Shap Ahoy Challenge Diary - The Gambia
This is an account of Nick
Capron and Tim Lovatt's journey from Cumbria to the Gambia during
the 2006 Plymouth-Banjul Challenge. It is based on notes taken along
the way, their photos and their memories. This page covers the time
they spent in The Gambia. Use the links at the
top of the page to see other parts of their story, or to return to
the Shap Ahoy Summary Page.
On this page
Sat 7 Jan
Day at the Safari Gardens Hotel in Banjul
Sun 8 Jan
Another day at the Safari Gardens Hotel
Mon 9 Jan
Visit to Saloum Nursery School & motorcade of
Group 1 cars
Tue 10 Jan
A couple of days at Bintang Bolong Lodge
Wed 11 Jan
Visit to Tabaski village and back to the
Thur 12 Jan
Back to Safari Garden Hotel - Friday 13 Jan,
Back to UK
Day 22 - Sat 7th Jan (101,850km)
Spend morning at hotel chatting to the
charity organisers (the ones responsible for auctioning the cars),
arranging national radio interviews (that never happened), and
generally waiting for sight or sound of other teams, many of whom
were rendezvousing or staying at our hotel. Giles & Tom arrive about
10am and in the afternoon a steady trickle of travellers start to
We catch up with our desert travel-mates
later in the day, thinking we may be 'persona non grata' for
crossing another border without them; but the yellow card is not
Nick tracks down bar with live football feed
from the UK - joins a large group of Gambian men - drinking beer and
watching Hull City getting knocked out of the FA cup 1-0 by Aston
We meet Kemo, the Gambian end of PAGEANT, the
education charity for which we have helped raise funding for
improvements to a local nursery school. We make arrangements to
visit the school on Monday.
A team of 4 locals are made available to wash
cars if required. For the equivalent of £1 they do a fair job of
cleaning Bill inside and out, especially considering their meagre
array of tools.
No entry in our notebook for today, but from
memory we took a tour around markets and tourist hotels & beaches.
Back to hotel for a swim, did some reading & lazed around the pool.
Went out with our friends for a meal, ended
up in a bar that ran out of tall glasses, so our Gin & Tonics were
served in pint glasses! Drinks measures and the barmaid's addition
were both unreliable (to our benefit), so a very good night was had
by all. Tim introduces group to another card game (PIG) - this
involves placing fingers on noses - not many people seem sure of the
rules - so Tim wins - as they say, when drinks in, wits out.
Kemo arrives and we set off for Saloum
Nursery School. At the time of writing this diary, we estimate to
have raised over £5,000 for Saloum through PAGEANT. It transpires on
arrival that this week is a holiday week and all the children
present have come in especially for us. We are shown around the
school, which consists of 2 basic block-walled classrooms, a stock
room and a part built toilet block. The new toilets have been funded
by money raised and sent in advance from 'Shap Ahoy'. The Deputy
Head and teacher said that the new toilets should be completed soon,
with further work on the existing classrooms and ultimately a third
classroom in the future. Nick and Tim presented the school with a
giant cheque for £5,000. Nick also presented the children with 11
Hull City football shirts, kindly donated by his favourite team.
In the afternoon we take part in a Motorcade
with all the other cars from group 1, through Banjul and surrounding
districts. This is to celebrate our arrival and promote the sale of
the vehicles at auctions over the next few weeks.
Can't just sit around pool for next few days
(our flight home is booked for Friday) so decide to check out of the
hotel and head off up the Gambia River for a couple of days or so.
Steve and Pat (Organic Mechanics) come along
with us in their Opel Omega. When the good tarmac runs out we are
left to negotiate a combination of dirt tracks and a knackered road
with potholes the size (and depth) of swimming pools. After
punishing our respective suspensions for half an hour or so, Steve &
Pat pull over to investigate a serious clunking noise (with the aid
of the air-jack, much to the interest of passing traffic), they
tweak some nuts and bolts but don't think anything can be done and
tell us to continue on our own. (We later find out that Steve &
Pat's tweaks did in fact cure their problem and they could have
continued with us!).
