Ian and I left the comfort of Anna‘s house a day later than planned as due to a heavy rain storm. As Ian mentioned in the previous blog we had intended to stay travel through the Gambia on different roads get a little space to ourselves and to get a feel for traveling alone. After 3 months on the road together it was a welcome change.
In Banjul Anna had told us that the northern road was a far better road than the southern but I after flipping a coin we had already decided that Ian would take the north road and I would take the south. I did get the stove though.
Leaving Banjul the road had tarmac for 30miles but after that it quickly descended into a wide muddy track covered with holes. Despite the road I still covered over 70 miles that day and as the sun was setting I asked in a small family compound if there was anywhere that I could pitch my tent. They ended up giving me food and a bed to sleep on. The mattress was made from flower sacks stuffed with dry grass and was surprisingly comfortable. Over the next day the road was beginning to take its toll on my bike as bolts began to be shaken loose and the cable ties came out to hold my rear mudguard in place. Just before mid day I decided that maybe the road was just too bad when one of the aluminum rods forming my front pannier rack snapped under the strain. I wasn’t far from a river crossing and the decided to see what the northern road was like. As in Africa nothing is ever quite that simple and the river crossing turned into something of an adventure in itself. The Rains meant that the current was stronger than normal and my ferries engine was apparently not working properly/ meaning that it wasn’t strong enough to get itself of the docks. Instead of maybe trying to fix the problem the African solutions as it turned out was to use another ferry to ram mine and effectively rip t away from the dock. On the far side of the river it wasn’t much better as the ferry rammed then grinded down the full length of a third ferry to get into position to unload. After the ferry was unloaded they simple reloaded it and began the process again. Why they didn’t just use the other 2 working ferries is a mystery.
After my bumpy road and eventful ferry journey the smooth northern road to Georgetown was almost boring but quite a relief. In Georgetown I met up with Ian and we took my bike to a local man who ingeniously fixed the damaged rack with nothing but a couple of broken spokes and an old inner tube. That night we stayed in anther family home and enjoyed eating watching a couple of films with the family.
After Georgetown we headed to the Senegalese border just south of a town called Bassi S the Gambian border post itself was possibly the most unrecognizable border we have passed though yet. It was just a small shed next to the road. No flags, no gates, no signs. But it was quick. We were intending to stay at another Peace Corps house in Kedougou in southern Senegal near the Guinean border. To get there we passed though our first national park called Parc national du Niokolo-Koba. It was quite a memorable experience. Regularly on the road we would see giant herd of baboons sitting in the road and massive bird’s overhead. There were warthogs in the grass by the side of the road and I may have even caught a glimpse of a big cat. The landscape had changed allot since the desert wastes of the Sahara, the park was filled with a lush green forest that continued from horizon to horizon, any open spaces were filled with tall grass with splashes of colour from the milticoulored birds flying between the trees.
When we arrived in Kedougou we quickly found the Peace Corps and were again made to feel very welcome. they had allot of questions about our ride but as the evening continued we spoke to them about there work and found that they were working on a wide range of projects to-do with agriculture and health. There were two projects that really stood out for us. One project had distributed 13500 mosquito nets to the local communities with plans to distribute a further 60000 nets on the next year. Obviously this will have a dramatic affect on the local communities hopefully substansually reducing the instances of malaria. The other was a project that was trying to distribute a very simple machine for shelling peanuts. Peanuts are one of the major crops in the region and currently the entire harvests are normally shelled by hand. In one hour the simple shelling machine can shell 50kg of peanuts, something that would take days by hand.
All the projects are funded though grants and donations check out the Kedougou Peace crops website at www.pskedougou.org
to find out about other projects and ways you could help. The peanut shelling project is currently searching for funding though an online website called www.ideablob.com
. Ideas and projects are posted in the site and subject to a public vote. Each month the project with the most votes wins 10000 dollars to continue the work. The Peanut shelling project has made it into the final and after the 22nd of this month will be directly competing for the cash. Please go the website and cast your vote. It takes hardly any time to sign up and it really is something that could make a difference. The project is run by David Campbell check out his blog for a better description http://stayinggroundedontherun.blogspot.com/2009/09/in-final-ideablobcom-running.html