We have so many more photos and road and river stories to share, from three months of travelling in three West African countries…stick with us
The Florios (‘H’ & ‘Flo’)
Next blog post: hanging out with the gold miners in Senegal
Our way of saying thanks to all those who made the River Gambia Expedition possible – with your participation in ‘An Exchange’ and the Kickstarter campaign. For that, we have been immensely humbled by your support and unprecedented generosity.
Thank you’s – all the way from West Africa!
BIG thanks – (see more here)
The Florios (H & Flo)
To those who don’t see their names on the ‘rolling page of HUGE thanks’, please bear with us as we sort through three months of images!
Sunday December 16th – Sila Kounda, Senegal – 21.45km
I’m going to skip back a day or two, from our first major hippo encounter, to when we arrived at the village of Sila Kounda, paddling the canoes from our initial jump off point for the river section, in Kedougou – on our River Gambia Expedition - with a little stopping and getting out along the way.
Sila Kounda village, as with most villages we would paddle to on the journey, was situated about 1km from the riverbank. At first, we talked about camping on the bank and then walking up to the village to get supplies. However, a group of small boys playing by the river, said that they would go and fetch a donkey and cart so that we could haul our gear, including the canoes to the village.
When we got up to the village, and introded ourselves to the chief, it was a choice between pitching our tents on the outskirts of the compound, on the village rubbish dump, or on the roof of the chief’s very large house. Where the hell do we put the tent pegs in a concrete floor? However, as you can see, we managed, with the help of a couple of Peli cases to weight down the tent.
Our view from the roof was the halal slaughtering of a huge cow. Apparently, someone from the village had just returned from The Hajj and a big celebration was underway. We watched as the cow’s throat was cut and its blood let to bleed into the ground around it. It fought hard, that cow. It took over 30 minutes to die – the whole time, moaning loudly, kicking out, and writhing around on the ground. It’s expansive chest heaving up and down. When it stilled, the man who’d cut its throat, approached the animal cautiously and yanked it’s tail – hard – I thought at first he was trying to pull it off! However, he was checking to see if it was dead. The big animal bucked out its hind legs, one more time, as the man almost fell over backwards, scrambling to get out of its way. Then, the cow went still – and stayed that way.
I knew then what would be in the family bowl that night for dinner…
After we’d made camp, we went back to see the old chief. Ninety nine years old with an active mind – and a roguish twinkle in his eyes – of that of a much younger man. He had been village chief for over 30 years – as had his grandfather before him – and, as cow-hide trader, he had travelled all over West Africa. Florio presented him with a handful of kola nuts – the traditional greeting to chiefs in West Africa: ‘Silafando’ – a gift to you on behalf of my journey – which we had used on our ‘Short Walk in the Gambian Bush’, in 2009.
We decided to spend a couple of days in the village because there was a gold mine, ’about 1km’ walk away, that we wanted to go and see. We set off, with the chief’s 12-year old grandson, Ibrahima, leading the way. Four kilometers and a tiny, barely-floating, dug-out canoe ride across the River Gambia later, we reached the mine…
Next up: hanging out with the gold miners of Senegal.
See you soon!
These images were taken, by Jason Florio, whilst on the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey’
From November 23rd 2012 – January 21st 2013, we travelled 1130km overland ,via motorcycles and local transport, before getting into our two canoes, onto the River Gambia – from the source of the river in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea-Conakry, on into Senegal, and then towards the the rivers end, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, Banjul, The Republic of The Gambia.
The River Gambia is one of Africa’s last major free-flowing undammed rivers…communities along its length rely on it for their very existence. With plans afoot to dam the river, we wanted to create a modern day account of the people who live and work along its banks – before construction of the dam begins and their lives are irreversibly changed.
