Love4Gambia On Wheels 2017

 The Love4Gambia On Wheels Team is heading out on February 28 to begin their over 400km journey! To learn more about the event, and how to support the team, check our post here!

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#Love4Gambia – Fundraising Update

#Love4Gambia – Fundraising Update

The Love4Gambia On Wheels team has currently raised 40% of their goal. They are still accepting donations until March 31, so there’s still time to contribute!

Visit our Canada Helps page here to donate!

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#Love4Gambia – March 15 Update – Last Day!

#Love4Gambia – March 15 Update – Last Day in The Gambia!

We leave tired, happy and sad. We’re also not particularly looking forward to the extended winter that awaits us in Halifax. Luke and Pa Modou are off to visit schools that they have provided with football (soccer) gear, which was given on the condition that the girls could use it too. We spent some time buying crafts that will be sold at the NSGA annual dinner.

It has been an amazing experience and I hope fun for all of you that are following this blog.  We are about halfway to reaching our goal of replacing our old van which, after Luke got his hands on it, looked like this! It’s back to the bionic runner for him!

So please help us reach our goal of $40,000 so we can transport our peer health educators and drama troupe members for the next 20 years. Check out our donation page here – we will be fundraising until March 31 so there is still time to contribute!

Best wishes, John LeBlanc, Joanne Langley and Luke MacDonald

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#Love4Gambia – March 14 Update – Last Bike Day!

#Love4Gambia – March 14 Update – Last Bike Day!

After a refreshing sleep, we had an excellent buffet breakfast consisting of delicious Gambian herbal teas, jams made from apple, cashews, and baobab and a delicious omelette. Joanne went for a swim in the ocean before coming to breakfast. I must say it is nice to be spoiled a little in an ocean-side resort after our arduous week. Our final 25 km started at the comfortable time of 9:30am instead of the usual 6am, allowing us to miss the worst of the traffic. On this final leg, we were joined by the executive secretary of the Gambian Cycling Association, a couple of other riders, two motorcyclists and of great value, 3 paramedics from the Gambian Red Cross who rode along behind us in their ambulance. We therefore formed a convoy led by the NSGA van followed by cyclists with motorcycles on our sides for protection and trailed by the ambulance, which provided a critical buffer against the cars and trucks that did not appreciate cyclists owning the road. We into the capital city of Banjul, stopped to touch the July 22nd Arch monument and prepared for the last km. down Independence Drive. Luke got off his bionic runner, I got on it and the others continued on their bikes. Luke easily outran me but I’m proud to say that I rode for 1 km to the edge of the Atlantic Ocean without falling off or getting a heart attack!

  

We then stood together holding hands facing the ocean that we cycled 425 to reach and then ran into the ocean with our gear on! Pictures were taken and we did interviews with the press. After that we went to the NSGA office for a closing ceremony followed by a meal. I should point out that we were still in our wet biking gear and sticky with salt! The NSGA staff were very proud of our accomplishment and invited the media and various officials to our closing ceremony. We then said goodbye to our new friend and guardian, Mario, for keeping us safe and our bikes maintained for the week.

 

Immediately after, we proceeded to St. Theresa’s basic primary school, a beneficiary of the Father Tony Pa Modou Solar Hub Projects’s charity organization. They have installed a water tower, solar panels, repaired the library and provided electronic equipment to the school. The head mistress was a strict self-confident woman who spoke frankly and kept her 70 teachers and 2500 students in line. Luke the pied piper gathered school children all around him, engaged them in conversation and then raced them up and down the football pitch. This distinct Catholic school had about 60% Christian and 40% Muslim students and had both Christian and Quranic instructors, quite a remarkable mix that I don’t think we’ll see in North America or Europe for some time to come.

After that we returned to our hotel for an invigorating ocean swim and rest before our dinner with the head Rotarian of the Gambia. We’re not getting a lot of downtime here and Luke and Pa Modou are getting even less!

