‘Silafanda – a gift to you on behalf of my journey’ Labé, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea

HANDS-kola nuts-LABE_MG_0563

Kola nut vendor, Labé market © Jason Florio - Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry

KOLA NUTS-BOY-LABE_MG_0624 copy

Kola nut vendor, Labé market © Jason Florio - Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry

Random post of the day:

Silafando: is the traditional way to greet village chiefs in The Gambia and Senegal. In Guinea-Conakry, on our most recent expedition, we found out that the tradition was exactly the same there but they used the word ‘Silafanda’.

During both the ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey’ and the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey‘, despite turning up unannounced, each village chief (the ‘Alkalo‘) that we met would kindly permit our raggle-taggle, road or river-weary, team to pitch our small camp every evening.

This was because we showed due respect, as strangers, when approaching the alkalo, by using the age-old tradition and protocol called ‘silafando’ – which roughly translates as ‘a gift to you on behalf of my journey’. This gift is often a handful of the bitter kola nuts. These walnut-sized nuts play an important role in West African culture and traditional social life. Once accepted, the chief would then share the nuts with his most important village elders. They break open and chew the nuts – valued for their pharmacological properties – which act as a natural stimulant and, apparently, an aphrodisiac.

Kola nuts - hands_short walk

© Jason Florio – The Gambia, West Africa. ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush

We were then warmly welcomed into the village and, from that point on, everyone knows that you are there as guests of the alkalo -  ensuring that you are treated with respect, as strangers, for the duration of your stay in the village. And, if any of the villagers dare to disrespect his guests, they would have the chief to answer to – along with the shame it would bring to their family.

Helen presents the ‘Silafando’ to the village chief in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea-Conakry. As you will see, it is often a lengthy process – particularly in this case, because we had to explain to the chief (and get permission) why we wanted to visit the source of the River Gambia – a sacred site, very near to his village

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 3.04.43 PM

Youtube: Helen presents kola nuts to the village chief, Fouta Djallon Highlands. Film © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio. Click here or on above image to view footage

 

Food, glorious food! Grazing through West Africa – a snap shot

CHICKENS-TAXI-LABE_MG_0700 copy

Fresh! © Jason Florio – Labé, Fouta Djallon Higlands, Guinea-Conakry

CASAVA-GROUND-LABE_MG_0582 copy

Ground casava leaves © Jason Florio – Labé market, Fouta Djallon Higlands, Guinea-Conakry

COW-HOOFS-HEAD-LABE_MG_0621 copy

I think we’ll pass on this particular delicacy © Jason Florio – Labé, Fouta Djallon Higlands, Guinea-Conakry

FOOD-FOU FOU-DOMADA_MG_1437 copy

Fou fou and domada (peanut based stew) © Jason Florio – Fouta Djallon Higlands, Guinea-Conakry

FOOD-KIDS-FLO-HORE-DIMMA_MG_1291 copy

Tuck in! © Jason Florio - Fouta Djallon Higlands, Guinea-Conakry

Flo-Ebou-food Mali ville

Florio, Ebou and Abdou enjoy a ‘mystery meat’ sandwich © Helen Jones-Florio – Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry

 

Ibrahim groundnuts_MG_3131 copy

We ate A LOT of fresh groundnuts! © Jason Florio - River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa

FOOD-breakfast-HORE-DIMMA_MG_1048 copy

The team chow down – sardines, onions, chili and potatoes and freshly baked bread. Delicious! © Jason Florio – Fouta Djallon Higlands, Guinea-Conakry

Food-breakfast_sandwich DSF0307 copy

Pit stop – Senegalese-style coffee and nyeh bay (beans, onions and spices) in fresh mburro – on route to Tamabacunda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

Food-pot1-cooking-hore dimma_DSF1230 copy

Cooking domada for dinner © Helen Jones-Florio – Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry

H kelly kettle3 _MG_3254 copy

A day was not complete without out tea-breaks – thanks to Kelly Kettle! © Jason Florio - Djini, Senegal, West Africa

Just a taster – pun intended – of the kind of cuisine we feasted on, whilst on the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea Africa odyssey

For an update about our River Gambia journey (as of today-6/17/2013) 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

