We woke early and began the task of packing everything away but school started. All took turns in the shower area, and the airbeds were deflated and the mosquito nets packed away. Omar arrived from his lodgings in the village, and the minibus was loaded with the luggage. I wandered off to photograph birds, Robbie was playing with Tiger, the dog, he had brought her some toys. The pupils all began to arrive in time for school and the teachers. We watched the beginning of the school day, briefly met with the head teacher and then took our leave. Breakfast was taken at the same cafe as yesterday, and then we set off on the one road home. Just before Farafenni we stopped at sambalangjesse to inspect the new well being dug in memory of Maggie, a friend of Christine Schofield and a supporter of the charity for many years. The well was about twelve feet deep, with a man at the bottom taking out the earth and sending it up to his colleagues at the top to dispose of. Lots of photos were taken, we met with the chief of the village and his son, wished them all well and returned to the minibus. The crossing at Farafenni was uneventful as the queues of Sunday had gone, the toilets at Kalagi had not been fixed and they had run out of soft drinks! No monkeys again on our journey, so we all dozed while Omar listened to his Bob Marley music. We arrived back in Kololi, dropped our travellers at the same car park we had met them at and then Omar took us home. Sheila was waiting with a cold water for us and hot water for a shower! Bliss!
Three of our travellers are returning home tomorrow, the whole party met at Smiling Coast, a restaurant in Kololi for a last meal together. We all looked much fresher and smarter than the last few days!
Friday, 1 May 2015
We were all awake with the sun, and began the task of dismantling our "camp" before the children arrive for school. Steve and I loaded some boxes which had been delivered by large truck, onto the minibus and went to Kataba with Omar, whilst the others stayed in Kumbija. Kataba a school which is twinned with a school in Bradford, is about 5 miles away and our delivery from their twin school didn't take too long, we were back in Kumbija just after school started. Steve and Omar began to load the truck whilst the rest of us observed lessons and met the teachers before once again piling into the minibus. A bumpy road through the scrubland, bare now of vegetation as the rainy season approaches, we bumped along to Loumen, school number two on our itinerary. Mr Bah was waiting on the verandah as we drove through the gates. Everyone was greeted and introduced, before going to look at the ladies garden which is thriving, and the classes in progress. We unloaded our supplies for the school and arranged some photographs. We were there in time for break, when the pupils lined up to wash their hands before sitting down at communal bowls for lunch. Then it was time to leave and make our way to Kaur, breakfast was calling! The best cafe in town is a corrugated shack at the crossroads in Kaur. Nescafé and an omelette sandwich for everyone before heading to Jamwelly. We had alerted the headteacher to our imminent arrival and so were met on the road with pupils and teachers chanting welcome and waving to us. Steve, Denise and Julie got out and walked with the crowds whilst Omar drove on to the school. The local ladies were dancing for us, some of us joined in, the village elders had come out to meet us, a few short speeches were made whilst we sat under the verandah out of the sun. A wedding was taking place in the village, We ladies decided to go and investigate, leaving Iain, Robbie and Steve in the school. A very young girl was having her part of the wedding ceremony today, her future husband will arrive next week. Lots more dancing to join in with before returning to the school. It is very hot here, the furthest point in our journey from the sea, on reaching the classrooms we found the airbeds had been blown up and so the other ladies had a sleep during the hottest part of the afternoon. As it cooled down more activity was possible, photos were taken and more interaction with the villagers who had come to see us at the school. Steve had a long discussion with the head teacher, (a short one is impossible with Mr Sawaneh) I went to take photos of birds and the others played with the dog and the pupils. Chargi one of the trainee teachers and another girl were cooking our dinner with the supplies we had brought. Just before dark we all had our showers and sat under the stars waiting for our delicious dinner before bedtime.
