The ever curious kids of the Fouta Djallon Highlands – ‘Look, look! I am in the camera!’

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Helen – with her ever-present entourage © Jason Florio

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Helen – she is in there somewhere! © Jason Florio

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‘Can I see? Can I see?’ ! Florio has a instant audience © Helen Jones-Florio

Random photos of the day: November 2013 – ‘Look, look! I am in the camera!’ Habi squealed, as she looked at the screen on the camera. entertaining the kids in the Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry, whilst on the ‘River Gambia Expedition-1000km source-sea African odyssey’

For an update about our River Gambia journey (as of today-6/11/2013) please check out our recent blog post here

Shot from the hip-Jason Florio: boy playing with motorcycle tire on the streets of Labé, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea

 

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Boy playing with motor cycle tire on the streets of Labé – Fouta Djallon Highlands © Jason Florio

Taken whilst on the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey‘ – blog post: ‘Visit the beautiful Fouta Djallon Highlands …but be sure to take your own chiropractor!

For an update about the journey (as of today) please check out our blog post here

Tales from the River Gambia – reflecting on what’s gone by and what is to come…

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The River Gambia Expedition Route Map: 1044km (649 miles) from source to sea – 23rd November, 2012-21st January 2013. Three West African countries. One river.

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On the way to a BIG adventure – The Florios, Gatwick Airport, London-Banjul, The Gambia – Oct 2012

We actually began our journey when we arrived in The Gambia, West Africa, on a hot, sticky mid-October day, 2012, in anticipation of shortly afterwards receiving our container of gear – including a emergency stockpile of packet noodles and CLIF bars!) – which was being shipped down the Atlantic Ocean. We’ll be on the road, we thought, heading towards the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea-Conakry, by 21st-22nd October, at the latest, to find the source of the River Gambia. Or at least, that was the plan. One thing we should have learned by now, from past expedition experience (‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush-930km African odyssey‘, 2009), is that plans will always – always – change.

It wouldn’t be until nearly five weeks later that we would eventually give up on ever seeing our container again – after the shipping company finally admitted that they had no clue where it was and/or when it would turn up at the docks in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia! We had to make do with what we could scavenge together and get on our way.  Each week we were delayed could be problematic once we got into the River Gambia – as the river levels can fall very dramatically in places, resuting in us having to portage the canoes and our gear – more often than we would be paddling.

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Youtube: update from the Florios, Kartong, The Gambia, West Africa

We headed out, from The Gambia, on November 23rd, towards the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea – stopping in Kedougou, Senegal, on route, to drop off our canoes at a friends place. Thanks to Concern Universal for the lift across the border! From there, we took various modes of transport – a spine-juddering 24 hour drive, in an over-crammed (suspension-free – or so it felt!) Land Cruiser, up into the Highlands – to find the source of the River Gambia – on some of the worst ‘roads‘ in Africa. Calling them roads is actually a grand overstatement  – it’s more akin to rattling over the rockiest of river beds! However, in comparison to what we came back down the mountains on – on the back of moto-taxis – the ride in Land Cruiser was like cruising in a Rolls Royce Ghost!

We’ve covered a lot of ground, and river, since then and now we are back in our ‘other reality‘ of New York City, and the contrast couldn’t be more extreme. We’ve been working hard since our return, to get our story out there. Part of that work is to make the book. So…we need to fast forward a little, from our last blog post to the end of the journey, because there just aren’t enough hours in the day, days in the week, weeks in the month, to dedicate to both the blog and the book. Everything and more will be in the book anyway. We’ll be keeping you updated on here as to when we are ready to publish.

In the meantime, we hope that you have enjoyed – and continue to do so – the journey. Following is a snap-shot, if you will, of our travels on the River Gambia Expedition – please click on any of the hot-links, which will take you to the relevant posts, for more stories and images.

