Friday, 23 November 2012

Njawara: A Horse-cart Adventure

So I am a bit late in writing this blog, but better late than never right? I'm sort of on Gambian time now... Oops! 

For Tobaski weekend we were invited to a village on the North Bank where our Canadian friend, Brett, is a volunteer. There was to be a wrestling match on Sunday night so we traveled up on Saturday morning. We had to cross the ferry from Banjul to Bara on Saturday, which is always an adventure.. But luckily the wait was only an hour or so and the ferry was slow, but working. 

It was pretty hot waiting for the ferry and I think I was a little delirious because I thought this was an okay thing to do in public.
 We were lucky enough to get seats on the ferry, but not everyone else was. A little girl who couldn't have been more than 5 sat next to me. When the other passengers starting coming on who had to sit on the floor one woman (who I am sure did not know the girl) began to yell at her for taking a seat when an elderly woman nearby did not have one. I could tell the little girl did not want to move from her comfortable seat so I told her to sit on my lap (in Wolof). She looked shy but did not hesitate to take my suggestion and sat on my lap. The ferry ride was about an hour long even though it was not that far a distance, we could clearly see the other bank. The girl eventually began falling asleep and by the end of the trip she was leaning against me fast asleep. I had to wake her up and ask her where her parents were when we docked. Her parents thanked me and then we all went our separate ways, but that girl made my morning.

We ended up being able to get a seven seater car to take us to Njawara. It took a while to figure out a price, but Brett figured it all out for us. The ride wasn't bad (besides some bags falling out of the trunk, nothing was broken though!) and we got to Njawara in good time. We spent all afternoon relaxing. We went to a football match in the early evening, before the sun went down and then ate an absolutely delicious meal before relaxing some more. We brewed some lait which is like warm milk with sugar. It probably sounds a little weird and I definitely wasn't all for it at first, but it is delicious. Like liquid ice cream!

The next morning we got up to a breakfast of tea and bread with no rush to do anything. We pretty much relaxed all day and ate. We ate some GREAT food and then slept. Ate some GREAT food then relaxed. So many naps, so much reading, a game of cards, a whole lot of nothing and it was great. 

We hung out all day under a mango tree on mats. It was wonderful.
 We stayed in the compound where Brett lived and the woman who's compound it was was so sweet to us. She was cool to talk to and she was so compassionate. She runs a pharmacy and ends up giving many of her supplies away to people in need because it can mean life or death for some people. We put together a little bit of money to give to her to contribute to her pharmacy and as a thanks for letting us stay with her. We also met some other people throughout the village and we ate our meals in the compound of a friend of ours, Babou, who we've met during his trips to Kombo. Babou was actually played the drums in a band before the wrestling match we went to! 

Now about the wrestling match...

This is our horse cart with Denmba and Toochie! Toochie is the horses name. How cute is that?
We traveled there on a horse-cart. How cool is that? We all piled on along with our driver, Denmba and an apprentice, a pretty chill dude. We left after dinner for the wrestling match (around 8). It was such an awesome experience. The horse went surprisingly fast with all of us on there.. It was a really nice night and the breeze felt good. The road was a bit bumpy, but what can you expect? I'd ride a horse-cart again in a heart beat (at least at this point in the journey). 

Here is Babou playing the drums! He is always smiling!

 We arrived at the sight of the wrestling match around 10. Right on time, but we should have known that we were there too early. Another Canadian volunteer from Njawara, Rohey, was there already so we joined her. She was hanging on with Babou's band on some mats chilling and brewing attaya. We all joined them, relaxing even more than we already had all day and chatted with everyone, playing games to entertain ourselves.

