Gambia is the smallest African country with 1.6 million people. 90% are Muslims and the rest are Christians. I think the youngsters are very liberal who call themselves hippie-Muslims. The people are very friendly and they welcome everyone. The majority speak English in addition to the local languages.
There is so much poverty here and where 45% of the population are under 14 years. This is quite unlike anything I have experienced on my trip so far
Six days ago I started biking in the direction of Mali. I chose this direction because I wanted to escape the rain on the coast. I had the choice of two evils, heat or rain and decided that it would be better to go with the heat.
In Banjul I met Omar. He lived in Norway for three years. He stayed with me for a few days. He was so helpful showing me where I could spend the night, find water, etc. I was pleased that he wanted to escort me on my tour.
But how mistaken can one be as two days in to the ride, did we ever have problems with the heat.
At 11 am, it was already more than 40 degrees Celsius, and two hours later it was over 45 degrees. I felt as if I was running in a sauna without a door. From time to time the hot wind blew from the Sahara. One might have thought that it came directly from an oven . This was too much for Omar and he went back home. I didn't want to give up so I continued.
The third day, I think my body was overheated. My lips were cracked and sheer desperation made me drink 20 liters of cold water. I spat it out again to drink more cold water . I also got diarrhea. Even at night I had trouble sleeping because of the heat and I would have paid one million crowns for a bath full of ice cubes.
I was invited by a Gambian for 2 days to regain my forces. Outside the cities, there is no electricity and I never found anything chilled enough to refresh me.
After two days I started off at 5am and continued on until11am. But by then it was just too hot, and I was told that further into the country it would be even hotter. More than 55 degrees!
Now I have decided to drive alongside the coast. Frankly the rains must be better than this heat. This has to be the worst cycling experience that I've ever had. Canada during the winter was a lightness in contrast to this heat. I actually miss Canada at this moment.
The last city that I was at was Georgetown which is where slaves were kept on an island until being taken to America by ship. In fact it was from here that the majority of slaves were shipped to America. I saw some old ruins, and also the prison where there is a slave festival and where many black Americans come to express there feeling of togetherness.
Nature here is very beautiful, typical African bush country. I saw many animals, monkeys, wild boars and a variety of birds.
The people are so nice and I was invited to stay with them almost every day. Life here is very simple with everyone always smiling. I met somebody who said that a man could feed 50 women with his salary here.
This extremely simple standard also has it's advantages and disadvantages. They have something we have lost in Europe. Family and friends hold very strongly together, even if they don't have much they still share whatever it is that they do have. It's a fact that they spend the day with the family instead of spending money and rushing off to find wealth.
I now have applied for visas for Guinea and Guinea-Bissau and as soon as they arrive it's off to Sierra Leone and to Liberia. Let's see how it works out?
I have just got a tray and a cooler in front of me. The water is extremely hot here almost to the point of boiling. Tomorrow I shall be moving on.