Traders. downtown Labe market, Guinea © Jason Florio

Traders. downtown Labé market, Guinea © Jason Florio

'Moto' boys - Labe, Guinea © Jason Florio

‘Moto’ boys – Labé, Guinea © Jason Florio

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Youtube: The Florios – update from the Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio. Blog entry

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The source of the River Gambia, Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea © Jason Florio

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The River Gambia Expedition team-Fouta Djallon Highlands

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On top of the world, ‘Dame de Mali, Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands © Jason Florio

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‘Ebu’ – Moto taxis, Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon © Jason Florio

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The expedition team’s transport down the mountain – Moto taxis – Fouta Djallon © Jason Florio

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One of the villages that will be displaced if the proposed dam is built on the River Gambia – Runda Barra, Senegal/Guinea border © Jason Florio

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The site of the proposed dam on the River Gambia at Runda Barra, Senegal/Guinea border © Jason Florio

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Team mate, Abdou, at the stern – early morning on River Gambia, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Youtube: Too close encounter with a hippo © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio – Blog post

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Vignette: life on the River Gambia Expedition

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Dead monkeys and Christmas night sleeping on a rock – River Gambia, Senegal © Jason Florio

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‘The Twins’ become ‘The Ally Cat’ - Gouloumbou, Senegal © Jason Florio

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People we met along the way: The boy in the ‘fur coat’ © Jason Florio

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Time for a swim – Helen hangs out with the kids of Karantaba, River Gambia © Jason Florio

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People we met along the way: Malian fisher woman, River Gambia © Jason Florio

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Bonto, River Gambia, The Gambia © Jason Florio

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People we met along the way: the photographer and the journalist, Bansang, The Gambia © Jason Florio

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Night hawkers, Gouloumbou, Senegal © Jason Florio

 

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People we met along the way: The boy with his pet monkey, River Gambia © Jason Florio

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People we met along the way: ‘Hawa’ rice field worker © Jason Florio

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People we met along the way: ‘Oyster collectors, The Gambia © Jason Florio

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Horses swimming across the River Gambia, Karantaba, The Gambia © Jason Florio

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People we met along the way: “The man on the pier’ at Bonto, River Gambia’ © Jason Florio

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The day before last – Helen, Ebou and Abdou, Bonto, The Gambia © Jason Florio

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The day before last – Jason Florio, Bonto, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

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The last image of the River Gambia Expedition: ‘The boy in the mask’ Mandinari, The Gambia © Jason Florio

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Mission Accomplished! Denton Bridge, at the Atlantic Ocean, The Gambia, West Africa

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JFK via London Gatwick – The Florios, post River Gambia Expedition – don’t we look happy to be back?! And we have our Peli UK case!

Thank you for coming on the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey‘. Its been quite a journey and we have more to come…please stay with us and we’ll keep you updated on the ‘River Gambia’ book – which will fill in all the blanks.

The Florios (Helen & Flo)

The ferry crossing across the River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa

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© Jason Florio

Random photo of the day: Car ferry crossing over the River Gambia, in Kedougou, Senegal, West Africa. Taken whilst on the River Gambia Expedition – image © Jason Florio

We’ll be presenting a slideshow and discussion all about our journey at Foto Care, NYC, on Tuesday 14th May – 6.30pm-8pm. Please click this link to find out all the details

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Update: We dodged the angry hippo and made it to Mako – and it’s time to say ‘fonyato domanding’ to our hippo expert

‘Fonyato domanding’ – a West Africa mandinka phrase – roughly translates as: ‘see you next time

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Hippo encounter, of the very close up kind, en route to Mako. Film footage © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio. Click the image or here to view

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.

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Gold mines – Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio

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.

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H and the team: arrival at Mako – River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio

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.