Finally got our seats!
Finally around midnight we took our seats around the wrestling arena (? I'm not really sure of wrestling lingo but that sounds right). We sat around for a while talking, nothing much was going on. We listened to Babou and his band play some great music. After over an hour we got restless (after all this thing was supposed to start at 10 and it was 1 am by this point..). We found out that the wrestlers were getting their Jujus made and practicing other traditional beliefs before engaging in wrestling. Soon the wrestlers were coming out and dancing around the arena to the music. I wish I had gotten a video but it was so late and dusty, none of the pictures were turning out.. But they strutted around the arena with their (for lack of a better word) "possy" following them. This lasted for hours. By 4 am we had to leave because we had to get a gele gele from Njawara. We left a little after 4 am and the wrestling hadn't started yet. The guys were huge though and it would have been so cool to be able to see them wrestle. Oh well, maybe next time.

This is where the wrestling was to take place. There wasn't much separating the wrestlers from the  audience.. This is the view from my seat.
This is actually when things started to get interesting, believe it or not. When leaving the wrestling match our horse cart broke and we all fell off. Luckily it was going slow so no one got hurt. In fact no one really screamed because it was, well, 4 in the morning and we were all pretty out of it. It took a while to get the horse cart back up and running, but then we were on our way. 

Here we all reenacting falling off the horse cart because it was something we could not catch on film...

 People were falling asleep on the horse-cart, we were pretty tired. We agreed it was a good experience, but of course we had all wanted to see some wrestling. It's a very popular sport in Gambia and Senegal and it can get intense, or so we hear. From this point on I'm just going to list what went wrong because it would take a lot of explaining to tell you in detail what happened. It's a great story to tell in person though, which I can't wait to do. So here we go:

We weren't too happy about the car breaking down.. But we
quickly recovered!
  1. We had to go through a river in our horse-cart. Our horse-cart couldn't handle all of us so the boys had to get on a random passer-bys horse-cart (luckily there was a random passer-by at 5 in the morning...) and they got soaking wet because they were all heavier than the girls. We hit a few bumps in the road and I was nervous I'd fall off into the river a few times, but at least we were dry.
  2. Our horse-cart got a flat tire. So the boys had to walk 1 kilometer back to Njawara. They weren't too happy about that but of course us girls got to ride on one side of the cart back.
  3. We missed the gele gele. The one time the gele gele leaves on time is the time we are not even half an hour late.. Usually in The Gambia half an hour is nothing. It was the only gele gele from Njawara that day or at least early that day and we had to get back to Kombo so we thought we were doomed.
  4. The car broke down. Brett found someone to drive us to the main road where we could get a gele gele from there to the ferry! But then the car broke down... Luckily it got fixed after a little while though and we were on the road!
  5. We had to take the small boats and it ended in an minor injury. (Note: nothing drastic happened on the gele gele, yay! we only got stopped at a police check point for more than a few minutes, but that's no big deal) So there wasn't a ferry available when we got there so we decided to save some time and take the small boats. These boats aren't really that small, they'll fit fifty or so people on those things. They are canoe-like, like most of the boats we've been on on our trip but big versions. How they get you on the boat is pretty crazy too. You stand at the shore and you give someone (preferably a strong man) a tip to lift you up and carry you to the boat. There isn't a proper dock and the boat can't make it all the way to shore so there are men there to carry you on. It's a trip let me tell you. While this was going on though one of our crew got injured going into the boat. Not seriously, but it wasn't fun either... 
  6. The boat ran out of gas. Us girls sat at the bottom of the boat so we couldn't see anything plus we were getting light kicks in the face (nothing serious) and had to stare at peoples feet. So when we stopped in the middle of the river we assumed we must have gotten to the other side. Nope, the boys assured us the boat was just stopped in the middle of nowhere. They eventually got it going again somehow and then it stopped again. This happened a couple more times, but we finally made me back to shore with no injuries this time and a very energetic man who carried all of us to shore
We made it back to Happy Camp and slept for a very long time after eating some bread with chocolate form the local shop. It was an adventure let me tell you and I can look back on this and laugh and laugh. Traveling in The Gambia is quite a hoot. But in reality their public transportation is very convenient. You can get anywhere in the country if you want without your own vehicle... 

It is said in The Gambia that everyone in the party should be clean when traveling, otherwise something will go wrong. Well I guess our bucket showers in Njawara didn't quite do the trick that weekend. Plus no one in our group had showered that morning. We all learned our lesson :)

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