It all starts via Internet. In spring 1966 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 population.
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 home.
. . be continued
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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