach.  

Friday 18 January 2002 

Took ourselves for a walk by the golf course - got too much hassle and too much sun.   We watched the locals fishing in the creek - the boys from the bridge, the men walking in the creek. 

Lunch of cheese and biscuits, then changed some more money - 24.65 dalasis to the £.    Lazy afternoon by the pool and reading.   

Went to Tesco (well that is what the local wood carver calls his shop - there is even a Tesco Clubcard on display) where we ordered an Osprey.   Haggled the price down from 700 to 400 dalasi (£16).   This was more than we intended to pay but when we said that we wanted the Osprey standing on a fish, the carver said that was two carvings.   We were not sure what it would look like as we only had a black and white picture to show him and he clearly did not know what an osprey was. 

Early evening walk with Alieu, Modou's trainee, around the sewage farm.   We had given Modou 10 dalasi (40p) which he gave to Alieu for the bribery money and told Alieu not to pay any more than that.   He also said that if we wished to give Alieu some money at the end of the walk that would be kind of us.   We had a very pleasant walk around the sewage farm and back via the golf course seeing several new birds.   Gave Alieu the customary 25 dalasis. 

Dinner at the Sir William.    Early to bed.

Saturday 19 January 2002 

Up at 6 am - took malaria tablets and were ready for Dembo at 8am. 

This was the first day of our private hire of Dembo.   £35 had bought us the use of Dembo and his driver friend Ams (who came with his Mercedes Benz with 159,000 kms on the clock and not much diesel in the tank) and packed lunches. 

Went via Serekunda, Yundum, skirted Brikama and turned towards Mandina Ba.   Turned north and had a short walk in the rice fields.   Then drove the back roads (which are in the same state as the front roads) to Pirang to see the Shrimp and Fish Farm pools (empty but they will get flooded again when the new owners get their act together)   Walked to muddy, sticky mangrove area and saw Black Crowned Cranes.   Dembo was beside himself and wanted to sell the information to other birding parties. 

Drove south from Pirang, crossed the main road and into the bush for a packed lunch of chicken leg, spaghetti and bread.  Then a walk in the bush.   Saw plenty of raptors including Grasshopper Buzzard complete with grasshopper. 

Dembo took us to Kuloro village to meet his family - son Solomon (4 months) wife, mother, 3 grandmothers and a host of uncles and sisters.   All of them wanted to shake hands - we felt like Royalty.    There was a celebration going on in the form of dancing and chanting in the compound - it was brilliant.  

Drove back without going through Serekunda and were at the hotel just before 5pm.     Arranged another trip for Wednesday at £25 including lunch.   We were hot and tired and the cold coke by the pool was bliss. 

For dinner, we were on our way to Ali Baba's when we were offered a voucher for a free "coffee, tea or dessert" at the Bengdula so we went there instead.   It was cheap but we had to pay for Heather's dessert as the waiter claimed that the voucher was out of date and no longer applied to desserts! Charming!   However, there was a terrific kora player on duty, the food was excellent (Beef Domada - in peanut sauce), the atmosphere was native (outdoors) and there was a power cut.   Our candle kept blowing out which added to the fun. 

Sunday 20 January 2002 

Up at 6am for the "Roots Day" after a good night's sleep.   We were collected by coach at 0805 and driven, via other hotels through Banjul (seeing enough of it not to want to go back) to Banjul Docks where we boarded a very nice boat "with two decks, upper and lower, a well-stocked bar and two proper toilets, one for men and one for ladies", so said our guide Prisente.  We think the driver was called Jelly (probably Jeli) 

We cruised up river for two hours to Albreda where we landed.   There we saw the elephant tree, the slave museum, the freedom flagpole, the freedom monument, were entertained by a kora player (very good), were welcomed by the head man.

We walked the short distance to the village of Joffre (home of Kunta Kinteh), met a relative (sort of) and visited the local craft market .   All very touristy and artificial.   The hassle from bumsters was quite persistent and Heather collected her usual following of grubby children but we were now becoming immune to all the implications that we should give money for every cause - well, Heather succumbed to one little girl and the local school. 

Buffet lunch was taken on the boat which then sailed the short distance to James Island where a large dugout with outboard motor put most of us ashore for half an hour.    James Island is where the slaves were held awaiting transportation to America and it did have an atmosphere about it, probably because it had not been done up for tourists. 

The voyage back to Banjul should have included a stop for a swim but did not - possibly because we were running late.  However, we saw a total of five dolphins which was nice. 

We were coached back to the hotel by 1810.   At 1900, a few spots of rain fell outside our front door.   We hoped that this was not the start of another three days of rain as had spoiled the party for everybody just before we arrived last week.   "It never rains in the Gambia at this time of year" we were told.   Well, it did this year - more global warming! Dinner at Sir William.   Bed before ten. 

