Photo of the Day: Kids walking to school in the Fouta Djallon Highlands, Gunea

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© Jason Florio - Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry, West Africa

Random shot of the day: Kids on their walk to school, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry. Taken whilst on our way to Labé and, eventually, to the source of the River Gambia – the true start of the ‘River Gambia Expedition

For an update on what’s happening – as of July 2013 – whilst we are back here in New York, please check out this post

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

Archive: the Muslim celebration of Tobaski, The Gambia, West Africa

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‘Dinner’ – goat getting fattened up for the ritual slaughter, Kartong village, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

We’re researching our archives for our forthcoming book about the River Gambia Expedition and came across this, from a blog post early on into the journey – in fact, it was taken not long after we arrived in West Africa, pre-planning for the expedition.
It was taken during on the day of the annual Muslim celebration, Tobaski (or Eid al Adha)- a huge celebration, whereby thousands of goats, sheep (and cows, if the family/community can afford it) are ritually slaughtered.

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

Today’s ‘shout out’ goes to the girls at Kemoto Point, The Gambia, for helping the River Gambia Expedition team to say ‘Thank you!’

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Girls just wanna have fun – Kemoto Point, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

We had a whole host of eager little volunteers at this particular village, where we camped overnight whilst on the last leg of the River Gambia Expedition.

So, today’s BIG shout out to the Kemoto Point kids – and all the other kids we met along the way – for their help in giving us a hand to say thank you to those donors who got involved in our ‘An Exchange’ and ‘Kickstarter’ fundraising campaigns.

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Thank you! Kemoto Point, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

If you’d like to check out more about how we said ‘thank you’ to our donors, please visit our page: BIG Love, thanks and respect to family, friends and well-wishers’

Photographer, Jason Florio, at work – the gold mines of Senegal, West Africa

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Woman breastfeeding her baby, gold miners at work, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio

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Photographer, Jason Florio, at work – Gold mines, Senegal. West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

Thursday 20th December 2013 – Paddling distance: 11.4km (total to-date: 83.65km) – River Gambia Expedition

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.

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Florio helps the gold miner load his bicycle, Senegal, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

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H: “There’s gold in this here rock – apparently!” Gold mines, Senegal © Jason Florio

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!

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Kids playing in the dust, gold mines, Senegal, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

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Ebou, Abdou and Yousef, relax after a long days paddle, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio

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Dawn – Ebou & Yousef go fishing, River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio

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

 

 

Photographer-Jason Florio: brand new series of images from the River Gambia Expedition…a taster

More to come very shortly…

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Boys playing on the banks of the River Gambia, Senegal, W Africa © Jason Florio

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)

The River Gambia Expedition team – together. At last! The Gambia, West Africa

Thursday 19th October 2012

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Path for the course for the rest of the day! Sandele Eco Retreat, Kartong, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio

Once we got the motor started (putting fuel in helped somewhat), we made our way to the Senegambia area for a meeting at the American Embassy. A successful meeting at that, as they asked us if we would consider exhibiting the work from this forthcoming expedition, River Gambia Expedition, and from our 2009 walk around the Gambia – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush’ = when we finish the journey. We’re really hoping we can work that out as it would be achieving something that we’ve dreamed about doing since the 2009 expedition. Fingers crossed!

And this is how the day went on, after we left the American Embassy (in the background): auto breakdown#2

Florio gets ready to push! Kairaba Ave, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

The image speaks for itself! Kairaba Ave, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

Once we got the motor started, again, we set off to meet with Abdou and Ebou - our Gambian team mates, in Kembujeh, a small village not too far from Brikama. We haven’t seen them in almost three years so, as you can imagine, it was an emotional greeting – from both sides – plus, Abdou and Florio (or ‘JC’, as they fondly call him all over the place here) have known each other for 15 plus years.

However, on route, we came across Africell (one of the local mobile/cell phone networks), on Kairaba Ave, who were holding special ‘Tobaski’ (the big annual Muslim festival – where 1000′s of goats and sheep are ritually slaughtered) competition – text to a certain number and your name could be picked out to get your free goat or sheep! When we went past earlier in the day this pen was crammed full of the fattened, four-legged – bleating-like ‘we-know-what’s-coming’ – mammals. Obviously, there had been a lot of winners.

‘Get your Tobaski goat here – be quick, mind you!’ Kairaba Ave, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

There was one stop we just had to make, on route to Kembujeh to meet with our Gambia team mates, in the town of Brikama – to (completely) surprise an old friend.

Florio & Dr Sanyang, Brikama, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

Dr Sanyang is a blog post (or several!) all on his own…so, we’ll leave that story for another time.

The River Gambia Team – 2012!!

The River Gambia Expedition Team – together, at last! L-R: Florio, Abdou, Helen & Ebou, Kembueh, The Gambia, West Africa

And, the surprise was all ours as Abdou’s lovely daughter, Ole – who we hung out with last time we were here (when she was about 14 years old) – appeared with her new baby. Ole seems such a young thing herself. Nevertheless, motherhood suits her so well.

