We started out at the most horrible alligator lake. Small alligators, well fed and virtually tame, occupy a scum covered pond. The big thing to do was to pat one of them which we did. Ugh.
We drove quickly through Banjul and another town nearby and saw the extremely crowded markets, full of hustle and bustle. Carts and horses are still widely used as a means of transport. The Gambia is suffering greatly under the new regime...which took power via military coup. An uneducated 49 year old minor officer in the army orchestrated it and became President. Things have deteriorated badly under his hard hand....his ministers are his cronies from the army and know nothing about running a country. As our guide explained...in the west, the leaders fear the people who have the power to throw them out. In Africa, it's the reverse. The current leader could be in place for decades, making one stupid mistake after another.
Unlike Dakar and environs, Banjul and The Gambia are verdant and forested. Riding through the country side was lovely with peanuts, the major crop, aplenty. We would drive through bands of different peanut aromas - peanut oil, peanuts being ground, peanuts being roasted. Mammoth mango trees were everywhere.
A stop at the cattle and goat auction was interesting and non-touristy. We could peek into the abbatoir if we wished, but everyone passed. They seemed to be treating the animals humanely; there is a veternarian in residence to assure that the animals are healthy before slaughtering and we couldn't believe that some of the animal handlers were dressed entirely in white. And they looked spotless.
Lunch followed at Paradise Beach...fried fish, french fries, rice, fried rice (with tomato paste and onions), fried chicken. They did their best and for on the beach in The Gambia, it was surprisingly good. The beach is nothing short of spectacular with huge intact shells washing up on it. Brits come down for the winter months but during our short visit it was blissfully quiet and the beach was empty.
Our last stop was the smoked fish operation. A fairly small yellow mullet is smoked for 4 days to produce a product very popular in The Gambia. The beach outside the smoke houses teems with activity...fish being delivered to the smokers in huge nets, boats being painted and repaired, people purchasing fish for resale or for thier own use. A wonderful bustling sight.
Here's one of the beautiful women of Gambia elegantly dressed and in full anti-tourist posture, yelling obscenties as we drove by. Can you imagine all of us, screaming at photographers at the Avocado Festival?
There's a long, story...a myth really about these alligators and why they are so passive. Personally Ithink there's probably some kind of soporific effect from the dense growth of algae in their pond of residence. They reminded me of koalas, drunk on eucalyptus trees. All the tourists are herded to this place where the alligators apparently like us but the women hate us with a passion. I would much rather have posed with one of the beautifully dressed women, but that doesn't happen.
We visited a cattle and goat auction. These two fellows did not mind having their photo taken. The goats didn't give a damn.
A partially wrecked fishing boat, sketchified.
Fish in one of the smoking stages. They call this "million bone" fish and warn tourists against even trying to eat it. Too dangerous.