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)