My apologies for the delay in posting this blog. So many great things have happened since I last wrote. I’ll start from the day after I posted my last blog post.
I am nervous as the day progresses on my first rest day of the run (Friday June 13th). I know the naming ceremony will be happening and I don’t know what to expect. The guys assure me that it will be great.
After 5:20 pm, it is time for me to take my place on a large mat on the ground. Around me are people from the hotel where I am lodged, Bintou’s Paradise Lodge. There are many kids from the neighborhood. There’s a older woman playing percussion with two wooden sticks on a large plastic container. There’s another woman next to her and she is using the top of a cooking pot on a wooden pestle. Together they keep the beat and sing along. The women who work at the lodge take turns dancing in the traditional Gambian way. It is a sight to see.
Eventually, Yankuba joins in. He sure can dance! And later, Spider joins in – another great dancer!
More and more kids are gathered around. I ask them to come join me on the mat. I’m not comfortable sitting by myself. A few come at first, then more and more join in. Most want to sit right next to me and touch me. I shake their hands repeatedly as they keep putting their hands out.
The owners of the lodge, Ebrima and Bintou are on their way. They are delayed due to two flat tires on their drive back to the lodge.
I am asked several times to dance. I oblige but am not comfortable with the idea, but I decide to just go with it and have fun. It’s great! And the locals seem pleased by my participation.
Yankuba makes THE speech. Time to find out what my Gambian name will be. He speaks and I don’t understand a word he says. He says a few funny things and the people laugh. Finally, he gives me my name: Ebrima. I am named after the owner of the lodge. I am very pleased to hear this as I’ve had several discussions with him and he is a very nice man.
Finally, Ebrima and Bintou arrive honking their horn as they drive through the compound doors. The kids and all of us run out to the car. People are singing and clapping. The guys tell Ebrima that they have named me after him. He is so pleased to hear it and give me a big handshake and a hug. I also get a hug from Bintou before we all head back to the main area.
There’s more dancing and fun. What a great evening!
After everyone leaves, Pa, Spider, Yankuba and myself have dinner by the Gambia river in the moonlight. It’s a full moon tonight.
There are a few fishermen just several metres from where we are. They are using nets to catch fish.
Time to go to bed and run the next morning bright and early.
I sleep well every night. My earplugs are my weapon of choice. I pop them in and sleep soundly.
The electricity in the lodge comes on at about 7 or 8 pm (never at the exact same time) and stays on till 2 am. That means I have air conditioning till 2 am. Every night I wake up at 3 am from the extreme heat in the room. The only thing separating me from the heat outside is the curtain between the bathroom (which has openings to the outside that I can’t close) and my room. Not very effective in keeping the heat and humidity out. Still, I manage to fall asleep again and wake up at 5:30 to get ready for the day’s run.
I pack up all my things as we are not returning to the lodge after my run for Day 6.
We drive out to the starting point and take a photo; our fingers indicating what run day it is.
Every day on my run, I’m cautious not to step on animal excrement. It’s everywhere. The farm animals roam freely.
And speaking of the animals, I see cows, goats, sheep, donkeys (I’ll forever associate their sound with the Gambia as I’d never heard that before coming here), dogs and chickens. Sometimes I have to run around them but it’s rare as they usually get out of the way.
I’ve seen many baboons this week but from a distance. They keep their distance from humans. I’ve also seen red monkeys, a few big rats run across the road, some squirrels, some wild boars.
I never tire of hearing the birds in the morning. There are so many colourful birds. I seek them out when I run along.
The smells along the way – I must talk about those. I can’t tell you how many times everyday I smell the distinct unpleasant odor of a rotting corps in the sun (a cow, dog, sheep, whatever). There’s also the smell of burning; either grass, wood, something toxic or simply charcoal for cooking food
I have to watch out for motorbikes and vehicles. Although they have plenty of room to go around, they insist on driving as close to me or whoever is running with me. Ridiculous, but it’s part of the daily routine. The other things these machines cause? Exhaust fumes! And some, a lot more than others. From diesel (or gas-oil as it is know here) to whatever else they are burning, some of it is black and toxic. I cover my face with my shirt when I encounter those.
This week, I totally depleted my candy stock. I still have stickers and pencils. I’ve been handing out all three to some very grateful children. I’ve also been handing out used 1.5 litre plastic water bottles. They are a hot commodity and are used and re-used for various things.
I have fun with my team. As we continue to advance daily to Banjul we bond more and more. I can honestly say that for me, they are my brothers from different mothers. We laugh a lot together.
We have decided that every day, it would be someone’s turn to be king for the day. We must all hail the king and be nice to the king. I would say that Pa is the most vengeful king and when his turn comes we must be on our best behaviours or else! Of course, it’s all in good fun!
In Jarreng, I have the pleasure of sleeping outside – with a mosquito net of course. The place has solar panels but they are no longer working, which means no fan and that means extreme heat in the room. We take the mattress’ off the beds and take them outside. I sleep very well. A first, I am told for a Love4Gambia runner.
We reach an important milestone this week; the halfway point! 212 km on Day 9.
On Friday June 20th, I was supposed to take a day off but decided to run that day. And so on day 12, I ran 25 kilometres. Having run on that day means that I’ve run 25 or more kilometres 7 days in a row; a first for me. Then again, this run across the Gambia is a run of many firsts for me.
Speaking of first, I think I can safely say that no one has run in the Gambia while wearing a kilt. Yes, that’s exactly what I did for the first 8 kms of the day on Day 12 and so did the team. They all took turns wearing the kilt and running 2 km. In Perth Ontario, I’ve participated in every edition of the kilt run and I didn’t want to miss it and so, I brought my kilt to Africa and ran it here.
We have a blast! The guys really get into it. Running through villages and seeing the people’s faces and reactions was priceless!
Today, June 21 is my second and last day of rest on this run. Gen and I talked a few days before and she decided, as a gift, that she would cover the cost at the Sindola hotel for the guys. The guys were very pleased to hear that and thanked Gen from the bottom of their hearts! We spend part of the day in the pool and enjoy our surroundings.
Tomorrow, I continue with the run. 5 days till Banjul. 119 kilometres left till we reach the ocean!