Camping on the roof of the village chief’s compound, Sila Kounda, Senegal, West Africa

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.

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Young boys pose for a portrait on the banks of River Gambia in Senegal. They said they had painted their faces like skulls for their own amusement © Jason Florio

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Florio with his new friends, on the banks of the River Gambia, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio (screen grab from film footage)

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“Pass me the tapalapa, Ebou” our paddles doubled nicely as bread boards, River Gambia, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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.

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First up, the baggage – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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Next up, the Ally canoes, Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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The donkeys must had a day off! Yousef and Ebou take the strain – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

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.

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H: “Flo, do you think Apple might sponsor are next expedition?” Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Drying cous cous, sweetcorn, rice, and groundnuts on the roof – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

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.

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Preparing the cow – and the ground – Sila Kounda © Jason Florio

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Halal’d – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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Every single bit of the cow will be used – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

I knew then what would be in the family bowl that night for dinner…

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The food shot© Jason Florio

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.

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Florio gives ‘Sialfando’ to the chief – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio (screen grab from film footage)

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Chef de village, Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

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…

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Ibrahima leads the way © Helen Jones-Florio

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H gets into the dug out with Yousef, River Gambia, Senegal – click here or on image to view footage

Next up: hanging out with the gold miners of Senegal.

See you soon!

The Florios

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A gold mine worker relaxes after a shift at an artisanal mine in Senegal on the banks of the River Gambia.© Jason Florio

Wed 10th October, 2012: River Gambia Expedition Update, Jason Florio’s fine art photography prints, and dug outs v Ally folding canoes!

Random road shots: The Alkalo (village chief), Dam Sallah, and the village elders come to meet the team – Kerr Sat Maram, The Gambia, West Africa
Image © Jason Florio
A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey

As mentioned in a previous post, we now have a leaving date for the River Gambia Expedition – we fly down to The Gambia, West Africa, next week – at last (16th October – thanks to Jenny and Matt and all at The Gambia Experience for their support and much needed excess baggage allowance!)! And, this is mainly due to everyone’s support – through both ‘An Exchange’ and ‘Kickstarter’.

Alkalo Dam Sallah, Kerr Sait Maram © Jason Florio – 2009

Since we reached our Kickstarter target the other day, we’ve had a number of emails asking if this means its too late the get hold of one of Jason Florio’s limited edition fine art photography prints – which will be taken from a series of images he will take whilst we are traversing over 1000km through Guinea, Senegal and The Gambia – trekking and canoeing – in and around the River Gambia?

In a word: No.

Firstly, the Kickstarter campaign does not end until the 15th October (so, you have 4 more days to pledge for ‘rewards’. Please see our KS page for all the details). Secondly, ‘An Exchange’ - here on the blog – will carry on until at least the 31st October (when the expedition proper will start – when we reach Guinea and the Fouta Djallon Highlands, to begin the first leg and 200km of trekking through that region). ‘An Exchange’ works pretty much like KS (except you donate through Paypal instead of KS/Amazon) – but, along with the forthcoming River Gambia Expedition series, you can also choose from Florio’s fine art gallery, from his Black & White and Colour Collection, of images he has taken, on his travels, from all over the world.

‘Angkor Wat 2′ – Cambodia. Image © Jason Florio (B/W)

We’re particularly looking forward to posting about our arrival into The Gambia, when we meet up with our local Gambian team mates, old friends and experienced river men, Abdou and Ebu. From then, we’ll be last minute prepping – including introducing ‘The Twins’ (our two 811 Ally 16.5′ folding Canoes) to Abdou and Ebu.

H & one of ‘The Twins’ – the 811 Ally 16.5′ folding canoe – practicing on the Basingstoke Canal, Surrey, UK (not quite the River Gambia but, hey…a girl’s gotta practice somewhere). Image © Jason Florio 2012

It will be interesting to see what they think of these super-light craft, compared to their heavy, low-on-the-water, tradition dug out canoes (‘pirogues’). We’ve had some experience over the years, in The Gambia, paddling dug-outs on the Mandina balong, through Makasutu Culture Forest – made from a hollowed tree trunk, they can be very heavy and unwieldy indeed. To us, our Ally canoes virtually glide across the surface of the water! However, watching Abdou and Ebu paddling in their dug-out, and the ease (and many years of experience) with which they maneuver it, they make it look as if they are floating above the surface of the water!! Each to their own…

More updates as and when.

As always, thanks for stopping by…we hope that you continue to follow us on our journey (if you don’t want to miss our updates, simply add your email address in the box, in the right hand column, ‘Follow us…please’ and verify)

The Florios (‘Flo’ & ‘H’)

P.S. And, remember, you can still pledge or donate for Florio’s fine art photography prints – either through ‘Kickstarter’ or ‘An Exchange’

Click on image – Deadline 15th Oct. 2012