Thursday 20th December 2013 – Paddling distance: 11.4km (total to-date: 83.65km) – River Gambia Expedition
A relatively short day’s paddling on the River Gambia today, as we wanted to stop and visit another gold mine in South Eastern Senegal. This stretch of the river is dotted with artisanal gold mines – which draw thousands of migrant workers from all over West Africa: Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Mali, and Senegal itself. All of them hoping to make their fortune. Whole families live in and around the mines, in makeshift villages (rather disconcertingly described as the ‘Wild West‘ of SE Senegal, during our pre-expedition research). All the mines we visited were understandably dusty, but this one, in particular, had an extremely fine, pink-hued, dust which got into absolutely everything. Even our tents, situated by the river – over 2 miles away from the mine itself – were covered in a fine film of the pale pink, talc-like dust. But, at least we could pack up our tents and leave the next day, washing away the dust. Many of those people whose lives revolve around the gold mines, for months and years in some cases, aren’t so lucky, as they inhale toxic fumes from the mercury – used to separate the gold from the rock dust. The mercury that isn’t inhaled settles into the environment – i.e. the pink dust that coats everything and everybody, at this mine.
We met the Senegalese version of a ‘Tolleh Kaafo‘ (silly people/village jokers). Most villages in The Gambia will have such a group, or person, in this case, and their purpose is to lighten up situations – laughing and joking around, when things get too serious. This guy was a real character, who seemed to have everything but an attayah teapot in his pockets!
More river stories to come…next stop Mako, with a couple of hippo encounters on the way!
As always, thanks for stopping by.
The Florios - H & Florio
To view Jason Florio latest series of images – River Gambia – please visit floriophoto.com