 

BOY-TYRE-LABE_MG_0671 copy © Jason Florio

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

Update: The long and winding road…Kedougou, Senegal-Labé, Guinea-Conarkry – and back again

Fleuve-Gambia-sunset-Kedougou_MG_2279

The River Gambia (Fleuve Gambie), Kedougou, Senegal © Jason Florio 2012

Tuesday 11th December, 2012 – Kedougou, Senegal

It’s been over a week since we were able to get on line and update the blog. Not that we haven’t been busy, as a River Gambia Expedition team. Florio has been doing his thing – photography – so we have lots of images from our travels to come, over the coming weeks. I’ve been keeping up on my journal (some of which you’ll read here on the blog. The rest? You’ll have to wait for the book!); Abdou and Ebou have excelled as team mates, translators, and givers of cultural knowledge.

Here is what we’ve been up to since the last post. A little reminder: whenever you don’t see any updates here, you can always follow our route through our YellowBrick ‘YB3’ tracking device here

click to go to YB site

click to go to YB site

 

 

florioapp@my.yb.tl to send emails to us

Overboard Bags - helen Jones-Florio

“No Photo!!” – Packing the Overboard bags on top of the pick up truck – Kedougou, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

Friday 30th November – Kedougou, Senegal – Labé, Guinea, West Africa

We left Kedougou bus station around 1pm on Friday 29th November, after three days of waiting for the vehicle to fill up with enough passengers before the driver would start the engine – then the damn vehicle had to be push-started; probably because it had sat there for so long! And, then only after much haggling about the extortionate price of the seats, with what seemed like the entire ‘Drivers Union of Kedougou’ – if there is such a body. It seems everyone likes to get in on the action when the ‘toubabs – that’s yours truly and Mr Florio – are around. If that wasn’t enough, after agreeing on the price for the four of us, the driver still tried to extort even more XOF francs from us, for our baggage. You can bet your bottom franc that we paid over the odds! But, we had already waited too long for the vehicle to fill up – all 20 passengers in/on top of one ancient, knackered, pick up truck. Alas, comfort and luxury not included in the already racked-up price. We needed to get going – on to the next stage of our journey.

H and the team - leaving Kedou and the team - leaving Kedougou, Senegal © Jason Florio

H and the team – leaving Kedou and the team – leaving Kedougou, Senegal © Jason Florio

Saturday 1st December – 130km and 24 hours later and we arrive in the capital of Labé, in the Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea…

and our minds and bodies knew exactly why transport cost’s so much in Senegal/Guinea – and it’s not just the horrendously expensive fuel prices. Unraveling our aching limbs from the crammed cab of the truck, having traversed moonscape-like terrain for 20 of those 24 hours – bouncing. Hang on, lets backtrack here: ‘bouncing’? That  much too soft word to describe our journey up to the Fouta Djallon, Guinea. Lets replace that with ‘JUDDERING’ – uppercase intended – on ‘roads’ which can only be described as driving over riverbeds – the rockiest ones that you can possibly imagine, at that! “Vehicles have to be remade when they have made the journey to Guinea” one driver at the bus station in Kedougou had told us in, when we were haggling for the best price. Slight exaggeration, surely?, we thought…before we started the journey there, that is!

On route to Labe, Guinea - Florio films our ferry crossing over the River Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

On route to Labe, Guinea – Florio films our ferry crossing over the River Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

For every inch of those 130kms we rattled up, down, around, and over the Fouta Djallon mountain’s – fording streams; collective willing (from Florio and I, at least. ‘insh-Allah’/’god willing’, no doubt, from our fellow passengers) the struggling vehicle up 1:4 gradients; breathing in to cross narrow, barely-there bridges; getting a birds-eye view, inches from my permanently-wound-down-window (a hole where the ‘manuel’, the winder to open and close it, should have been), of the sheer drop down into the valley, whilst preying the driver doesn’t over estimate the narrowness of yet another hair-pin bend. And, despite hating driving at night in Africa – and, even worse, being driven (I’m petrified! Too many crashes and near misses with other vehicles, as they drive towards you with full beam, over the years, will do that) – I was actually relieved to remain in relative ignorance on this particular journey, as we drove through the most precipitous of mountain ‘roads’. As the darkest night slipped away and dawn took over, I tried my damnedest to keep my eyes directly on the road ahead – but, I couldn’t help myself, by looking at the too-close-for-comfort sheer drop outside my window once again!

