Our first trip of 2015/16 has begun – a journey from Dakar to Freetown!
Our first trip of the season started in Dakar a few weeks ago after the long drive down from the UK. It’s great to be back in the region we know and love so well and running trips again after so long away due to the sad events of the past year!
A warm welcome to Janet, Wendy, Kathy, John, Theo, Tim, Mehmet, Baz, Sam, Martin, Steve, Ray, Roy and Adrian, it’s great to have you with us! Above are shots taken on Ile Goree, which many of our passengers visited as a day trip from Dakar.
Not far from Dakar we passed this truck being towed along. It looks like it’s seen better days and the truck towing him didn’t look to have been having a much easier time of it either! Fortunately the driver didn’t appear to have been hurt in the crash.
The first truck lunch of many to come! An easy drive day bought us to our first bush camp, and the first night of torrential overnight rain. It ought to have finished raining a few weeks ago, but the rains this year have come late and are lasting longer than normal. We’re hoping the dry season we plan our trips around comes soon. C’est l’Afrique!
Gambia is split in half by the River Gambia, and with no bridges over it, a lengthy wait for a ferry is an inevitable part of overland travel here.
Tendaba Camp is a real highlight of the time we spend in The Gambia, with a great selection of birds viewed from the camp and on the numerous boat trips our passengers took. A comfortable spot to settle into the relaxed pace of life!
Konteh Kunda School of Music have only just opened, and we were delighted to be one of their first groups to visit. Established to celebrate and promote the Griot tradition and musical talent, and to provide a school for foreign students, we were overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcome we received and the energy of the music and dancing we witnessed. Above and below are shots of a Kora and Balafon performance soon after our arrival.
We danced for much of the evening to Djembe drumming, before witnessing an indoor performance from the family. Several of us also took part in Kora lessons.
A short drive down to the Casamance region saw us back with Simon and Khady in Abene. It was great to be back after so long and to see everybody again, and the Koumpo dance we witnessed on the first evening was as stunning as it has ever been!
The Koumpo is a forest spirit, particularly feared by local children, and often used to warn those in a village who may have digressed, such as children picking mangoes too early. A spike comes out of the Koumpo’s head, which he plants into the ground and spins around on – a truly stunning sight to witness!
Kafountine is a busy fishing port that attracts workers from far and wide. Dozens of boats come in on a good day, and the men unloading the fish are paid per crate, which explains their frenzied pace of work!
Some of the catch is sent to market by refrigerated truck, but the vast majority is smoked, or salted and air dried. Dried fish provides a main protein source for many of the countries which make up West Africa.
The beach in Abene gave a great afternoon’s relaxing, and Jase and Baz managed a quick surf!
Another night in Abene and another night of great music and dancing! We were joined by the same stilt dancer who’d given our previous groups such a great performance 18 months ago, but this time with a new costume he’d just finished making!
After a short stop in the main city of Casamance, Ziguinchor, we were back to the coast, visiting local villages by boat, looking for wildlife, and enjoying stunning sunsets.
We’re now in Bissau city, as relaxed and friendly as ever, enjoying some rest and western luxuries before the rough road east into Guinea begins. The heavy rains won’t have helped the roads, but should make for some stunning waterfalls!
Many thanks to Tim, Theo, Baz and Wendy for letting us share some of their photos!