Omar arrived about 8.30 this morning to load the minibus for our travels. Kebba fetched sandwiches for breakfast, Omar joined us for coffee, and we ate together before getting in the minibus and waving Sheila and Kebba goodbye. A short drive to Kololi to find the other 6 waiting for us on the car park at Yashmina. We had asked for minimum luggage, 8 people, food, drink, bedding and school supplies all had to fitted into and on the minibus. Robbie was chosen to sit in the middle at the front as he is the thinnest of us all! Chris, Joanne and I were on the back seat, Iain, Denise and Julie in the middle three. All loaded we set off on our journey up the south bank, uneventful this morning, no monkeys even to see. A stop was scheduled at Kalagi where there are holiday lodges and a bar with cold drinks. About half way on our travels, we were all grateful for the opportunity to stretch our legs and admire the view. The toilets unfortunately were out of action, but we managed and were promised that the plumber was on the way to fix them before our return on Tuesday. We piled in the minibus again and Omar drove to Soma for the ferry. The queues!!! Normally there is a long queue for trucks but not passenger vehicles, today the queue was horrendous. Not a good start for our 5 new travellers, it looked like a long wait. Fortunately we had got a priority crossing for Omar, Steve went to find someone in charge, carrying the precious priority, and we were able to jump almost to the front! Captain Sam was in charge today, easily spotted by the small umbrella he wears on his head, keeping his head cool and his arms free to direct the loading. He saw Steve and I and explained that there had been a religious festival in Senegal and people were returning home, hence the queues today. He asked which vehicle we were in and directed us to drive onto the waiting ferry as the last vehicle this crossing. We must try and get him a replacement umbrella for next year! We crossed the short expanse of water to the other side, Robbie was fascinated with the pump taking the water from
boat over the side, the boats here are very old but still working, a bridge is being built, so let's hope they last that long!
Arriving in Farafenni we went through the usual routine, shopping at the supermarket for more cold drinks, filling the cool bag, rice and potatoes for dinner today and tomorrow. I went into the market with Julie and Denise to buy vegetables, we were joined by our small friend, Abdoulie, who translates for me and carries the shopping for a few dalasis. More goods loaded onto the minibus, we lost our extra legroom in the back! Omar then began the last leg of the journey to Kumbija where we planned to stay the night. Arriving at the school we were met by Baatchi the caretaker who had opened all the classrooms for us and filled all the water buckets. Mr Sowe and some elders from the village were sat under a mango tree having Ataya, the sweet tea together. The new solar borehole is finished, the tower stands tall and proud at the end of the playground. Three taps have been run from it, the first near the tower to water the new garden area, the second outside the kitchen for the cook to use and the third in the existing ladies garden. The boxes from the roof were unloaded and put into one of the classrooms and we joined Mr Sowe and the others, taking a cold drink with us. I had a short meeting with Mr Sowe, showing him the supplies we had brought and discussing the plans for the summer. We then began the task of blowing up the airbeds and sorting out who was sleeping where tonight. Robbie proved a big help on the pump, whilst Steve and Iain sorted the mosquito nets. The bedding was sorted, the shower arrangements discussed and before we knew it it was time to shower before dark. Christine had brought some mosquito nets for Baatchi and his family and went with the other ladies to visit him in his home to take photos. Showering complete we sat round the table in the playground and waited for our dinner. Usually Alagie, Ousmans brother brings dinner on his motorbike, but he is one of many who have gone to Libya to try and reach Europe. Foolish man, leaving his wife and small daughter behind, he told no one until he rang from Mali on the way. Who knows what will happen to him. Fatou and Kaddy arrived with two lovely bowls of food prepared for us and we ate under the stars before retiring to bed. Steve and I said our goodbyes to Fatou who had waited whilst we ate, Omar took them back in the truck as he is staying with them tonight. And so to bed, surprisingly comfortable I slept like a log.boat over the side, the boats here are very old but still working, a bridge is being built, so let's hope they last that long!
Arriving in Farafenni we went through the usual routine, shopping at the supermarket for more cold drinks, filling the cool bag, rice and potatoes for dinner today and tomorrow. I went into the market with Julie and Denise to buy vegetables, we were joined by our small friend, Abdoulie, who translates for me and carries the shopping for a few dalasis. More goods loaded onto the minibus, we lost our extra legroom in the back! Omar then began the last leg of the journey to Kumbija where we planned to stay the night. Arriving at the school we were met by Baatchi the caretaker who had opened all the classrooms for us and filled all the water buckets. Mr Sowe and some elders from the village were sat under a mango tree having Ataya, the sweet tea together. The new solar borehole is finished, the tower stands tall and proud at the end of the playground. Three taps have been run from it, the first near the tower to water the new garden area, the second outside the kitchen for the cook to use and the third in the existing ladies garden. The boxes from the roof were unloaded and put into one of the classrooms and we joined Mr Sowe and the others, taking a cold drink with us. I had a short meeting with Mr Sowe, showing him the supplies we had brought and discussing the plans for the summer. We then began the task of blowing up the airbeds and sorting out who was sleeping where tonight. Robbie proved a big help on the pump, whilst Steve and Iain sorted the mosquito nets. The bedding was sorted, the shower arrangements discussed and before we knew it it was time to shower before dark. Christine had brought some mosquito nets for Baatchi and his family and went with the other ladies to visit him in his home to take photos. Showering complete we sat round the table in the playground and waited for our dinner. Usually Alagie, Ousmans brother brings dinner on his motorbike, but he is one of many who have gone to Libya to try and reach Europe. Foolish man, leaving his wife and small daughter behind, he told no one until he rang from Mali on the way. Who knows what will happen to him. Fatou and Kaddy arrived with two lovely bowls of food prepared for us and we ate under the stars before retiring to bed. Steve and I said our goodbyes to Fatou who had waited whilst we ate, Omar took them back in the truck as he is staying with them tonight. And so to bed, surprisingly comfortable I slept like a log.
