This is genuinely, irrevocably, beyond any shadow of a doubt, my last Gambia blog thogh I’ll probably add some photos over the next day or two.

I’m writing this from home in Inverness and it seemed rather odd to exclude the section of the trip that Sonia was present for, so here’s a summary.

On the Saturday the group went to Kerewan, I headed across to The Sunset Beach Hotel and took possession of a room in a bungalow in the grounds. The bungalow had about six small suites in each: a bedroom with tv, safe, relatively reliable electricity and air con; the toilet / shower was supplied with a constant supply of hot water and there was no need to use a bucket to flush the loo. In many circumstances, our rooms would have seemed basic but adequate: after staying so long at the RPI, it was more like luxury.

We were right on the beach, separated from the fruit sellers, nut hawkers, itinerant musicians, peddlers of sunglasses, Rolex watches and Chanel No 5, by a fence and open steps which we could cross at will but which were an absolute barrier to the vendors.

Sonia and I had a fairly lazy time; this was always intended to be a holiday, but we also visited the PIA and met up with the group on a couple of occasions.

I dragged Sonia to Katchikally, but let her off patting Charlie. I think she found the museum, along with its range of musical instruments, old photos and traditional artefacts, quite interesting. One afternoon we did the monkey park at Bijilo. Another day, we bravely leapt onto bush taxis, minibuses etc. and went to Abuko Nature Reserve, then onto Lamin Lodge, a magnificently rickety structure infested with thieving monkeys who tried to pinch my oyster omelette. The “Gambian Bill Oddie”, also called Yanks, took us out on an early morning bird walk, which was great. Rohey agreed to take us to Serrekunda market – I still feel a local guide is useful for this – but somehow we got our wires crossed and Sonia, who had been asking how to make baobab juice, ended up buying the materials and Rohey made six litres at the PIA when we weren’t there to watch.

We witnessed one of the most interesting events just by chance. One night at The Butcher’s Shop Restaurant, we go chatting to an ex-pat who suggested going to the Bakau Guest House at 5:00 and wandering through to the balcony where we would see the fishing boats come in. It was fascinating – choreographed chaos – with boats tossing in the waves, porters loading large boxes of fish straight off the boats and then wading ashore with them. From the balcony we had a great view.

On Wednesday 11th we started our journey back and by Thursday morning not only were we in a hotel near Manchester airport, but I had a touch of a stomach upset: I blame the meal on the airline as apart from that Sonia and I ate exactly the same things.

By mid-morning today – Thursday – we were collected by Sarah and whisked home. How long till the suntan fades?


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