#Love4Gambia – March 6 Update

#Love4Gambia – March 6 Update

 We loaded up the van with bikes and luggage, left Basse for the last time and headed for Bansang, our most westerly point so far. Our thighs complained a bit on this third day of cycling but we got underway at a gentler pace. Fortunately, we only had 40 km to cover today and we were able to cover our distance by 10am. By then it was already steaming. Highlight of the bike trip: a troop of 50 baboons galloped across the highway on either side of our van. They are smaller than their East African cousins and a little more timid; they avoided us and the vehicle.

We backtracked to MacCarthy Island, famous for its slave museum. More on that tomorrow, our rest day.

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#Love4Gambia – March 5 Update

#Love4Gambia – Sunday 5 March

Today we had the good fortune to ride directly from our hotel rooms; no jam-packing five bikes helter skelter in the back of the van! We set out at the gleaming, taking advantage of every minute of bearable temperature. We also were now on tarmac, a thrill after yesterday’s punishing ride. By 6:45am we could see the road without headlamps and by 7:15am the sun was up. It was a glorious and fast ride and we exceeded our 50 km goal by 5 km, except for Joanne who, with a surplus of energy, kept going until the van caught up with her 6 km ahead and until she was alerted that she had gone too far. Luke worked the most, riding on his Run4 bionic runner, a bike designed for runners who can’t quite leave running behind. Impressive machine though it requires 60% more energy than a bicycle. This was a great handicap (as in golf) as it allowed me to keep up with this super athlete! Today I learned a lesson about hydration and drank 7 liters of water in 4 hours of riding. That was enough and the local groundnuts and bread at the 3 hour mark helped too.

We went back to our guest lodge to cool down (amazing that that is possible when the afternoon temperature is 42 degrees). We languished until lunch, served at 3pm, a delicious plate of flavoured rice, fish and cassava. We had the good fortune to meet The Gambia’s pre-eminent cora player, Jaliba Kuyateh, who stayed at our guest house after a concert last night. Afternoon electricity came on and we retreated to our rooms where the a/c unit struggled to drop the room temperature a couple of degrees. We ventured out at sunset.

 

The highlight of the evening was a visit to the “Nutrition without borders” malnutrition recovery centre. Fortunately there were only 5 pairs of mothers and malnourished toddlers, compared to the rainy season when they may have five times that many. The reasons for malnutrition are common to many African countries: short spacing between births leading to mother’s poor nutritional state, a reliance on ‘pap’ made solely of cassava, the staple root vegetable and one with few nutrients, protein or fat, recurrent illnesses such as diarrhea or pneumonia, and poverty that forces mothers to work in the fields and not stay home to take care of their sick babies when they get diarrhea.

 

This Gambian Centre for Nutrition Recovery and Education is part of “Nutrition without Borders”. They have excellent nurses, a nice facility, excellent packaged UNICEF products to help malnourished babies recover, and basic medicines to treat malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea. They weigh the babies twice daily and take their temperatures once a day. They are on top of things! The major barrier is not having the budget to feed the mothers, many of whom having to return home in order to eat or take care of their families. These mothers miss the opportunity of the very important dietetic education these mothers need to prevent recurrence. The staff and families were very happy to have visitors and welcomed us back.

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#Love4Gambia Photos From the Road

The #Love4Gambia team had a busy (and very hot!) weekend – here is a collection of photos from the road…

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Peer Health Training Visit

On March 3 the #Love4Gambia team visited a peer health educator training session, this session on tuberculosis control. The youth are in the midst of a 7 day training on various topics (malaria prevention, preventing sexual violence, healthy relationships, forced marriage, early marriage, etc). This workshop is held in the facilities of their neighbour, the Baha’iNational Centre.

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#Love4Gambia Day 2 on the road

#Love4Gambia photos from Day 2 on the road

 

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Love4Gambia First Day Update!