Thankfully, Mr Drammeh, our Guinean driver, had very obviously made the route from Kedougou to Labé many times – his maneuvering over the treacherous, red-rock-filled, roads, was a testament in itself. We salute the Chinese auto industry– that pick up truck was like a ‘Tonka Toy’!

Around 2am, the truck stopped in the darkness, in what appeared to be a cluster of huts in the middle of nowhere. Without a word to us, Mr Drammeh stepped down from the truck. We then we noticed the other passengers disembarking from the back of the vehicle, with various pieces of luggage, and proceeded to unroll mats and carpets on the ground. I guess we are resting for a while then – an undetermined time, at that – no one having explained to us what was going on. A cacophony of pissing, farting – and it wasn’t just from the numerous goats doted around us – blowing snot out of noses, and, finally, snoring ensued. Then…the star-filled night was suddenly quiet. Abdou and Ebou found space on a mat, Florio took the front seats (splitting the silence by accidentally knocking the car horn on a couple of occasions, whilst trying to get comfortable! However, it’s a good job it we weren’t honking for help – because no one stirred!). I took the back seats. Not much sleep was had, but at least we had the full moon to light up the night – which made it considerably easier to find a place to pee during those wee hours.

Around 7am, after more noisy farting and pissing, everyone clambered back onto the truck, and we set off, once again; arrived in Labé around 12.30pm. For a good hour afterwards, whenever I closed my eyes, I swear that could still feel the juddering motion of the long drive. Later that evening, we met a couple from the USA and Holland – Tim and Kate – who had just made the same journey. Tim’s very apt analogy: “it feels like I have just been put though a cement mixer!”.

Saturday 1st December – Labé, Guinea-Conarkry

'Moto' boys - Labe, Guinea © Jason Florio

‘Moto’ boys – Labe, Guinea © Jason Florio

Labè’s got style!

Ghana photographer, Malik Sidibe, portrait subjects spring to mind, as we walked around the downtown area of Labé. These ‘moto taxi’ guys are seriously cool.

'Moto' boys, Labe. Guinea © Helen Jones-Florio

‘Moto’ boys, Labé. Guinea ©Jason Florio

H & 'Moto' Boys, Labe, Guinea © Jason Florio

H & ‘Moto taxi’ Boys, Labé, Guinea © Jason Florio

Flo-writing details-labe_DSF0798 copy

Florio gets the details – Labé, Guinea © Helen Jones-Florio

We met with Yayah Baldeh, who runs Galissa Voyage Trekking. He was going to supply us with a local guide and translator – Saifoulaye Djallow (‘Saif’) – who would take us up into the more rural areas of Fouta Djallon Highlands and, what we had came here for, to pay homage to the source of the River Gambia (Fleuve Gambie – as it is known in Guinea). After a year of planning, where the River Gambia Expedition would truly begin.

Saif and Yaya - Galissa Voyage Trekking, Labe, Guinea

Saif and Yaya – Galissa Voyage Trekking, Labe, Guinea © Jason Florio

Labé is a motorcycle city, over-run with thousands of, Chinese-made, taxi bikes – ‘moto taxis’ (those aforementioned extremely high fuel prices give many people little option to use anything else) – carrying a minimum of 2-3 passengers apiece. As we walk around the town, we constantly had to dart out of the way, as yet another ‘moto’ zooms towards us, at maximum speed – We have this expression: ‘taking no prisoners’ – within inches of us. “à ton à ton! There are too many accidents every day, here in Labè” Saif tells us, leading us through the dusty, stinking, dirty, litter-filled streets of the downtown area. Despite the moto-dodging, and the putrid aromas, Labè is a vibrant, animated, friendly place – ‘Jarama’s’ (local Pula language greeting), “bonjours”, and “ca va’s”, abound, from every smiling, curious (as in, intrigued by the two ‘portos’ – Guinea version of ‘toubab‘ in town), face we pass.