Monday 21 January 2002 

Up at 6 am for the Makasutu and Brikama day.  Picked up by coach, already fifteen minutes late.   Picked up at other hotels then drove to Makasutu, which is a bit north east of Kaimbujae Nding.  

Makasutu is made up of two Mandinka words - Maka meaning holy place (or Mecca) and Sutu meaning forest.   Thus Makasutu means holy forest.   Coffee and biccies on arrival followed by an historical talk about the forest, - it was a refuge for tax evaders, then haunted by evil spirits so nobody went there, then two Englishmen bought it ten years ago to conserve it.   

We then had a long forest walk which included watching palm juice tappers, meeting the old herbalist, seeing a voodoo shrine and tasting palm nut wine  (the wine was only 0.1% alcohol, after fermenting it could be up to 15%). 

The coach took us back to the start for refreshments and a wildlife talk.   We gave some funds to the Makasutu Wildlife Foundation.   There followed a boat trip in dug-out canoes in the local bolongs (presumably Mandina bolong).   We saw a number of birds but, alas, no ospreys.   We also glimpsed green vervet monkeys among the mangroves. 

Back at the start, buffet lunch (delicious) then local people did a drums and dancing routine which was somewhat spoiled by the cameramen from Hollywood Video who kept getting in the way. 

The bus took us to Brikama wood carving market, where we got us a drum knocking the man down from 500 to 110 dalasi although we may have ended up with a smaller drum than we started with. Today, Heather only managed to collect wee boys around her at Brikama market, there having been no previous opportunity.   She gave away a T shirt and sweeties. Back at the hotel at 1640 having had an enjoyable day. 

Dinner at Bungalow Beach but too tired to enjoy it properly but the entertainment was a cyclist!  An amazing old man who did incredible balancing things on a bicycle, then two bicycles, then he brought a small boy into the act (possibly his grandson).  In bed early again. 

Tuesday 22 January 2002 

Rest day.   A word about the weather.   The first week was mainly sunny, hot in the middle of the day and  cool morning and evenings.   So far, the second week has been a bit cloudier especially in the mornings.  

In the morning we changed some travellers cheques and bought our paintings.   We haggled the man down to 300 dalasi for the two from 450.   This was considerably less than we were expecting to pay for just one pictureJ    Sat down by Kotu stream for about an hour and took more bird piccies. 

Lunch of cheese and biscuits then Heather had a fruit salad at Anna Marie's.   Allan meanwhile had a dip in the sea which spurred Heather into getting her kit on/off to do likewise.   A shower in our room was followed by coffee beside the pool.   We had a chat with the wood carver at Tesco's.   He wanted to show us how our bird was progressing and we were able to give him guidance on the colouring. 

Dinner at Bungalow Beach.  In bed early. 

Wednesday 23 January 2002 

Another Dembo day.   Up at 6, breakfast at 7.   Dembo had already collected the packed lunches so we drove straight to the petrol station where we had to pay for the day in advance so that the driver could afford to put diesel in the car then straight to Brufut Nature Reserve. 

We wandered in the bush for two hours or more and saw not a great many birds but the Senegal batis sent Dembo into raptures.   We failed to find either of the special birds Dembo had hoped for - the little honey guide and the striped kingfisher (the one that avoids water) but we did see an osprey high over head. 

Dembo promised lunch by a pool and the pool turned out to be the Sambou Kunda Birds Reserve that we had visited on our first Sunday.   

Drove to Tanji and passed the Paradise Inn turn off on the way.   It transpires that both the Paradise Inn and Sambou Kunda are on the Tanji Stream.   At Tanji beach there were vultures, crows and seagulls feeding off the guts of the fish from the smokery nearby.   The men go to sea in the evening and return with their catch at dawn.   The women then deal with the fish while the men sleep.   One of the boats was loading up with rice and perhaps other goods to be taken by sea on the long journey south to Guinea-Bissau. We called it a day at 2pm and headed straight for the poolside bar and a cold coke.

We collected our carved osprey from Tesco's, bought more water and went back to the pool for a swim.   We finished the film in the camera hoping it was OK - this morning the camera bag fell off the bed and the camera had been sounding strange ever since. 

Dinner of pasta for both of us at Bungalow Beach.   We left before the crab racing started - they use live crabs. 

Bad night - African drums and noisy neighbours.   The drums were on most nights but we usually just slept through it.   

