I made it! I am on the smiling coast of Africa! And now it is not just the coast that is smiling, but there is a huge grin on my face, too. When I arrived at Banjul Airport, I was welcomed by Pa Modou, Kebba and Spider – all of them undaunted by the fact that it was 2:30 a.m. The team was finally united and I received hugs and big smiles. We made our way to the Lebato Hotel where I had a shower (OMG, what an amazing feeling!) and then fell into bed for a badly needed rest.
Now it is Saturday and I slept until noon. Pa Modou was waiting for me in one of the gazebos by the beach where we had a great lunch. Plasas was my first West African meal – a delicious mix of rice and fish. There is a strong breeze blowing and the sound of the waves crashing and palm leaves rustling in the wind were the music that accompanied my meal.
While we were hanging out, much to my surprise a woman came over to ask me if I was Andrea. It turned out to be Janine, with whom I had been in contact via Twitter. Janine and her boyfriend teach for the Peace Corps up country and had to come to town for a work engagement. They had been worried about missing my run through Basse as a result of this, yet here we were, staying at the same hotel. We exchanged cell numbers and Janine will mobilize the school to come out and cheer me on when I run past, as they are located right along the South Bank Road. The promise of stickers is sure to get the kids out in full force and I really look forward to seeing them!
After lunch, we were joined by Kebba, Spider and Jane, Spider’s wife. Kebba brought me a delicious, juicy mango and Pa gave me a hand-made Gambian bracelet on behalf of the team. The bracelet has my name on it and is the same that I will bring home for our amazing Team Love4Gambia runners who raised more than $200 for our team.
I had brought our cool team shirts for the guys – each customized with their name on the sleeve. These awesome shirts were designed by my friend Diane of Dirty Runner Productions and the team was totally thrilled to receive them.
Jane and I went for a swim in the ocean and jumped through the high waves. I never thought the Atlantic could be so warm! Hard to imagine this is the same ocean that hits the shores of Nova Scotia.
The guys were a bit tired from their late night trip to the airport, so left sometime in the afternoon to rest up and to spend time with their families before our departure tomorrow. I got comfortable in one of the hammocks on the beach, closed my eyes and listened to the ocean. Ahhh, life is good! Then I went for a walk on the beach to stretch the legs a little and to shoot some photos.
Kids were scrambling over the rocks catching crabs, some folks had set up a speaker and boom box and enjoyed a day at the beach, and a group of guys was playing soccer – a sport that Gambians are absolutely nuts about. I met lots of locals strolling along the beach and also my fair share of ex-patriots. Among them a former Algerian diplomat who was out walking the beach with his parrot, which gladly came to sit on my finger and sought shelter from the wind against my chest.
Later, I went back to the Lebato Hotel’s restaurant to have dinner and to watch the Euro Cup soccer game with a group of locals and a crowd of Europeans representing many of the teams in the cup. This made for interesting discussions and game speculation.
Now, I am starting to get eaten by the mosquitos and fatigue is taking over. I think it’s time to head to bed. We plan to leave for Koina tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. and a good night’s sleep will be important before the drive up country and the start of the run on Monday.
All in all a fantastic day and it is so great to be here! Best from Banjul!