Subscribe to our page to get all of our updates, and visit here to donate! Fundraising is still open until March 31!

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#Love4Gambia – March 13 Update

#Love4Gambia – March 13 Update

Later start today; the hotel made us a nice packed breakfast but wouldn’t provide it before 5:30am. We snuck into the breakfast buffet and grabbed some porridge, bread and fruit before the staff reminded us that the buffet wasn’t open yet! We drove through bustling early morning food markets and bus depots until we got out of the city and reached the quiet village where we disembarked yesterday. We set off with Luke sporting an SJ-cam on top of his helmet. He spoke into the air non-stop-riding his bionic runner; it must have been quite a spectacle for Gambian passersby!

At 9:30am a man invited us into his compound for breakfast as we stopped for a water break. We thanked him, declined breakfast but stopped in to see greet him and his family. His wife brought out a beautiful one-month old twin girl and then brought out the other twin. This poor baby had a very large head because the fluid naturally produced in the brain had no place to drain to, a condition called hydrocephalus. She also had a defective lower spine and spinal column, a condition called spina bifida or meningomyeocele. They showed us her medical records; this was correctly identified at birth. Unfortunately, the treatment can only be done by a neurosurgeon so they were sent home. Fortunately Pa Modou is a member of an NGO, Funds for Hope, that arranges for care for children in dire need; he will raise this baby’s situation this week with the organization to see if there’s any way they can help.

The environs changed from rural to suburban. The vehicles became more common and less concerned with our safety, sometimes within a metre of us and sometimes one on the right shoulder while another passes by on the road to our left! Big trucks spewed black smoke so voluminous we could not avoid inhaling it even after holding our breath. Our eyes were on the road all the time and Mario made sure we stayed close the shoulder. We reached our 50 km destination and stopped, relieved that we had survived the traffic. Today was not the pleasant ride through rural Gambia. Our reward was a swim in the ocean and a nice lunch.

Afterwards, Pa Modou Sarr of the NSGA, Luke, Joanne and I went to AfriRadio 107.6 FM to the interviewed on the “Chillzone” by Danny Constant and Mariama Colley. These two dynamic Gambians host this popular afternoon show of music and talk. We had a lively discussion about the Love4Gambia campaign, engaging Gambian youth in society, and important topics for youth including prevention of HIV/AIDS, healthy relationships and issues of consent around sexuality. We could tell that Pa Modou is clearly seen as a youth leader in this country, and were very impressed by the engagement of these three young Gambians in issues of such importance to the country.

 

We then went to an African restaurant, famous for its domoda (meat stew with a groundnut sauce), had a tasty meal then went back to the hotel.

Subscribe to our page to get all of our updates, and visit here to donate! Fundraising is still open until March 31!

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#Love4Gambia – March 12 Update

#Love4Gambia – March 12 Update

A full moon lit the 4:30am sky; the still air was refreshingly cool. We had breakfast by the light of several smartphones; they could not start the generator so no lights, no fans. Thank goodness for smartphone flashlights. Because we had to pack in the dark we were delayed. Still we were cycling by 6:35am. The sky was dark with the full moon ahead and the gleaming behind. We again had a lovely ride on the cool dark tarmac and watched the sky lighten over the next hour. The moon did not set; it gradually disappeared into the haze above the horizon as the sun emerged from the eastern haze.

 

Luke pushed us hard, doing 5km laps very 15 minutes with a short water break. I kept up for 40 km and decided to slow down and enjoy the last 10 km greeting people and looking at the scenery. We saw novel businesses including the hair salon “Million of Stars; Home of Beauty” and the barber shop “Jack’s Barbing Saloon”. Canadian businesses should be this imaginative! We then piled into the vehicle and drove past the technology campus of University of the Gambia and soon found ourselves in 3G bliss!

On our way to our new hotel; looking forward to a swim and a nap.

