Monday, December 07, 2009

From Mandory to Georgetown

Between Mandory Creek and Elephant Island our electronic charts started to become untrustworthy so we followed the paper charts and the MaxSea electronic track from a Dutch boat, the Duende, that visited The Gambia last year and kindly provided us with great pilot information and cruising tips. Even so we have all been struck in the mud more than once due to shifting bottom. Fortunately, the river bed is soft and we have always been able to release ourselves quite easily.

Sighted our first hippos as we rounded Deer Island. We had backtracked a little after coming to an impassable bit and as we turned we saw eight perky little ears poking above the water. You don’t see much more than a snout and strip of their back if you are lucky but we were thrilled to see them. We floated about running from side to side of the boat as they moved around us diving under and poking their heads up again and making incredibly loud sneezing noises as they surfaced. .
Stopped for fresh provisions in Ka-ur. Weird (Tangaroa) and Seb stayed on the boats and the rest of us took a rickety donkey cart into town where luckily it was market day. The dirt streets were lined with small stalls each with a squatting proprietor selling their wares. We were able to procure potatoes, onions, cherry tomatoes, a pumpkin, watermelon and two kilos of limes for limeade.

The water in the river changed to fresh water around Mandory creek and in fresh water there are many more persistent creepy crawly bugs. The least pleasant are the millions of tiny black bugs that are able to penetrate our layers of mosquito netting. Seemingly harmless but irritating. When we leave our anchor light on at night, bats fly around collecting the bugs and we find little brown poops on our deck the next morning. Yuck! We’ve been going to bed at 2030 just after the monkeys as we do not want any lights on inside to attract them.

River becomes narrower above Kantuar and the foliage is more varied than the mangroves. Baobabs, palm trees and reeds filled with ibis, pelicans, storks, flamingos, and eagles and other enormous birds of prey. We were sadly lacking a good bird book for the area and I would strongly recommend anyone visiting The Gambia to include this in their luggage as the birdlife is amazing. This wall of trees is interspersed with small sandy bits that look like perfect places for crocodiles – we keep our eyes peeled and have seen several crocs and a huge lizard.

We reached Georgetown, our turning point on the river, on November 13th. For the next 6 weeks we will be only travelling west, until Suriname! Georgetown is one of the more touristy places we encountered in The Gambia. We were met at the dock by several people that wanted to ‘help’ show us around. They were extremely persistent and sometimes difficult to discourage. In the local market we bought fresh bread and canned drinks. We were also able to obtain 80 litres of fresh water for showering and washing-up. This reserve is kept in plastic cans on the deck as we are not comfortable enough with the water quality to put it into our tanks.

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