‘The Twins’ become ‘The Ally Cat’
December 27th, 2012 – Njuen-Gulumbu-Genoto, Senegal – Distance paddled to-date: 245.41km
The conversion of ‘The Twins’ begins – Gulumbu, Senegal
And we’re off! Helen films the inaugural voyage of ‘The Ally Cat’
More river photo stories to come soon…as our River Gambia Expedition continues into 2013
Thanks as always for stopping by
Next up: crossing the ‘border’ into The Gambia – without even realising it!
P.S. if you are in NYC next Tuesday 14th May, we are presenting a slideshow of our River Gambia journey at Foto Care. Please click on this link for all the details
‘Fonyato domanding’ – a West Africa mandinka phrase – roughly translates as: ‘see you next time‘
Friday 21st December 2012 – Bantaco – Mako. Total paddling distance to-date: 105.73km River Gambia Expedition
We left the main gold mines behind this morning and headed towards the small ‘urban’ town of Mako, centered around an arterial road, on one of the main highways in Senegal – the Trans Gambia Highway. We’d stopped in Mako, for a cold drink, on our way to Labé, just under a month ago – which, at times, often feels much more like two months, considering what we’ve squeezed into our journey so far.
Whilst paddling, on route to Mako, we had a too-close-for-comfort encounter with a rather mammoth mammal – and a very pissed-off one at that: a hippo. After waiting on the rocks for over an hour – for the hippo to let us pass – and then hugging the river bank, paddling ‘donding, donding’ (slowly, slowly), we made it to Mako – and the safety of hippo-free terra firma. For the time being, at least.
After scouting around, a local man kindly offered us the ground just outside his compound, to make our campsite for the night. It was right near to the riverbank, with an epically tantalizing view of Niokolo Koba National Park - frustratingly, after months of trying, we still hadn’t been given the go-ahead by the park director to paddle our canoes through the park. So, tomorrow morning, after packing our two Ally 811 canoes into their backpacks, we would be taking local transport for 134km’s to Wassadou – where we planned to spend Christmas and a couple of days of much-needed rest.
Saturday 22nd December 2012 – preparing to leave Mako
First things first – get the Kelly Kettle on!
Today we sadly and reluctantly say ‘fonyato’ – or au revoir – to Yousef. As much as we tried to persuade him to carry onto Banjul, The Gambia, with us he needed to get back to his wife and family in Kedougou. Yousef has not only caught fish for us along the way but he’s given us all a crash course in how to deal with hippos – catapults and posturing aside! – which, had we not happened open him a week ago in Kedougou (another of the many serendipitous moments we have had and will continue to have on this journey), we feel sure we may have quite possibly ended up in the River Gambia, manically swimming for shore and for our lives, after being rammed and capsized by a pissed off hippo! However, even he took a chance or two along the way, all in the name of saving a water container
And, it’s goodbye to the River Gambia, for the next few days. We’ll miss you -but not the hippos!
And so, we move onto the next stage of our journey. This time, we head up the road towards Wassadou. Most of the route is through the Niokolo Koba National Park – so at least we get to see it – just not, unfortunately, from our canoes. The plan is to spend Christmas in Wassadou – there is a lodge there that we read about – however, best laid plans and all…
More on that coming soon.
Thanks, as always, for stopping by. We hope you are enjoying the journey – as much as we are, reliving it.
The Florios (H & Flo)
Next up: Merry *&%$##* Christmas!!
To see more of Jason Florio’s series of images – ‘River Gambia’ – from the expedition, please visit floriophoto.com
Diagabou village, The Gambia, West Africa
This little boy in the fur coat was the son of alkalo Bakary Dabo, the village chief. On the morning we were leaving, he had followed Florio and Ebou, when they returned from the village, with his friend in tow, to say goodbye. They vied for Florio’s attention with the camera.
