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Cycle Tour round The Gambia River.
Posted October 20th, 2012 - 7:07 pm by from Guildford, England (Permalink)
I fly out to The Gambia in a couple of days, 23 October, and have booked to couchsurf for a few days in the Banjul area. I have a full seven weeks holiday available. My question is really whether it is possible or advisable to cycle, and to find accommodation, travelling East along the South bank and back along the North bank. I believe that there are local village bed and breakfast places, but I can not find any listed.
Of course I will hang around the more popular areas until I feel confident that such a ride is possible, and until I have gathered more info on roads and accommodations.
Another problem is that I will be reduced to using my Samsung Galaxy instead of my laptop, with maybe only spasmodic WiFi.
Any information will be gratefully received.

Posted November 15th, 2012 - 3:29 pm by from Banjul, The Gambia (Permalink)
yes it is possible ..any thing just send me mail at ...fmsusso@hotmail.com i just live near banjul

Posted November 15th, 2012 - 4:23 pm by from Guildford, England (Permalink)
Have been here for three weeks now. Think I am acclimatised, though it is still too hot cycling midday hours. Have toured all Banjul Denton Br Kololi down to Gunju and Kartong. Know Brikama well and now starting to ride East on the South bank. Bintng next. Then Tendaba and on. May make Farafini or maybe even Georgetown...no bets, just hopes ! Enjoying the smiles wherever I meet Gambians. It really is the 'smiling coast'.

Posted December 22nd, 2012 - 9:02 pm by from Guildford, England (Permalink)
I thought that you may be interested in my impressions of Gambia and my riding experience. This is an edited version of my Christmas letter to friends.

I really enjoyed my riding there, along all of the surfaced roads, north and south banks, and a considerable amount on the red rough stone roads too. The soft sand tracks often down to the beach or banks of the river were very difficult to ride, specially with my big bag on the back. I found all the taxi and car drivers very considerate, with a gentle toot of the horn to warn me of their approach. The heavy trucks were not as considerate.

My first three weeks were very hot but the mornings cooled enough to be pleasant in 2nd week of November.

My couchsurfing was brilliant, making the whole trip so much more 'Gambian'than staying only in guest houses or hotels.

I had only one puncture, and one spoke break which was fixed by Malik, in Gunjur village.

I wonder how many of you remember my Christmas letter sent from up the Gambia River in 1978, in which we asked for books to be sent to a new, very basic, mud block village school in Bintang, which had no books at all ?

Just 25 years ago, in 1987, Julie and I sailed up the river on TRIXOLAR and spent 3 weeks there, anchoring in several places, before crossing over to Brazil. I have several old photographic slides showing people we befriended in the riverside village of Bintang, including one of me holding a newborn baby girl, with father and mother beside me. Now 25 YEARS LATER, there were tears on both sides as I met that baby, just 25 years old, married and with her own baby boy, and all the extended family. Sadly, the father we knew had died in 1997, (same year as Julie died ). Where there had been about 15 family members living in the small compound, there are now more than 40, crowded in the same small area, including almost half of them young children, and still with the one groundnut field to support them all. The village of approx 300 inhabitants that had built the one new mud brick school, with no books, now has five schools, with neither books nor furniture, and a population of almost 4000.

I cycled 948 miles along north and south banks of the winding river, slept in 22 beds over the 52 day tour, drank ceremonial ‘green tea’ with many groups of young and old Gambians, stayed on local compounds, in a few guest houses, and the occasional Residence or Motel. For 7 weeks I lived as a white Gambian, called Dowda (David) Ceeshay, sharing my life with the most friendly, open, honest and happy people I have ever had the good fortune to meet. I never locked my bike once !
BUT,,,, Gambia also has the most corrupt government, and extravagant, callous President that I have ever had to witness. He drives to his newly-built Mosque in a cavalcade of armed military vehicles, six huge new limousines, and other motorbikes and vehicles, which the general public are not even allowed to photograph, His fellow Gambians just a few miles up river are desperate for food for tomorrow, with babies lying on sand floors along with the goats and chickens, and children fighting over half a banana. Schools without furniture, and teachers so poorly paid that classes of 50 are the norm, with children walking several miles to school each day.

If you book a Gambia vacation with a recognised tour operator, I am sure that you will find, perfect weather, very good hotels, food, guided tours, and souvenir shops, They are all situated in an area south of Banjul, called ‘Combo’, along a beautiful long and varied stretch of beach, from North Point down to Senagambia. Beach bars, sun shaded recliners, large pools, bars, and all you need to relax for a short break from work. BUT YOU WILL NOT SEE GAMBIA AS IT REALLY IS. Gambia is a vast divide, Government sponsored TOURISM by the sea, probably only 8% of the country, and the other 92% of the country, UP-RIVER.

All the Voluntary Aid, World Subsidies, EC Grants, Sponsored Projects, and a host of other charities, are pouring money into the country that is mostly squandered, either by corruption, a lack of initial supervision, or more usually, by no follow-up maintenance, or a complete lack of skilled technicians paid to oversee the project.

There are exceptions to this of course, and far more than I managed to see, no doubt at all. Three at least are shining examples of successful external funding.
If you have time to Google, ‘Gunjur Project, Gambia‘, you will find a holiday to remember, in a small enclosed area, lovely private rooms, great bar, restaurant and swimming pool, quiet district, and even tours and entertainment. The unusual aspect here is that it was built, and is run by a family from UK, Mum and Dad, daughter and husband, and toddler Charlie. All the local employees are virtually members of the family, and Jo. the Mum looks after the charitable side of the business, sponsoring local children and schools, with INDIVIDUAL attention to each and every pound donated. A very well worthy charity, and an even better holiday venue.
Another, quite different approach was another accommodation type, Tumani Tenda Ecotourism Camp, up-river on the south bank. This was started with a private European donation, but it was built and is run entirely by the locals living in the village. This was one of the best basic places I stayed in, with exceptional food. Every Dalasi spent was meticulously recorded, income and expenditure, it was staffed by the village, and a commitee decided on development and maintenance matters. Swimming was in the river, and you would really be, and feel, as though you were in the true Africa.
I stayed too in , Juffreh Resthouse, again basic, but built and run by the village, clean, very friendly, right in the middle of the old ‘slave trade area’ and on the north bank of the river, a fishing village with historic connections.

It was difficult to travel around as I did, without guides or recognised normal transport, but I was in constant close contact with the local community, and individuals. I can honestly say that up-river I met hardly anyone who was NOT in need of some kind of assistance, from needing food, school fees, books, or a host of other basic necessities. I have returned, certainly changed. I can not switch on the light, without thinking of candles or a flashlight; clean my teeth, drink water, eat breakfast, or go to the toilet without being thankful.

I have in mind several situations where I think that I could maybe make changes for the better, either for a group, or for an individual. Once things have settled down after the holiday, I will try to consider relative merits and methods.

SO, why am I a GRUMP at Christmas ? Coming from real poverty to holiday madness. Where has Christ’s message got lost ? Holiday season, yes, but celebrating the birth of Christ, maybe not !


Posted December 22nd, 2012 - 9:12 pm by from Fishguard, Wales (Permalink)
Hi David,

Very interesting. If you are interested I would like to repost this on The Flaneur (http://flaneur.me.uk)

if you are keen please contact me on editor@flaneur.me.uk