I had to go to two banks today to sort out the wages for our nursery schools, Steve was going to get some photocopying done on Kairaba avenue. We have been trying for three weeks to get photocopying, but with all the power cuts we had not yet succeeded; now it is urgent as we are traveling tomorrow, Steve dropped me in Kololi with Sheila and we went to the second bank to post the money for Mr Sowe who has no branch of Access bank nearer than 100 miles. Steve was still not back so we went to Yashminas for morning coffee. Steve arrived back having found somewhere with power for the photocopying we returned home for the afternoon to get everything ready for our trip, Sheila has decided to stay behind with Pauline and Olivia and help with the clinic deliveries. That means that we can all get in one minibus instead of two. Steve has spent a lot of time this week checking the airbeds to make sure that we have no leaks in them, making sure the mosquito nets are still in one piece and repairing any problems. We have also made sure we have enough sheets, and sleeping bags in case it gets cold. Whilst at home Mr Touray arrived to see us, we sat in the garden with a cold drink for a while, before he left us. Sheila wanted us to go out to dinner, probably our last for just the three of us as it will be home time next week. Somewhere new to us was chosen nearby, a hotel called Leo's on the top of the cliff facing the sea. What a lovely place, certainly this will be on our list of places to visit for a special meal. The view is lovely, the gardens a delight and the menu different. We even had a sweet, a genuine French lemon tart.
Returning home we discovered power! Getting to be an unusual event, so we sat and watched a film with Kebba.
One thing about living here, we can plan a barbecue weeks in advance and we know it will be a sunny day. Kebba was up before us and had hosed down all the garden furniture and was sweeping up all the fallen leaves etc in the garden. After breakfast Sheila and I set about cutting up meat and vegetables for the salad, setting the table, cooking the rice etc. we worked until about 1pm and then having got changed we went into the garden with a cool glass of wine. Meanwhile Steve was having his bad leg massaged again, three times a week whilst we are here. At half past one, Steve went to the Senegambia hotel to collect Iain, Denise and Julie to join us and meet their fellow travellers for this weekend. Christine, Robbie and Joanne arrived by taxi, Madi joined us and also Ousman. Pauline and Olivia rang to say they would be late as they had taken Mariama to the hospital, Mariama is the cook at Naata and is having a baby, when we visited last week she seemed to think that the baby was due in July, but she is enormous and when Pauline, who is a nurse, saw her today she was worried. Everyone sat round chatting and getting to know each other, the newcomers asking lots of questions about the proposed trip on Sunday. Pauline and Olivia eventually arrived and joined us in time for the food, Mariama is staying in the hospital as she has high blood pressure. Everyone was introduced and all got on well, a very pleasant afternoon was spent chatting and swimming in the sunshine until the sun was going down and the wind brought a chilly evening in, it was time to go and transport was arranged to share back to Kololi. We quickly cleared up and sat down for the evening, however another power cut occurred and we decided on another early night!
Our big dog, Buki, seems to have a problem with a bite received from a much smaller dog, a visit to the vet was the first item today. An injection and some tablets and he will be fine, apparently German Shepherds are prone to blood disorders and are slow to heal wounds. Buki is half German Shepherd and half Gambian dog so hopefully it will not be a serious problem. As we came out of the vet we got a call from Pauline who was hoping to come to the storeroom but unfortunately their taxi driver had no fuel. We stopped at the petrol station and were told there was no fuel until maybe tomorrow. I rang Omar to go and find some fuel for his minibus, otherwise we are not going anywhere this weekend! We picked up Pauline and Olivia and took them to the storeroom, via the butcher to pick up the fillet steak for tomorrow. Sheila came round to help and the three of them started to sort the boxes intended for the medical clinics here which Pauline and Sheila will deliver this week. Apart from a short break for a cold drink and lunch at Neil's, we were all in the store all day. The first delivery for Kassama is to be taken tonight after 6, so the truck was loaded and we went home to wait 2 hours until the appointed time. Tiring work in the store, everyone was falling asleep! Steve drove Pauline, Olivia and Sheila down to the clinic whilst I stayed behind at home. They delivered the boxes, inspected the changes since their last visit and then Steve ran Pauline and Olivia back to the hotel, before returning home with Sheila for the rest of the evening.