I think both of them shine, in their own way…
Thanks for stopping by
Helen & Florio
17th December: Sila Kounda – Djinji, Senegal. 26.06km
“This paddle is mine – look it’s even got my name on it!“. And that’s exactly what I had to do – write my name on the bloody thing!
Ok…so this side was a thank you to one of our donors (thanks, Suzy Peters, Hampstead Village, London, UK – it did the job!). My name is on the other side – honestly.
Yesterday, our first day on the river, because we had an extra man for seven days (Yousef, our Malian fisherman/guide), I agreed with Florio to do some filming, instead of paddling. But, I would definitely be paddling each day – it was a given, as far as I was concerned. Not so, it seems, with our team mates and Yousef.
The conversation with River Gambia Expedition team member, Ebou, and Yousef this morning, when I picked up the paddle, as we headed out for the river:
Yousef: “Non, non!” and then some rapid-fire Bamabara, jumbled up with Mandinka, directed at Ebou (Ebou even admitted he had problems understanding Yousef sometimes – as he switched fluidly from Bambara to Mandinka in one sentence).
Me: “Abdou has to use his paddle – I need to paddle today”. After trying our aluminium TNP paddles on the river from Kedougou yesterday, he had quickly reverted back to the traditional wooden paddle he had brought with him from The Gambia. So, why would it be a problem?
Florio: “It’s ok, H, we can take turns with my paddle”
Me: ‘No! I want to paddle – just like everyone else on this journey! This is not open for discussion, guys” – i.e. don’t treat me like the only muso (woman) that I am on the team. “I do not want to fight with you, to use my own paddle!“. Besides, it’s got my name on it – now. Albeit hastily scribbled on it this morning with my Sharpie.
More rapid-fire conversation between Ebou and Yousef.
Ebou: “Yousef said that the (TNP) paddles are better for going through the fast water”
Me: “But what would you normally use – you didn’t have these paddles before?” Answer that one and stay fashionable, Ebou. “Also, Abdou didn’t like using them before and now suddenly he seemingly can’t paddle without it?!”
Ebou: “Yes, but Yousef said that they are better”
Me: “Again, what would you normally use?“
Ebou – stalwart as ever: “But they are better”
There is no arguing with these guys, I thought, as I climbed into the canoe with my paddle (marked with my name – a petty victory, perhaps) and Abdou climbed into the other, with his. He didn’t appear to be too perturbed by using his own paddle (see following photo). It was more about muso’s don’t paddle – i.e. it’s a man’s job as far as they were concerned. But then I could argue about all the female fisher women you see on the river…the predominantly female oyster collectors in the balongs …however, it just wouldn’t be worth the hassle – deaf ears, and all that. They simply couldn’t comprehend that I, a toubab muso at that, actually wanted to paddle. This was going to be a long journey…
On our arrival at Djinji village, we were told by the woman washing her corn in the River Gambia, that sadly the village chief’s brother had passed away and the whole village was in mourning. As with our 2009 expedition - A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – we were using the traditional method of ‘Silafando’ when meeting with the village chief. At first, we thought that perhaps we should paddle on a little further, to the next village, so as not disturb the chief. However, Abdou seemed to think that we should carry on up to the village, pay our respects, and take it from there.
We went to meet the chief, presented the Silafando – kola nuts – and, despite his very recent bereavement, he kindly welcomed us into the village. People were arriving from villages all around the area, to pay their respects and prey – the chiefs compound was getting decidedly crowded. Due to the village being in mourning, the school was closed, so the school headmaster suggested that we camp in the school yard.
Meeting with the old blind chef de village of Djinji
Coming next…more hanging out in the gold mines, near to the River Gambia, in Senegal.
Thanks as always for stopping by
The Helen & Florio
‘River Gambia Expedition 2012 – 1000km source to sea Africa odyssey’ team thanks all our product sponsors, backers and collaborators for all their unprecedented support and product donations. We are extremely grateful and thankful.
