In Britain, we see Gambia mainly as a destination for some cheap winter sun. But, there’s more to it than that. It’s a ‘long, thin’ country, with its borders a mere ten miles or so from the Gambia River, determined, it is said, by the fall of an artillery shell fired from an island in the river.
It’s quite a plausible story, because the northern half-mile or so of Jinnack Island, in the mangrove swamps at the mouth of the river, is actually in neighbouring Senegal, but cut off from the rest of that country by the river. In fact, the village in my picture is actually in Senegal.
It’s not very rich in the wildlife that people mainly come to Africa to see, but they say that the river is home to a greater diversity of birdlife than any other country in the world. Anglers like it here, too. During our stay, three holidaying Wiltshire policemen managed to ‘arrest’ a cassava the size of a pillow, which they shared with the other hotel guests and the staff, and still had some left over.
It was from Juffure, a village some distance up the Gambia River that Kunta Kinte, the ancestor of ‘Roots’ author Alex Haley, was taken as a slave. Many Americans, especially those of African descent, like to visit the village, and hear the story told by one of the village elders.
When we visited, the story was told by Binte Kinte, another descendant of Kunta Kinte. She was a very old lady, though, and may well have passed on by this. But, I’m sure one of her children or grandchildren will be carrying the tradition on.