Joanne and I swam in the ocean! Gambia has some of the loveliest beaches in the world! Miles of soft sand and beautiful waves. That evening we reunited with old friends from our first trip in 2012 while Pa and Luke went to vist Pa’s old friend, Pandy, who will be taking some photos and video of our last day. More on that tomorrow.

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#Love4Gambia – March 11 – Rest Day 2

#Love4Gambia – March 11 – Rest Day 2

And another day ends with a sunset over The Gambia river. Back to bicycling tomorrow- up at 430 to hit the road by 6 am-ish. That way we get an hour of biking before sunrise. Thank goodness LukeMacDonald has fancy-schmancy helmet lights and there is a van behind us

– Joanne

 

Although we had the luxury of sleeping in, I awoke at my usual 5:30. The air was palpably cool! I haven’t seen a thermometer here (who needs it?) but the smartphone weather app stated the low temperature in nearby Soma was 18 degrees and I believe it. I also had a marginal 2G connection so I did emails for an hour. Seems to be better in the am.

 

Our team had a novel breakfast of pre-packaged egg noodles garnished with sardines and a side of spam. Not to my liking so out came the peanut butter. After breakfast, we went on a spectacular adventure; a boat ride across the Gambia River to the north side then up a meandering wide creek graced with gorgeous birds. They objected to our presence by gracefully flying away. We’ll post some photographs. We saw 27 different birds including pink-backed pelicans, the African darter with its snake-like neck, the goliath and squacco herons, the Harrier hawk, the white-throated bee-eater, the rose-ringed parakeet and the whimbrel. Note to future travellers: bring binoculars and a camera with a telephoto lens; a smartphone won’t cut it. Our three-hour excursion ended with children asking us for money for sweets but receiving Canada pins instead. They seemed placated but then again, Gambians are very polite. We swam, had lunch and caught up on various tasks including preparation for a major media upload once we find a 3G connection. If you see new pictures today, then you’ll know we succeeded!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the evening we went into Soma for our marathon social media session. Everyone had their smartphones out, updating Facebook and Twitter, and Joanne and I had our Macs out so we could update our email and Dropbox folders (imagine me, a Windows fanboy, saying I have a Mac!). We had a gigabyte of video to upload and 2-3 gigabytes of photos, and that’s after compressing them. It was too much for even the mobile 3G session so we had to try something different. I went to a shop called Gamcell, which has a bunch of computers hardwired to the internet. I stuck in a flash drive, copied the files to the desktop, started an uploading program (Chrome extension Speed Uploader) and went to supper. One hour later, I went back to the shop to find out that some boys had logged me out. I gave the attendant 50 dalasis (usual rate is 20 Dal/hr), asked him to leave the computer on all night and left. We drove back, exhausted by our four hour internet ordeal and went to bed, except for Sana and Mario who packed the van so we could have an early start.

– John

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#Love4Gambia – March 10 Update

#Love4Gambia – March 10 Update

Up at 4:30, quick shower by the light of a smartphone then to a delicious breakfast of fried eggs and pita bread. I finally found a use for chocolate bars that melted and hardened several times on this trip: add to Java Blend drip coffee plus hot milk. Delicious! We drove out the gate @ 5:45am and are heading to our last stopping point to start today’s 50km trek. We’ve got a daily rhythm now. We are greeted only by goats and a few sleepy policemen at the regular checkpoints. Gorgeous night with an almost full moon.

  

A personal best! 61 km in 3’ 45”. I felt I could keep going but the team made me stop. Still, I could barely keep up with Luke who did the same distance on his bionic runner. He did his last 5 km in 13’ 01”, a personal best in 30 degree heat (his personal best is 12’30”). Joanne did 54 km and could have kept going. As always, Mario kept us safe by making sure we didn’t over-exert ourselves or wander all over the road. We are now going back to the camp to face the afternoon sun. Should be a breeze though compared to yesterday; temp is only going up to 41. Good thing I brought a sweater!

– John

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