Today’s shout out goes to Kelly Kettle – this little beauty was a life saver…we Brits love our tea! Also, because you can burn any old bits of dry twigs and grass to boil the water it meant that this time, we didn’t have to use kembo (charcoal – from trees which more all too often purposely chopped down for burning) – used all the time in West Africa to make fires.
In the future, our expedition gear check list will not be complete without a Kelly Kettle!
Check these guys out – Kelly Kettle
‘Kelly Kettle® essential Camping equipment for the Outdoors. [for Scouts, Fishing, Picnics, Disaster Kits, etc. Order yours now!] ‘Kelly Kettle … and West Africa adventures too! Thanks Patrick and Seamus Kelly for all your support for the River Gambia Expedition - we’re not quite sure what we would have done without our tea!
More ‘shout outs’ to come, for everyone else who backed us with product. Such as…
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!
PLEDGE MADE – NO LONGER AVAILABLE: Knife#1 – ‘DPx Gear redefined the term “survival knife” with the DPx H•E•S•T. Now the Hostile Environment Field Tool takes our survival concept bigger, harder and longer.
The DPx HEST has a stouter, bolder, four inch brother in 0.19” thick patented German Lohmann Niolox 1.4153.03 stainless, high-performance blade steel cryo-hardened to 61 HRC. This trusted companion deep in the woods delivers more punch in an open use environment or where the pry bar and concealed use of the HEST is not as critical.’ dpgear.com
We have three DPx Gear knives on offer, with huge thanks to one of our River Gambia Expedition sponsors and collaborator’s, Robert Young Pelton : ‘film-maker, journalist, adventurer and geopolitical pundit‘. RYP has made numerous expeditions and covered most of the world’s conflicts for the past 20 years. Founder of DPx Gear – ‘equipment for hostile and deadly environments’ – and author of ‘The Worlds Most Dangerous Places‘ and ‘Come Back Alive‘, and ‘Licensed to Kill – Hired Guns and the War on Terror’.
Knife#2 – ‘The DPx H•E•S•T or Hostile Environment Survival Tool™ is the knife that started it all… the original, brutal-use everyday carry fixed survival blade. Made in America, used worldwide.
The DPx HEST Original changed the way professionals think of a survival blade. It had to be with you to be useful, and it couldn’t fail when deployed. The HEST features an “over built” blade crafted from high-carbon 1095 hardened and tempered steel that delivers a 57-58 Rockwell hardness. A material that stands up to abuse and still takes quick strops in the field.’ dpgear.com
PLEDGE MADE – NO LONGER AVAILABLE Knife#3 – ‘The DPx HEST/F(folding) 2.0 is a German D2 tool steel folder mated to a U.S. made titanium alloy frame with a durable American G10 scale assembled by the crafstmen at LionSTEEL(R) in Northern Italy. The HEST/F was developed as the direct folding version of the HEST fixed blade knife and was dubbed the 2.0 because there were a number of significant modifications made to the original design of this brutal use folder. The goal was to increase strength without adding weight and to directly address concerns about ease of opening, strength of lockup and usability.’ dpgear.com
In order to qualify for one of the above hand-made, precision, knives then here’s what you need to do – and, because we only have three, you need to be quick off the mark – strictly, first come, first served! To secure your choice of knife, you will need to pledge a certain *amount (details below) to our Kickstarter campaign – initially, by emailing email@example.com with your choice and promise to pledge.
PLUS, along with each knife, included in the stated pledge amount, will be a limited edition, signed, fine art photography print from River Gambia Expedition co-leader, and award-winning photographer, Jason Florio - from a series he will take whilst in the forthcoming journey.
*All the knives are below the manufacturer’s – DPx Gear – recommended retail price and the 8×10″ prints are usually a minimum of a $100 pledge on Kickstarter – basically, it’s a great deal!