To check out more thought-provoking images from Jason Florio, from the expedition, please visit his website
More to come very shortly…
Florio is updating his website as I write this…we’re reliving the journey, over and over, each day – looking through hundreds of images and updating this blog. Back here, in the city, it makes us both realise how much we miss living and sleeping outdoors, on the banks of the River Gambia, paddling along in our canoes each day…there is nothing really quite like West African skies. The staggeringly beautiful dawn, the fiery dusk, and so many stars vying for attention in the night skies.
Watch this space…as our River Gambia Expedition continues to reveal itself
The Florios (H & Flo)
For every single one of you who made the River Gambia Expedition possible…without your support, it would not have been possible for us to make the journey to document the lives of those who live and work along one of Africa’s last free-flowing major rivers: the River Gambia – all 1000km + of it!
And there’s more thanks here and many more to come very soon!
Big love and the utmost respect
Helen & Jason Florio x
‘You’re Always Active, Your Water Should be Too
Nuun is leading the way in portable hydration with three drink options to keep you refreshed all day, everyday. All three are ideal to help keep you hydrated and to make the most of the water you drink’ – Nuun
Big thanks to Sarah and all at Nuun for the package of hydration tablets and water bottles. We’re now stocked up with sugar-free, electrolyte-enhanced, tabs – in 3 tasty flovours: tri-berry, lemon & lime and lime tea – which will help to keep all the team hydrated throughout our River Gambia Expedition, whether we’re trekking in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea or canoeing up the River Gambia
More photo’s from ‘on-the-ground’ very soon…we fly down to The Gambia next week (16th Oct)!
The Florios (H & Florio)
As mentioned in a previous post, we now have a leaving date for the River Gambia Expedition – we fly down to The Gambia, West Africa, next week – at last (16th October – thanks to Jenny and Matt and all at The Gambia Experience for their support and much needed excess baggage allowance!)! And, this is mainly due to everyone’s support – through both ‘An Exchange’ and ‘Kickstarter’.
Since we reached our Kickstarter target the other day, we’ve had a number of emails asking if this means its too late the get hold of one of Jason Florio’s limited edition fine art photography prints – which will be taken from a series of images he will take whilst we are traversing over 1000km through Guinea, Senegal and The Gambia – trekking and canoeing – in and around the River Gambia?
In a word: No.
Firstly, the Kickstarter campaign does not end until the 15th October (so, you have 4 more days to pledge for ‘rewards’. Please see our KS page for all the details). Secondly, ‘An Exchange’ - here on the blog – will carry on until at least the 31st October (when the expedition proper will start – when we reach Guinea and the Fouta Djallon Highlands, to begin the first leg and 200km of trekking through that region). ‘An Exchange’ works pretty much like KS (except you donate through Paypal instead of KS/Amazon) – but, along with the forthcoming River Gambia Expedition series, you can also choose from Florio’s fine art gallery, from his Black & White and Colour Collection, of images he has taken, on his travels, from all over the world.
We’re particularly looking forward to posting about our arrival into The Gambia, when we meet up with our local Gambian team mates, old friends and experienced river men, Abdou and Ebu. From then, we’ll be last minute prepping – including introducing ‘The Twins’ (our two 811 Ally 16.5′ folding Canoes) to Abdou and Ebu.
It will be interesting to see what they think of these super-light craft, compared to their heavy, low-on-the-water, tradition dug out canoes (‘pirogues’). We’ve had some experience over the years, in The Gambia, paddling dug-outs on the Mandina balong, through Makasutu Culture Forest – made from a hollowed tree trunk, they can be very heavy and unwieldy indeed. To us, our Ally canoes virtually glide across the surface of the water! However, watching Abdou and Ebu paddling in their dug-out, and the ease (and many years of experience) with which they maneuver it, they make it look as if they are floating above the surface of the water!! Each to their own…
More updates as and when.
As always, thanks for stopping by…we hope that you continue to follow us on our journey (if you don’t want to miss our updates, simply add your email address in the box, in the right hand column, ‘Follow us…please’ and verify)
The Florios (‘Flo’ & ‘H’)