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Here you can find a short story of our first ever trip to an African country; the Gambia. The goal of this vacation was to mostly relax in the sun and make some side trips on the side. We went for a two week trip to The Gambia from the 2nd of January till the 16th of January 2004.

January 2nd
We took a cab 02.30 to get to the train to get to the airport, where we had to check in to get on the plane that was supposed to leave at 07.40. And of course the plane was delayed for two hours, so we could have slept a lot longer. Before take off the plane had to be made ice free by six cars hosing it down with hot water. During the flight we had a beautiful view of the Sahara desert. At two we arrive in Banjul, which is the capital of the Gambia in 30° Celsius while we left the Netherlands in the snow and cold. We needed some time to acclimatise to both the temperature difference as well as the attitude of the people in the smiling coast with constant questions like: "Hello, how are you, where are you from" and "Accuse me one minute, can I axe you a quecksion?"

January 3rd
We got an introduction in culture of the Gambia and the things to see, but we also found out that it was impossible to get money from an ATM (as opposed to what we thought based on the lonely planet Senegal and the Gambia: yes in Senegal there are ATM's but not in the Gambia). After this we went out for a walkoutside our resort like hotel called Badala Park, which we knew would be a baptism of fire. The Gambia is not a criminal country at all, but there are so many people at the tourist places trying to get some money out of you: the hustlers and the bumpers. They all have their own technique, but after three tries at three different places we knew what to do and how to handle them and weren't bothered by it anymore (Esther felt uncomfortable a bit longer). At night we had a welcome dinner with a dance group of the Djola tribe. Strange having dinner outside while the day before you were afraid to go out, because of the cold.

January 4th
All we did was lay at the beach, swim, read, eat, drink, meet people and go out with them to drink and eat.

January 5th
See Sunday the 4th of January.

January 6th
Today we went with a guide (Seedih) on a tour, together with Jeanne and Nicole. But first he took us to the bank to pick up the money transfer: 21000 Dalasi (a small fortune for the locals) paid out to us in bills of 25 or 50, which we had to carry with us the whole day (a full backpack).

First we went to Bakau to go to the holy crocodile pool called Kachikally. You have to wash with the stinking water in order to easily get pregnant. Then we went to a batik 'factory', of which there are many in the Gambia. Next to the market of Serrakunda: very colourful, narrow and crowded. All women dressed in these beautiful garments. Then off to Seedih's house and his children to continue for the view and some drinks at the Lamin Lodge in the midst of a mangrove nature reserve (Lamin means first born and is thus a common name in the Gambia). Then to the crafts market in Brikama, with excellent woodworking. Further down south we have a lunch at Paradise beach. After lunch we went to pay a visit to one of the richest man in the neighbourhood: Abraham and his compound. And then last but not least we went to the smelly fish market village of Tanji. The fish is directly after arrival cleaned and sold; result is that the beach is full with fish heads and bowels.

January 7th
We went for a nice stroll to Kotu and back to the hotel over the beach, where we stopped on the way for some drinks and food.

January 8th
A complete relaxing day like yesterday again: stay at the beach, swim, read, eat, and drink.

January 9th
Today we walked to Bijilo Park, which is an ancient tropical forest where lots of monkeys are running around, which you can feed peanuts because they are totally not shy and used to humans. Later that night we went with six other to the restaurant Jufureh at the beach, where we ate a lot of times. The menu cart had more on the list than they really have, because they can only serve what they get out of the sea that day. No electricity and cooking on coals: back to the basics, but great food. After dinner we went together with the cook/manager Albert for some drinks in town.

January 10th
We went on another tour today with another guide, named Modu. We took a bush taxi, which normally only locals take, to Banjul to cross the river the Gambia by ferry. Banjul is a real old colony city with palaces, hotels, embassies, etc. We as tourists together with the 'rich' can go first on the ferry which was originally Dutch, and then the gates open for everybody else. At the north side of the river in Barra is fort Bullen; an anti slave fort. The English built this fort in order to keep pirates and other countries out of the Gambia for slavery. The main goal was to reach Jufureh, the birthplace of Kunta Kinte (remember the book of Alex Haley and the movie: Roots). We have to go first past the town alder, who decides we can go in and then to the great-great-great-grand child of Kunta Kinte; the 80 year old Binte Kinte. From Jufureh you can also see the small slave island in the middle of the river. Of course, when we wanted to go back the bush taxi had a flat and we had to wait till it was fixed. On the way back on the ferry we even saw the black dolphins in the river the Gambia. All in all it was in impressive day.

January 11th
Today we had another major relaxing day with lying on the beach, swimming, drinking and eating. For dinner we went with the whole group of 'friends' again to Jufureh restaurant to eat langoustines there, because everybody except Esther and Peter were going back to the Netherlands. It was again an incredible dinner that was fixed for us. And Albert went through the roof when we had to pay the bill, it was the highest he ever had before: 1500 dalasi, that is, in total for six people around € 40 (24 beers, 6 langoustines and 2 soft drinks).

January 12th
A complete relaxing day again: stay at the beach, swim, read, eat, and drink.

January 13th
See yesterday.

January 14th
We went to visit the S.O.S. children's village in the Gambia. After we told we were donators to them they showed us everything concerning the village. Although it happened in the 'wrong' order; we started at the College of Technology, then the Youth Village, the Clinic en eventually the children's village. Everything was organised perfectly here, especially if you compare it to way of organisation in the rest of the country.
For more information about charity foundation S.O.S. Children's Villages click here.

January 15th
We were supposed to have a complete relaxing day, but it rained (just as it did the day before a little bit) so we had a nice walk, and in the middle of the day the weather improved so we could still lie on the beach. We had our last dinner in Jufureh again and we had a beautiful starlit beach stroll back to the hotel.

January 16th
Beautiful weather today so we had our last JulBrew at the airport terrace before we got on the plane back home to the cold.

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