Thursday 24 January 2002

The bad night was followed by a 6am start for our Treasure Island Day.   Collected at 7.30am for the trip, via other hotels, to the Banjul Ferry.   While waiting in the Bedford Truck for the ferry, Allan felt too unwell to continue and asked the guide Lamin to arrange transport back to the hotel.   An "African Tours" minibus was available (it had been called into service because the original bus was too small to collect everybody from the hotels).   Allan was whisked back to the hotel in this minibus which was such a wreck that it took the driver several goes to get it in gear every time a change was required.   Heather continued with the tour party.

Allan's Day:

At the hotel, slept for two hours and awoke feeling better. Lunch at the Beach Restaurant. Afternoon reading, then at 1600 to the other side of Kotu Stream bird-watching.   Could not shake off a bumster and did not have the energy to get angry.   At least, he kept the others away and got me back to the Hotel unharried so he was worth the 25 dalasi.

Drink at the bar, collected airline tickets from Steve (who had organised a window seat for us on the flight home) closed the safety deposit box and retrieved the deposit, and sussed out latest restaurant serving times in case Heather was very late.   In fact she got back at 2030.

Heather's Day

Ferry to Barra, sat in the Bedford truck squeezed in tightly between the wall and a huge lorry so no view at all.   Truck then drove to the Senegal border where we handed over our passports.   Drove to Joffre compound to meet the Joffre family and have a tiny glimpse into their way of life.   Then drove to the River Soloum where a boat with outboard motor took us to the island of Jinnack (Treasure Island) Half hour walk across the island with the sun at its hottest to an African Buffet on the beach.   Spent over two hours there.   Some people swam, I paddled, then the walk back across the island.   The island is Gambian, not Sengalese.   The boat ten took us back to the Gambian mainland (osprey seen on route) where we were reunited with the Bedford and our passports.   Then a much shorter journey back to Barra.   Whilst waiting, amongst a herd of cows,for the ferry, Sally and Neil had their shoes cleaned without asking.   Lamin had to sort out the payment.   We left the Bedford on the north bank and travelled back on the top of the ferry accompanied by about a dozen dolphins.   Then minibus back to the hotel.

Dinner together Ali Baba's then bed at 1045.       A better night.

Friday 25 January 2002

Time to go home.  Up at 0615.    Mid-morning found out that flight delayed by four hours.   Used the cyber café at Bungalow Beach to send an email to the guest house at Gatwick to cancel our booking (they charged us full whack anyway - we take back all the nice things we said at the start!) 

Finished packing, had a free lunch at Kombo Beach courtesy of Monarch Airlines and chilled out near the Bakotu Hotel pool until we were collected by the coach at 1645.

We had given all our spare stuff (shoes, hat, paper, shampoo etc) to Anna Marie, Stall 15, on the beach and were rewarded with two grapefruits (she was so grateful).

Took off from Banjul 2120.

Saturday 26 January 2002

Landed Gatwick 0245.   Caught the 0415 train to Luton - no problems this time.   Got into Luton Airport 6 am.   Inverness flight delayed 40 minutes but we took off at 1205 and landed at Dalcross 1320.

The van was still there with no flat tyres.   Car park charges were £51.70 (£3.20 per full day)    A quick visit to Inverness Tesco on the way home and were home about 1500.

End of holiday


Gambian dogs are all a similar shape and size (small labradorish) and mainly red-brown with the occasional touch of white or black, hence the term 'red-brown Gambian dog'

Topless bathing round the hotel pool was accepted despite our being told to remember that this was mainly a Muslim country and ladies should cover up.

The African lady in the Gatwick check-in in front of us had so much hand luggage that she was sent away to buy another case to put it all as hold luggage.

Arranged marriages are still quite normal especially amongst the villagers in the bush

Kunta Kinteh's direct relative is still called Kinteh despite the fact that he only had sisters in Africa:-)

The Gambians are very poor but there is no hunger.   Their diet is mainly rice, fish and fruit - a very healthy combination.   Their average life expectancy though is less than 60.

The currency is the dalasi and the rate of exchange when we were there was roughly 25 to the £.

Gambia only has two seasons.   Summer is July - September, when it is very hot and there is heavy rain at night.   The rest of the year is winter when it is pleasantly hot and almost entirely dry.

The bird guides describe the osprey as a Scottish bird who visits in winter without a passport.

Primary education is free but parents are usually asked to pay for paper and pens.

The kora (a musical insrument like a harp in the shape of a guitar) is made from a hollowed out fruit (like a pumpkin).   The music is not written down anywhere but passed from father to son.

The baggage security check on the way home was very African!   You watched your bag disappear on the conveyor belt into a small room.   If the security men in that room picked it out, you had to identify it as yours.   We lost sight of ours but presumably they were not picked out as they arrived home with us.


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