It all starts via Internet. In spring 1996 both my mailingfriend
and I were longing for a holiday. Both of us are mad
about Africa and I remind him of the ridiculous low prices of
a trip to the Gambia. If you book hotel and flight at the same
time you get a reduction of 200 guilders. So the preparations
can start from now on. Agreement in what we both find most interesting,
buy maps and guides and locate the most deserted
spot on the map which can hardly be discovered but will be
rather difficult to be reached. Our fate is Fatoto, located
far on the east-side, there where the Gambia almost ends, the
river on its narrowest, no paved roads anymore and where real
discomfort can start. What's done is done
From the holiday-resort we first have investigated the surroundings
and tried out the local transportation: the bushtaxis.
These are old rebuild campers in which Western tourists
drive through the Sahara and afterwards are sold to Gambian
people for too much money. Nowadays they function as private
local transportation. There are 12 seats available and they
really drive their cars till they fall apart. Our backpacks
tied on the roof we travel to the east.
In Basse, the last
"town" with three local small hotels, we drink ice-cold beer
with ice-cubes to encourage us for the last stage. For we
know: in Fatoto there will be nothing left, no hotels, no
bars, no restaurants, no electricity, perhaps even no coca
cola. Just water from the well, the river and the local rural
We get out and carefully we start to ask if we could stay
overnight with somebody. One is thinking and considering. "The
patron" is mumbled and they drag us along. Straight through
fields and compounds (properties). To get permission we stop
at a small school. Finally they install us with people who
cannot speak one word of English. Waiting for two hours and
three glasses of tea "the patron" arrives, a huge Gambian with
a french cap on his head, on his bicycle. He welcomes us in
English. He offers his study to spend the night: our own hut
behind the compound with our own bathroom, i.e. a hole in the
ground with a small fence around it.
He starts telling and he never stops. He has been sent by the
Gambian government to this spot as a volunteer to help organising
the farmers and to make them conscious of the environment,
to prevent deforestation and to introduce better
farming methods. And....he knows Holland. He worked there for
two years and studied tropical country and forestry at the
University of Agriculture in Wageningen. He finished his study
in the United States. His brother has lived in Holland for at
least ten years and worked in Rotterdam in shipping. When he
finally has stopped talking he jumps on his bike again to
organise a meeting in a nearby village.
The next day we set out with him. He shows us the erosion
developed by the deforestation which is a result of the wood
hunting. The young plantings are meant for fences so that no
wood from the forests will have to be used. We see the agricultural
grounds with wells which can be irrigated when they
are equipped with windmills. In this way more harvest is possible.
We visit the school with projects for women and adolescent
children, where they also teach cultivating vegetables.
In short many ideas come up and the possible projects.
The following day we let him know that it has been very interesting
but that we intend to leave now. "Oh yes", our host
tells us at the last minute, "what we also need here: women
like to learn more about crochet and knitting....."
This cannot be true, I thought to myself, only a man can make
up something like this. Women here work too hard. Men only
work in the rainy season.
We leave. At the next village I investigate the presentation
of the question. With the help of a translater I ask the
chairwoman of the local women committee if there is any interest
for crochet- and knitting lessons. Much interest indeed
and even high expectations. Deep regret when I discover that I
cannot find anything with which I can demonstrate something.
After two weeks we have returned in our reduction-hotel. We
dust the dirt and the sand from our bodies. We lie in the
swimming-pool and there I intend to compose a training package
for the first stitches of crochet and knitting when I arrive
Map of Africa and more information:
Map of Gambia and more information:
More travelstories from Africa:
An tour through West Africa
On the motor from north to south
Go back to Liesbet's Atelier
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