#Love4Gambia On Wheels teammate John LeBlanc with an update from the first day of the ride:

We’re off! It’s 5;45am, we are on a washboard dirt road on our way to the end of the country, Koina. We got up at 4:15am, had a breakfast of boiled eggs, peanut butter on Ryveeta and an orange and then assembled the bikes. We are riding in a van with the back seats removed to make room for the bikes, which are piled one on top of the other. I’m glad I brought an old bike!

The velvet sky is punctuated by stars, the big dipper is pointing  downwards and the North star is just above the horizon. The road is deserted  except for goats and a man on a bicycle who was transporting freshly baked bread to market. We bought five fresh loaves of delicious baguettes (called Tapalapa in Wolof, a Gambian language) and munched away as we veered from rut to rut.

Fifty km and 90 minutes later, we reached the border of Senegal, marked by a simple stone and completely open via an unsupervised dirt road. We stepped into Senegal (I can now add Senegal to my list of countries visited, even if for only 15 minutes!) then set up our bikes at the border marker for the trek back to Banjul.

 

We were off! I unfortunately had to stop after two minutes because my back tire kept bottoming out and hitting the rim. The others did fine and we soon reached Koina, about 2 km away. There we were able to buy a pump that worked better than our own and got all of our tire pressures up to par. Unfortunately, this set us back about 45 minutes and the sun was relentlessly climbing above the horizon, its rays becoming more intense by the minute.

The road condition varied from sand to hard-packed dirt, sometimes smooth, sometimes like a washboard. By 11am and about 30 km later, we were spent, baking and dehydrated. We headed back to Basse, disappointed that we hadn’t made our first 50 km goal but recognizing that our own health was more important.

Recovery was slow that day; it’s not easy to get back to normal in 42 degree C weather. We slept, talked and sweated until the temperature began to moderate into the mid-thirties by 5pm. We came alive! We ate supper and strolled around town buying supplies and chatting with people. Unlike our Canadian often cocooning culture, people mill the streets, greet each other and us warmly with “How are you? and chat over lingering meals. To bed at 10pm with alarms set for 4:30am.

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The Team has arrived!

Day 1 – March 2

The Love4Gambia On Wheels team has arrived! John, Luke, and Joanne met up with staff at the NSGA office for a press conference and to try out the bionic runners!

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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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Weekly Fundraising Totals

2017 Love4Gambia On Wheels

Weekly Fundraising Totals

Goal: $40,000

As of February 21, 2017: $4,000

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Meet the Love4Gambia On Wheels Team!

jj-on-cabot-trail-bike-rideJoanne Langley

Joanne is a paediatrician and passionate about the well-being of children and youth. She travelled to the Gambia in 2012 and saw first hand how the Nova Scotia Gambia Association is empowering young people to help their peers, speak articulately, and live healthier lives. She is excited about the challenge of bicycling the Gambia (in 30+ C degree heat). Joanne works at Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre http://bit.ly/2kRAQSM. A long term Haligonian, she loves bicycling and would like there to be bike lanes everywhere in Halifax. She is a mother of three beautiful young people and married to John.

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John LeBlanc

I’m a paediatrician at the IWK Health Centre and I have been on the Board of the NSGA since 2013. I wanted to contribute some way to fundraising for this remarkable group of Gambians but realized that the previous Love4Gambia challenges (running the length of the Gambia for 30 days!) was not for me. Biking seemed within reach though, and biking across the Gambia was born! I’m a little scared of biking 500 km or so in 35-40 degree temperatures but what the heck, I get to escape the Halifax February weather!

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Luke MacDonald

Luke MacDonald is the husband of Andrea, father of Bria & son of Rickey & Peggy. He works as a partner at Aerobics First with his specific role being community contectedness. Luke is a founder of The Youth Running Series (1996-present), Builder of Halifax’s Start2Finish/Running & Reading Programs (2007-present) as well as the driving force behind the global Sparks Fly Initiative (2011-present). Currently Luke is working on water projects in both The Gambia & Kenya. This is his first trip to Africa!

The Love4Gambia On Wheels team will also be accompanied by a support team from the NSGA Gambia office – many thanks in advance for all of the prep work they have been providing! You’ll get a chance to know them as well during our daily updates on the road.

 

 

 

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