#Love4Gambia – March 9 Update

#Love4Gambia – March 9 Update

We decided to start even earlier to avoid the heat. The Tendeba Camp manager, Modou, very kindly got up to make sure we could have omelets, bread, tea and coffee at 5am. By 5:45am, under a dark pre-dawn sky, we took off, aided by two headlamps and the high beams of the Nissan van. We rode like crazy over the first hour and covered 18 km. This was the first time I actually felt a cooling breeze on my chest. After that we rode, stopped, talked to students on their way to school, handed out Canadian flag pins and took photographs. Pa Modou video-interviewed us while we were riding (to be uploaded once we have decent bandwidth) and we covered our 50km by 9:30am! We went to Pa Modou’s family home in Soma and were served perhaps the most delicious chicken I have ever had. Pa Modou’s sister, Ndey Amie, stuffed chicken quarters with greens and spices, covered the chicken with bread crumbs, then deep fried them. Scrumptious!! One of the advantages of riding 50km/day in the heat is one can indulge in deep fried foods guilt free and with impunity (or so I hope!). Luke and Pa Modou gave a football & T-shirts to the neighbourhood kids and had a game of pick-up football. Luke and I also bravely endured a haircut executed by a teenager wielding a razor blade. Turned out okay and we retained all ears.

We then went back to Tendeba Lodge to endure the heat until sunset. 46 degrees! So far, the afternoons are the most difficult part of this journey. It’s hard to believe so many people around the world have to endure afternoon temperatures above 40 degrees for most the year.

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#Love4Gambia – March 8 Update

#Love4Gambia – March 8 Update

The group had breakfast at 5am, prepared by the very nice and flexible staff of the Annex Lodge in Jajanbureh. Joanne was in no shape to ride. She and I went back to bed while Sana, our driver, took Luke, Pa Moudu and Mario to our starting point about 35 minutes away. Sana then returned to get us at 8am and we rejoined the group by 9:30. Joanne was feeling better and wanted to ride. We agreed that if she could keep down 2 pieces of plain bread and a full bottle of water plus electrolytes, she could ride for the rest of the day’s 50km journey. She did so and took off on her bike. Quick recovery!  Given the rapid onset and resolution, she likely had food poisoning.

That afternoon, we drove to our resting place for the next three days, Tendeba Camp on the gentle River Gambia. The new cottages, where we stayed, were lovely and the Camp has the first swimming pool! After lunch of freshly caught whitefish, we struggled through 44 degree air to reach the respite of the 30 degree pool water. That evening we went into town to access the internet and have supper. Next door, half of the population of Soma (at least they cheered like they were half!) was watching the Barcelona-Paris Ste. Germaine football match and cheered when Barcelona won. I managed to upload 90 photographs before the internet slowed to a crawl, about the same time the match was over. I suspect that people switched from TV to social media! Back to camp and to bed.

 

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#Love4Gambia – March 7 Update – Rest Day!!

#Love4Gambia – March 7 Update

Rest Day!

This was a good plan; although we could have ridden today, we were clearly becoming more fatigued and a little sore. We had a leisurely breakfast that stretched to 10am; quite a luxury after 4:30am rousings followed by gulping down enough bread and peanut butter to keep us going through our morning runs. We then visited the most famous landmark of this island, the slave market. This was a key trading post in the awful slave trade saga that finally ended in the 19th century. Captured Africans were brought to the buildings along the banks of the River Gambia. They were held, often for weeks, until there were enough to fill ships going to the coast. Those who resisted were placed into a subterranean room smaller than an average classroom and with a 5 foot ceiling. Up to 50 people were placed into the room so cramped that no-one could stand and only a few lie down. Air and food were supplied through small windows near the ceiling. Only the strongest survived.

 

Trading started when the transport ships arrived. Male captives were sorted by weight and females by sexual attractiveness. Males exceeding 80 kg were sold. Lighter captives were given the opportunity to run to the ‘freedom tree’. If they could touch it, they were branded and freed. The obstacles to touching were a brigade of British soldiers and, if captives got past that, vicious dogs. Those that failed (almost all) were thrown into the river where they either drowned or eaten by crocodiles.

Many were complicit in this abominable trade, Arab, Portuguese, French and British traders and African tribes who had no difficulty arranging for enemy tribes-people to be captured. While officially banned in most countries, this blight on human morality still continues.

After that visit, we returned and remained quiet for most of the afternoon. That night we had a lovely meal of domoda, a spicy groundnut sauce highlighted by beef and potato cubes. By that time the power came on and we retired to air conditioned bliss until bedtime. Within an hour something in the food or water caught up with Joanne; by 9pm she was ill, which was unrelenting through until 2am. We then both slept fitfully until our 4:30am rise and shine time.

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#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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