Exploring The Gambia: From Work Sites to Historical Sites

20 07 2011

baboons on the roadside

The past week has been a pretty hectic one as we took a couple trips out to explore the country. First, we went with Kebba, from the MoA, half way up the country to visit some of the sites that they have been working on. Being the adventure seeker I am, I decided to spend most of this +400km trek to Farafenni and back riding in the back of the PIWAMP pickup truck. Sporadic weather conditions of scorching hot sun and scattered showers were things I should have considered before making the choice to ride back there. At least I got some pretty awesome pictures… to go along with my not-so awesome sunburn.

a branch off the River Gambia at Bintang Bolong

Throughout the trip, we got to see many of the ministry’s projects that were different from the ones we have been working with over the summer. One of their big projects up country is improving access to crop fields. It seems simple enough; how can you grow and harvest the crops if you can’t get to them. This process mainly involves improving the road ways (by clearing and levelling or adding gravel backfill) and adding bridges over marsh areas (made resourcefully out of the chasse of old trucks). It was interesting to see how much of a problem this is and how useful these small civil additions can be during the rainy season. We crossed the river at Farafenni and stayed the night in a village called Soma where Kebba’s snoring was loud enough to drown out the sounds of nature that may have kept me up through the night. On the way back, we checked out more of the lowland development sites where they use interesting techniques such as tidal irrigation and salt water flushing in order to improve the agriculture in the villages.

James Island from the shore of Albreda

We also made a trip out to James Island (aka Kunta Kinteh Island) where the ruins of Fort James, an old slave fort, are located. The island, located a short distance up the river, was used as a slave holding point and was the last stop before the slaves were shipped around the world. If you were here, you were usually held for a few weeks and then loaded onto a ship destined for Europe or the Americas. If this wasn’t bad enough, when an entire family was there, the slave traders made sure to ship the father to North America, the mother to South America and the daughter to England; so there was little chance you would see your family again. Visiting this site gave a very real feeling to what was happened here and knowing that there were many of these slave ‘warehouses’ up the west coast of Africa put a sick feeling in my stomach.

The Freedom Flagpole

Located in the mainland village of Albreda, the British are said to have placed this flagpole here along with the message that any slave who could escape the island and touch the flagpole would be a free man. Of course, the flag was located 4 miles away from the island and anyone daring to elude the guards and make their escape would have to deal with swimming across the wild (and apparently shark infested, at the time) river. Of the few who tried this cruel challenge, even fewer managed to make it across. Sadly, when most stepped off that island, they would never see Africa again.

the slave yard on James Island

With time flying and now only three weeks left until we’re back on Canadian soil, we’re trying to pack as many things in as we can. We’re planning on making a trip to the end of the country to visit more the MoA’s sites and hopefully taking a weekend trip to Senegal because… well, why not?






3 responses

20 07 2011

Good pics…..do you like fish yet?

20 07 2011
John Iezzi

Yup! I’m liking it soo much that I think I’ll be sick of it by the time I get back to Canada!

23 07 2011

Is there such things as life jackets available there?????

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