This morning, we went to get an early start to try and beat the heat. We left the Gamtel house behind at 6:00 a.m. with our bags packed and headed into town for the usual errands of water, to boil water for my coffee, to buy ice and whatever else we may need for the day. Gatorade bottles were filled and mixed and off we went to the village where I had left off yesterday.
The villagers greeted us enthusiastically, particularly the man with whom we had talked for a while yesterday. He again gave me a mango and then had someone bring some sweet green tea. We spent some time talking and socializing. Then a man came over to join us and he showed us his knee. It was badly swollen and didn’t look good at all. He asked Pa Modou if this runner had some medicine for him. All I had was some Advil, which would not help him much. I asked if he had seen a doctor to which he replied that he did and that they had given him some medicine, but it hasn’t helped. There was not much I could do, but I gave him half my bottle of Advil and told him to take three each day – one in the morning, at noon and at night. I also gave him a block of ice and showed him how to ice the knee. I suggested he do this about five times a day. Not much of a prescription, but it was the best I could do.
Now it really was time to go if I wanted to beat the heat. The temperature was a bit lower today, not just because of the early hour, but also because of last night’s rain. I felt good and the kilometres kept ticking away. We also passed fewer villages today, so had fewer stops. Before I knew it, I was at the half way point running at a good pace. The sun started peaking out of the clouds from time to time letting me know what I was in for, once they cloud cover had burned off. I pushed on. My hydration was also working well today and I even managed to have some nutrition in the form of a Honey Stinger gel. All systems were still a go. But the day was heating up fast and the clouds were fast disappearing. What had been the occasional fresh breeze turned back into the kind of wind that felt like someone was pointing a gigantic hair dryer at my entire body. I started to suffer. Under a shady tree, I stopped and the team iced me down. Spider was rubbing ice cubes on my legs while Kebba poured cold water over me. After a brief stop, I continued.
Our next ice and Gatorade stop was at the entrance to a village and some children were playing outside. They were excited to see the toubab and we started talking. They all told me their names and those of the really little ones who were too small or too shy to talk. Then one of the girls brought over an infant to put on my lap. The baby was fine at first, but once it got a good look at me, started crying. This was not the first time an infant began to cry when I came near. They have likely never seen a toubab before and must be very frightened by my pale face.
There was also a butcher selling meat and the guys went to inspect the carcasses hanging from beams to pick up something to cook for our dinner. I left them to it and carried on. By now the heat was getting to me a lot and my progress was slower and I needed more ice stops. But eventually, after 2 hours and 54 minutes, 19 miles were done. I continued a few more meters to the shade of a big tree.
The guys jumped out of the truck and brought my sandals so I could get out of my shoes. Bottles of Gatorade also came out and then they put out some mats so I could lie on the ground and put my feet up against the tree to reverse the blood flow. Then I got an ice massage and more cold water was poured over me – the royal treatment. Following some rest and stretching, we drove on to Bansang. The run was done for another day and we had left the upper river region behind and were now in the central river area.
In the community of Bansang, we went to my accommodation, which is a lovely spot right by the Gambia River. Here I met our fantastic hosts – a couple who had lived in France for many years and spoke French, but little English. Their little daughter had a big splinter in her toe and I offered to remove it with my tweezers. The little girl looked scared and started to wiggle away, but her mom held her tight while I gripped her squirming toes and pulled out the big piece of wood. This resulted in crying, which intensified when I wiped the toe with an alcohol swab. I knew just what to do to get her to stop crying those big tears and pulled out a sheet of stickers. Instantly, the pain was forgotten and the stickers were examined, peeled off, stuck on her clothes and then back on the paper. She was completely absorbed in her task and then even allowed me to put some Polysporin on the toe.
I then settled into my room, which has a working shower and a fan. The power was still on when we arrived, so this was a bonus. The last room had a shower, but the hose was broken, so the water didn’t come out the top, but sprayed sideways from the hose directly above the faucet. To wash, I had to redirect the water stream with my hand and then contort my body to ensure I cleaned all of it. This was much better and I enjoyed the luxury. Once clean, I tended to my cuts and abrasions from the fall on day one and also to the big blisters that had formed on my right foot. Then I went back outside to sit in the shade by the river.
A twelve year old girl came by to sit with me and to chat. She asked me many questions about Canada and told me stories from her local area. We also talked about school and her favourite subjects. I went to my room to get her a pencil. She was thrilled! School supplies are much in demand and paper and pencils are a big expense for many Gambian parents who often have six or more children for all of whom they have to pay school fees, buy school uniforms and supplies. Gambian children usually write in really small letters in order to save paper and pencils. At one place in Basse, I saw a young girl sitting down to do her home work and noticed that she was writing with just the mine of a pen with the outside missing completely. The thin plastic tube that holds the ink was completely bent out of shape and was difficult to hold. She was struggling to write. The next day when we came by there, I made sure to bring some pencils and I gave her one.
Not long after my conversation with the young girl, the lady brought out my lunch. It was a delicious meal and I was starving! Now I was feeling ready for a nap, but before I had a chance, an older boy came by to talk to me. He was the step son of our hosts and told me that his father had just passed away in January. His mother and younger siblings live elsewhere and he came to live with his father’s brother where he helps around the guest house after school. Life is so hard for these children, but with even small gestures, we can make a difference. If you haven’t donated to Love4Gambia yet, please take a moment to make a donation, if you can!
I am now going to rest a bit and then the guys will drop by to pick me up. Spider is in charge of cooking tonight and later we plan to watch the soccer match. Fingers crossed the power will be back on by 6:30, so we can watch TV!
Thanks so much to all of you for the kind messages of support and encouragement. I don’t have internet access very often, so am not able to respond regularly. But please know that I read them and that they mean a lot to me. Keep them coming!
Love from Bansang!