There is still some work to do in the storeroom to clear a space for Chris and Pauline to sort the clinic boxes, Steve, Sheila and I went round to the store after breakfast and spent the whole morning sorting goods into boxes, clearing space and getting out the airbeds and mosquito nets required for the weekend. We returned home hot and sticky for a shower and change before getting in the truck to meet the new arrivals. Steve dropped me at the Senegambia hotel to meet Iain, Denise and Julie, whilst he and Sheila went round to Mansea to meet Pauline and organise when they wanted to sort the clinic boxes in the store. I met the new people and we talked about the trip up country which is planned for the weekend coming. I also invited them to a Barbecue on Friday so they could get to know their travelling companions. Steve then rang to say he was ready to pick me up and we all went to the front of the hotel to meet Steve before I got in the truck to return home. Neil's for dinner, and then home, where we managed to watch a whole film before the power went off! We are having an average of three hours a day with power at the moment, many rumours and explanations for this, shortage of diesel to run the generators seems to be the most obvious answer as money is tight in the country with the poor tourist season.
Steve is undergoing treatment on his leg at home, a very strong Nigerian lady is coming three times a week to do a massage on the damaged leg. Sheila and I went to the storeroom with Kebba and loaded the truck for both Nemasu nursery school and the senior secondary school. We drove to the senior school first and found the pupils revising for exams this afternoon. We delivered some science equipment and books and spoke to the head teacher about the journalist assignments which some of the pupils are doing. The idea behind this competition is that the students choose their own subject to write about and send them by email to Newsquest in England. Somewhere along the line the explanation about the email part had been lost and the students had submitted paper written copies to the head teacher. I explained that the work was to be emailed and he promised to allow students time on the computers in the next few days. We said our goodbyes and drove on to the nursery school, hoping to see the new toddler class in full swing. Unfortunately Fatou was off sick today and Yunis was taking both the newcomers and class 1. We will have to wait for next week to see the new pupils being taught by our newest trainee. Sheila and I returned home and collected Steve before driving to Kanifing to buy paint for our house maintenance and new dvd films. Shopping is never easy here, as soon as you step out of the car you are approached by boys trying to persuade you in the direction of one shop or another, trying to convince you of the merits of one shop over another. I settled on one shop and asked for the paint we require and was assured they had it, just a short wait whilst they actually send out to another shop to fetch it. This system works for them, commission must be paid somewhere along the line! Purchases completed we took the coast road back towards home and stopped at Yashminas for an early dinner.
Back home to relax for the rest of the day.
Sheila and I set off just after 9am to collect Chris, Robbie and Joanne from Mansea Beach hotel. We had loaded the truck yesterday with extra boxes for the teachers and managed to unload them all at Naata with Ibraimas help into the office. All the work has been completed in time for the new term, the blackboards have been repainted and new cupboards delivered for the teachers to use. Mr Jallow was taking classes 2 and 3 whilst Momodou and Abdoulie sorted the bookcase corner out in class 2. Any book which was spoilt was taken out and new ones added from the new delivery. Joanne and Robbie were shown around by Chris as it is their first visit. The pupils sung for us, and we organised some of the new toys to be brought out for them to play with, these were taken into class 3, such excitement as new toys appeared and eager hands reached to get them. We watched and explained how to use some of toys for a while before taking our leave late morning. Straight to the storeroom, Chris wanted her charity boxes for the animal charities she supports. Once more our truck was loaded up, then off to Neil's bar. We rang Steve and he walked around to join us for a cold drink and an early lunch. After an hour or two I ran the guests back to Mansea beach, unloaded their boxes whilst Steve and Sheila walked home where I joined them for the rest of the day.
12th April, 2015. Sunday. Lunch by the beach
Sheila and I spent the morning in the storeroom sorting the remaining boxes and tidying up. We then returned to the house, a shower and change and then
Steve, Sheila and I went to Cabanas a bar overlooking the sea for lunch with Ousman and Agie. They were on Gambian time of course and we waited over an hour for them to arrive. No problem as we were watching the sea, having a drink and tapas whilst we waited. This bar is lovely, but like all the tourist places this year, very quiet. Eventually they arrived and we had lunch together before heading home for the rest of the day. A relaxing afternoon in the garden, we actually had power tonight and were able to watch a film.