H goes shopping for supplies, downtown Labe market, Guinea © Jason Florio

H goes shopping for supplies, downtown Labé market, Guinea © Jason Florio

Traders. downtown Labe market, Guinea © Jason Florio

Batik traders. downtown Labe market, Guinea © Jason Florio

'Pain' traders, downtown Labe market, Guinea © Jason Florio

‘Le Pain/mburro’ traders, downtown Labé market, Guinea © Jason Florio

We stayed in ‘Le Campagne Hotel’, a short 15-20 minute walk from the downtown area (and 10 minutes to the nearest ‘Cyber Café, where we could also get a decent/fast at times WiFi connection – 68774.7GNF for an hour – about 50p). The hotel is a small, pleasant enough place – during the day, that is. After 6pm, it becomes the local hangout for well-heeled – judging by the shiny new cars they rocked up in, to park in the compound – Gaselle (Guinean beer) guzzling, good-natured, Guinean guys and ‘ladies of the night’. Loud, vociferous banter and laughter, accompanied by static, as in un-tuned transistor radio music (what is it about Africans, that they don’t seem to notice when a radio is not tuned in and/or is constantly turned up to mac 11?!), blared into the early hours. Oh, and lets not forget the 24 hour TV, blasting in the restaurant area. It was a job to pry ‘la madam’ of the hotel away from the screen – to which she sat, glued to – to get an order of drinks or food!

Hotel Le Campagne, Labe © Helen Jones-Florio

Hotel Le Campagne, Labe © Helen Jones-Florio

So…our journey continues. We will update as and when we can – which isn’t that often at the moment. We’re going to see if we can buy a ‘dongle’/network key, which we can insert our cell phone sim cards into, to get on line. However, as mentioned, if you don’t see any updates for a while, check out our YellowBrick page, to see where we are, at any given time. I think my mum is our biggest fan – she knows where we’re headed before we even get there!! You can also leave messages on the page too, to which we can respond, due to the YB3 tracking device being on the iridium and satellite network – all we need to do it blue tooth it with the iPad et viola!

Florio, YellowBrick and Concern Universal - on route to Tambacunda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

Florio, YellowBrick and Concern Universal – on route to Tambacunda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

click to go to YB site

click to go to YB site

 

 

 

 

Thanks, as always, for stopping by. It’s great to have you on board!

Fonyato domanding (‘until next time’)

Helen, Florio, Abdou & Ebou – River Gambia Expedition team

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy:

Overboard bags on top of yet another vehicle - Hore Dimma, Guinea © Jason Florio

Overboard bags on top of yet another vehicle – Hore Dimma, Guinea © Jason Florio

COMING SOON! Reaching the source of the River Gambia, in the Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea; toilet humour and bathing with bull’s(!); 80km and 8 ½ moto-taxi ride from Mali Ville, Guinea, to Kedougou, Senegal… updates as soon as!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YouTube: Jason and Helen Florio talk about their imminent departure (3 days to go!) to Guinea and the source of the River Gambia, West Africa

Please click on image to view footage

The YouTube footage pretty much speaks for itself…which is a good thing as we are just running out of the door, this morning, to catch up with Concern Universal - Florio is taking some pics of one of their projects here in The Gambia, in exchange for a lift with all our expedition gear to Tambacunda, Senegal, in three days time. From there, we will then head down to Kédougou, Guinea, to drop off ‘The Twins‘ (our Ally 811 canoes), then onto Labé. Near to where our journey truly begins – the River Gambia Expedition – 40km or so from Labé, lies the tiny village of Toulou, where we will begin to trek for the first 200km, in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea and the source of the River Gambia.

River Gambia Expedition – route map

After over three weeks delay and more than a few false start dates (thanks to the shipping company who are transporting our box of expedition gear!), we are all set to go – at long last – and we are both so very ready to get this expedition well and truly started. As are our Gambian team mates, Abdou and Ebu, who have been more than patiently waiting (as only Gambians can) for us to give them a leaving date.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by. And, thank you, for the words of encouragement over these last frustrating weeks of waiting on tenterhooks for our box of expedition gear (which was never meant) to arrive in The Gambia – we are not defeated!

We’ll be right back with updates and photos (from Mr Florio) very soon.

H & Flo