Anyway, time was marching on, faster than our
progress, so decide to turn off track at village called Bintang; our
Lonely Planet guide lists a lodge here so we check it out. After
passing some smaller settlements, we arrive at the rivers edge and
find a collection of mud huts, with straw roofs built on stilts on
the riverbank, all in various states of disrepair, this is
Bintang Bolong. The staff convince us that they are open for business and
keenly show us their best hut. It's has two beds (good), appears
clean (good), an en suite (great), a balcony over the river
(fantastic) and the bar has cold beer (hurrah!). We are told the
price (800 delasi / £18) and Tim, much to Nick's embarrassment,
starts to haggle on the grounds that our guide indicates much less.
We agree on 600 Delasi plus 200 each for evening meal.
Tim feels like crap when we discover that our guide was probably
written around 4 years ago, and when the exchange rate was twice as
good as it is now, however we also find out that the fresh water
supply is broken (no en-suite - booo!), and the generator doesn't
work either (ah!). Tim feels the 200 Delasi reduction is now
justified. So we now have an en-suite, which is furnished with a
5-gallon drum of water for washing & tipping down the toilet, and a
candle on the table. Despite these minor setbacks we are quite happy
and comfortable, so much so that we decide to stay for 2 nights and
'chill' by the river in this beautiful setting.
Despite the heat, poor sanitation and our
proximity to water, we are not bothered by pests, flies or
Tabaski. Main event of the morning starts
with prayers; all the men of the village are gathered, wearing their
finest clothes in a clearing by the waterfront. The local Mosque is
not big enough for everyone. Women and children are gathered some
distance behind. A small procession, led by the Imam and village
elders reaches the gathered men. A drum has been specially made to
announce their progress through the village and their arrival. As
they approach the gathering, they pass a tethered ram. Prayers are
said, responses uttered and gestures motioned. The Imam recites the
Koran. Fortunately, our Imam was blessed with a good voice, which he
used to good effect by singing and chanting with a pleasing rhythm.
Mid afternoon was our dinner engagement at
our hosts compound. All residents of the house (except father) were
there; this consisted of mother, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts
and grandmother. We ate a wonderful stew of couscous, cabbage,
potato, yam, sweet peppers, hot chilli peppers and of
course..goat. The food was rounded off with strong sweet green
tea (men only).
Shortly before 5pm we arrived at the village
football field. Nick was to support one team, Tim the other. Each
team lined up, and we were personally introduced to all players,
just like royalty!
The first piece of action was marked by a
wildly swerving volley shot at goal, immediately followed by a
flip-flop on a slightly different trajectory. The game was very
exciting throughout, well refereed and considering the condition of
the playing surface (scrubland), skill was displayed in abundance,
as was airborne footwear at regular intervals.
We forgot to cancel our evening meal at the
lodge, so felt obliged to eat the Ladyfish, which had been specially
prepared for us.
What a grand day out!
Before leaving the village, we visit our
hosts of yesterday and give away some of our now redundant, but
nearly new camping gear. We reckon that the sleeping bags will be
Back to Safari Garden Hotel for a final
sort-out. We empty the car, put all remaining equipment to one side
for the auction. Final meal and drinks with some of the friends we
made along the way.
Day 28 - Fri 13th Jan
Give car keys to Steve to take to auction
Goodbyes. Airport. Home.
More Team Shap Ahoy Information
Challenge 2006 website gives a great
deal of interesting information about the Challenge, and there is
Shap Ahoy Team Page on this
website, and an archive of
SMS messages sent during the
Page gives more
information about other teams who took part in the Plymouth-Banjul
Amsterdam-Dakar 2005 Challenges, and the
Saloum Nursery Page
tells more about how Shap Ahoy and Pageant are helping Saloum
Nursery in The Gambia.
If you enjoyed reading about Shap Ahoy's
exploits in the 2006
Plymouth-Banjul Challenge, then read about the
T4 Challenge, where Shap
Ahoy helped to reconnoitre the route for the 2007 Bamako Run, to
the capital of Mali.