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Mako – market (lumo) area, Senegal, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

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A woman’s work is never done. H packs the Ally 811 canoes, Mako © Jason Florio

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Florio interviews Yousef – banks of the River Gambia, Mako, Senegal, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

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Yousef with his fishing net – River Gambia, Mako, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Yousef – Mako, Senegal © Jason Florio

Ebou and Florio - Mako, Senegal, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

Ebou and Florio – Mako, Senegal, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

Dusk…

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Dusk – The view of Niokolo Koba National Park, River Gambia, Mako © Jason Florio

Dawn…

Saturday 22nd December 2012 – preparing to leave Mako

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Dawn – The River Gambia, Mako, Senegal © Jason Florio

First things first – get the Kelly Kettle on!

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Abdou and H – watching water boil, Mako, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Florio oversee’s the packing of the Sept Place - Mako © Helen Jones-Florio

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A nod to DPx Gear and Come Back Alive – one of our sponsors © Helen Jones-Florio

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© Helen Jones-Florio

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Team photo! L-R: Abdou, Florio, Yousef, Ebou (behind) and H – River Gambia, Mako, Senegal

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

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Yousef and his ‘rescued’ water container, Mako © Jason Florio

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Catapult boy – he must be a friend of Yousef’s -  Mako © Jason Florio

And, it’s goodbye to the River Gambia, for the next few days. We’ll miss you -but not the hippos!

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River Gambia – not a hippo in sight © Jason Florio

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Florio – Mako © Helen Jones-Florio

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H & Yousef – Mako – screen grab from film footage © Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio

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Fonyato domanding, Yousef! © Jason Florio

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Yousef gets his transport home – Mako © Jason Florio

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We’re on our way to Wassadou – Leaving Mako © Helen Jones-Florio

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!!

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Hunters – washing in the River Gambia, Senegal © Jason Florio

To see more of Jason Florio’s series of images – ‘River Gambia’ – from the expedition, please visit floriophoto.com

 

Photographer, Jason Florio: the source of the River Gambia, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry, West Africa

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The source of the River Gambia, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry, West Africa © Jason Florio

Random photo of the day: ‘The source of the River Gambia is surrounded – protected – by a low, red stone, wall. We entered through a tiny gap in the wall, into a copse of trees – Florio and I going first. We needed time to savour this momentous occasion. We had, after all, been planning this together for many months…’ read and see more here

www.floriophoto.com

River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey

Photographer, Jason Florio: Imam’s wife and granddaughter – Hore Dimma, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry

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The Imam’s wife and granddaughter – Hore Dimma village, Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea © Jason Florio

Random photo of the day: early on in our journey, the River Gambia Expedition , we had traveled on local transport for 23 bone-juddering hours from Kedougou, Senegal, over the rockiest of roads to the village of Horé Dimma, to pay homage to the source of the River Gambia – the true beginning of a journey which would take us, by road and river, over 1100km’s through the Fouta Djallon Highlands, into Senegal, and then on to The Republic of The Gambia, to the Atlantic Ocean.

Florio had just finished photographing one of the village imam’s – Horé Dimma is a sprawling place with more than one mosque – when we noticed his wife sitting nearby, quietly watching us, in her pristine wrap. And, there, next to her, is who we believe to be her granddaughter who, in complete contrast, looked as if she had quite likely been running around with her friends in the surrounding dusty hills of the Fouta Djallon.

More river stories and images to come very shortly

The Florio’s – H & Flo

If you would like to view more from Jason Florio’s latest body of work, ‘River Gambia’, please visit his website floriophoto.com

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‘Boy in Fur Coat’ The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

More personal thanks – from The Florios, on the River Gambia Expedition – to all those who made the journey possible

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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

Personal thanks – from The Florios, on the River Gambia Expedition – to all those who made the journey possible

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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

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P.S. Very shortly, we’ll be sending, to those who gave $100+ in ‘An Exchange’ a pdf of a series of exclusive, limited edition images, for you to choose your print from, by Jason Florio, taken whilst on the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odssey’

Personal thanks – from The Florios, on the River Gambia Expedition – to all those who made the journey possible!

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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

P.S. Shortly, for those who gave $100+ in ‘An Exchange’ we’ll be putting together a series of exclusive, limited edition, images, by Jason Florio, taken whilst on the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odssey’

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