Ole with babe (with proud Grandfather, Abdou, in the background), Kembujeh, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

The day ended, just as it had started – auto breakdown#3

Abdou’s kids (and assorted other kids) help get the motor running! Kembujeh, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

Despite all that, the kids are still smiling – as they always see to do here.

Kembujeh, The Gambia, West Africa.Image © Helen Jones-Florio

A full on day, in 90+ degree heat. But, it’s great to be back in The Gambia. It’s a place that we both love and, equally and individually, have a long history here. Plans are fully underway for leaving for Guinea – the start of our expedition proper.

We’ll be updating you with more news and photos very soon. So, we do hope you’ll stop by again and that you’ll enjoy the journey with us.

Fonyata domanding (see you later!).

The Florios

P.S. a thank you from us both (and the Sandele Eco Retreat cat!)

A message from Helen & Florio (and introducing the Sandele cat) – Sandele Eco Retreat, The Gambia, West Africa – Oct 17th 2012

Privacy, personal space? In a small West African Village? Are you kidding me!

I posted some photos yesterday, on here, the River Gambia Expedition 2012 blog, about our day out at the seaside, along with a couple of pics showing us (the UK/USA expedition team leaders – H & Flo) back at work in our ‘production office’. Because Summer suddenly hit the UK again over the last couple of days, we decided to relocate our office set up from the barn to the garden – which just happens to be a beautifully lush, flower-filled oasis, in the Surrey countryside (thanks again to Flo’s mum and dad, Rodger and Wendy, for very generously hosting us whilst we plot and plan our big expedition).

‘Are we in West Africa yet, dear?’ H & Flo – the UK/USA River Gambia Expedition 2012 team co-leaders. Image courtesy of Wendy Florio

On seeing the photo, a good friend quipped, ironically, about “roughing it?” – obviously referring to our salubrious environment. And, it got me thinking about our last West Africa expedition – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush’ – where we walked 930km around The Gambia, one of the smallest countries on the mainland of the African continent, with three Gambian friends, two donkeys, and a cart to carry our camping and camera gear.

‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’ - the expedition team on the road at dawn. Image © Jason Florio – 2009

Thursday 12th November, 2009 – Distance walked to-date: 248.57km. Soto Koi village, The Gambia, West Africa – excerpt taken from Helen’s forthcoming book: ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – minty abanta!’

‘Flo photographed the Alkalo’s (chief) son, Jiki Bayai – he’s a handsome young man, looking dapper, in a trendy, freshly laundered, dark purple shirt (we call him the ‘Prada Man’). His father was off, miles away, tending to the fields. Flo also photographed various village elders, and a farmer (the chiefs brother) who insisted on getting his goats into the picture – as one does.

Samba Sowe (Alkalo’s brother)- farmer – Soto Koi village, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio

After we finish the shoot (making the portrait of the village chief), Flo and I each have our most public ‘bath’ to-date – although the bathing area would be considered private by most Gambian standards. The ‘bathrooms’ in most compounds are often made up of a combination of assorted corrugated rusty sheets of iron, odd bits of wood and scrappy remnants of old fabric, which acts as a door. Some are extremely clean (i.e. the ground is swept and kept tidy). There is rarely a roof – there really is nothing quite like looking up at the sky when bathing and feeling the heat of the sun on your body. In the centre of these bathing areas, there’s usually a hole in the ground (the toilet), sometimes covered but more often not. Beside the hole, a small area of flat ground, sometimes with a raised platform, made of wood or concrete, which you stand and wash on, using a bucket of cold water. The cool water is the most refreshing feeling in the world after 7-8 hours walking in the heat. When bathing in the dark, we learned early on not to shine our torches on the ground area, as you are in danger of seeing what, or who, you are sharing you bath with: all manner of crawling, scuttling, creatures including the flying variety!

H: “How can I sneak to the ‘bathroom’ without all these kids following me?!” The village of Killy (also known as ‘Killing’),The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio, 2009

Anyway, back to our most public bath. Lets just say that there are often lots of holes in the structure’s of the ‘walls’ of the bathing areas and the local kids are very keen to see what is under the ‘toubabo’s’ clothes! This particular bathroom had so many holes, it looked as if they were holding the corrugated iron together. The walls being barely shoulder height, along with looking out onto the main road through the village, I did feel conspicuously exposed. It’s not the first time either of us have looked around to see young – and some, not so young – curious eyes peering in, through the holes, as we bathe. We can be sure it won’t be the last either.

We’re in paradise – Khalaji village campsite, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio 2009

And, if we still need to justify making the most of the luxury’s of living in a first world country, before we emerge ourselves, completely, back into developing West African culture whereby, 99% of the time, we won’t have anywhere near half of the comforts of home – hot running water, electricity, ice-cold drinks, privacy or private space – the countries we travel through, whilst on our River Gambia journey (Guinea, Senegal and The Gambia), will reveal their own individual comforts, beauty, and richness – just look at the above photo…camping in Khalaji village was like paradise for us – despite the usual avid, and constant audience of kids and their folks!

Thanks, as always for stopping by. We appreciate you jumping on board for the ride!

The Florios