Home -> Africa -> Gambia -> Travelogue 2005 -> Thursday 13 January

A lazy day at the beach

Today we go to the beach although we don't see much sun. It is misty with sandclouds, but you won't hear us complain with a temperature well above 30 degrees. As soon as we step onto the beach we are welcomed by our regular beachboy, Moses. He brings pillows for our chairs, talks a little while and then leaves us again, contrary to all the vendors of waterbags, rolexes, peanuts, newspapers, fruits, souvenirs, drinks, you name it. We stay very polite but tell them nevertheless to leave us alone. When they notice that we really are not interested in their goods they leave, most of the time. But sometimes they start a conversation as if they want to know everything about you and after a few minutes they start talking about their merchandise again. It is a game and you should keep on smiling. The Gambia is also called the Smiling Coast because when you look at a map of the country you see that the river Gambia looks like a smiling mouth, but the inhabitants also smile all the time, so the country deserves that name.
Taking the dog to the beach We have seen some wandering dogs and we had the impression that, like in Arabic countries, dogs were not kept as pets. But today we see this: a man who plays, runs and sits with his dog for hours on the beach, and later a Gambian passes us with his dog on a leash.
At the beach At the beach Now and then we dive into the sea to cool down a bit, but most of the time we are occupied reading. We have taken a lot of books since we had decided this to be a relaxing holiday. Or sometimes we just watch around us to everything that happens on the beach. We have no time to get bored!
Something we think remarkable is the high number of elderly, white women who are accompanied by a young Gambian. The men seem to do everthing for these ladies: long massages from top to toe, fetching food and drinks, even feeding them. We think these boys are probably happy with the occasional meal they get or maybe even some money, but according to Moses it is all True Love and nothing else. We have our doubts, especially when we see women who must be at least 60 or 70 years old, walking hand in hand with a 20-year old boy.
Before we walk back to the hotel we have a long conversation with Moses about environmental issues. He tells us to throw our garbage on the beach and says everybody does that. He can't understand why we don't want to do that. But we can't get through to him, until we tell him that he might be able to earn some money cleaning up the beach. Then he becomes very interested. He almost can't believe the stories we tell him about penalties one has to pay in Holland when you break environmental laws. So we suggest him that he tries to talk to tourists who leave their garbage behing and to offer them to clean it for them for a small fee. He likes the idea, so when you see a young Gambian very busy cleaning the beach, you will know who he is!
A visit to Berend and Agnes At the end of the day we stop at the apartment of Berend and Agnes and have a chat with them. We exchange our experiences of the day with a warmish beer in our hand. We could hire a fridge in the hotel but that costs € 6 per day, a bit too much for our liking.
The laundry lady The laundry lady From their porch we have a nice view on the path where regularly women with laundry on their heads pass by. They hold the large baskets sometimes with one hand, but often without and they seem to be standing very stable on their heads.
The laundry lady We find it a miracle that people always wear very clean clothes, while it is very dusty and the country not particularly clean. How many times a day do they change? We feel pretty out of place in our dusty clothes.
A crab on our porch When we open the door to our porch at night, we suddenly see a large crab trying to get in. When we turn on the light it slowly shambles away, sideways. It is a huge creature, almost 20 centimeters long.
Teije walks over to Salifu to talk with him for an hour and Salifu tells his lifestory: like many boys he was born and raised in the east of The Gambia, and has moved to the western coast to find a job. From the little money he earns he even saves some for his parents who own a small farm in the east of the country. He belongs to the Fula tribe, that forms about 13% of the Gambian population. Other tribes are the Mandinka (40%), the Wolof (12%) and the Jola (8%) plus a few other, smaller tribes.
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