- Knife#1 -DPx Gear HEFT 4 Woodsman + 8 x 10″ River Gambia Expedition print – Amount to be pledged to Kickstarter: $150.00 – UPDATE: Oct 1st – pledged for – no longer available. Sorry!
- Knife#2 – DPx HEST Original + 8 x 10″ River Gambia Expedition print – Amount to be pledged to Kickstarter: $120.00
- Knife#3 – DPx HEST/F 2.0 Olive Drab + 8 x 10″ River Gambia Expedition print – Amount to be pledged to Kickstarter: $150.00 UPDATE: Oct 1st – pledged for – no longer available. Sorry!
Again, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your choice of knife and then we’ll send you instructions on how to make your pledge to secure that choice. The sooner you make your pledge, the more chance you will have of getting on of the above knives.
PLEASE NOTE: due to shipping restrictions, this offer is ONLY available to residents, or citizens, within the USA. Sorry, to those of you outside the USA
Here are just a few of Jason Florio’s fine art photography prints, which were available for our donors to choose from, from our 2009 expedition – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’
Ok…get your skates on!
Jason & Helen – The Florios
[contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Website' type='url'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form]
Very shortly, we’ll be posting a fantastic offer…we’ll have just three DPx Gear knives to exchange for donations/pledges to our Kickstarter campaign. World adventurer, author and River Gambia Expedition collaborator (meet the team), Robert Young Pelton’s knives are second to none:
‘You work out there, hundreds of miles from help, pushing the limits of sanity, stamina and luck. Whether your world is combat, humanitarian, rescue, survival or hunting, it is where you will find DPx Gear. DPx Gear is designed for brutal use. Where there is no room for failure. Our knives are not just edged tools, they are designed and built to be hostile environment survival tools. The gear that you see revealed on this site will be the result of decades of “why don’t they….” and we did.’ DPx Gear
But, as mentioned, we will have just three of these hand-crafted beauties…so, all you adventurers and intrepid explorers of the world, first come, first served! If you want to be notified of when we post the actual offer – to get in there with a chance – then sign up here on the blog (see the right hand column – ‘follow us please – come on board’). Or, follow our River Gambia Expedition Facebook page
Post coming very, very soon!
We just this minute took delivery of two Kelly Kettle Base Camp Sets. So, its with HUGE thanks to Patrick Kelly and the guys over in Ballina, Co. Mayo, Ireland, for their support – and faith in what we are doing. And, as with all our product sponsors, we’ll be providing the Kelly Kettle Company with professional images of their product in use, and promoting them here on the blog, FB, Twitter etc. when we are on the forthcoming River Gambia Expedition
“Have a GREAT trip! What an adventure that will be!” Patrick Kelly – Kelly Kettle Company Director & Co-Founder
We are absolutely thrilled to have the ingenious little gadgets for the expedition – and another thing, with thanks to companies like the Kelly Kettle Company, to tick off our now-not-so-lengthy ‘Wish List’!
‘Kelly Kettle® essential Camping equipment for the Outdoors. [for Scouts, Fishing, Picnics, Disaster Kits, etc. ...'
It also means we won't be burning charcoal ('kembo' - Mandinka word) on the expedition either, to cook and boil water, when we get down to West Africa this time. With the Kelly Kettle, we can use dry grass, paper, and bits of twigs to get it going - altogether much kinder on the environment. And, the kettles are super light weight, compact and durable - which is essential, as we will need to account for every ounce we carry, when we are trekking and canoeing our way along the course of the River Gambia.
Kettle Height ....... 34cm / 13 inches (packed)
Kettle Diameter....18.7cm / 7.4 inches (widest point at rim of fire base)
Kettle Capacity.....2.6 Pints (UK)/ 1.5ltr
Total Kit Weight....3.49lb / 1.58kg
We'll be unleashing the little beauties from their bags shortly, to test out the 'Kettles...more images to come soon, of these fantastic gadgets in action!
Thanks, as always for stopping by.
The Florios (Helen & Flo)