Advantages Holidays to suit everyone.
Many years ago, I was searching for a holiday that suited every member of my new family. I was about to marry a man with children, and our honeymoon was going to cost us a lot of money, but we sat down and talked about the different places that we could go, and ruled many out.There was Disneyland in the states which was one possibility, although this was outruled because we would come home more tired than we started off, and the holiday had to be one that catered for all of us.
We wanted somewhere safe, we wanted beach, we wanted the possibility of mixing with the lovals and not having to speak a foreign language. We wanted a little luxury, definitely sunshine, as our honeymoon was to have been in January, and we went through all the brochures and were impressed with what the Gambia had to offer.Trips are pretty expensive, but you really can shop around now that the net is in existance, and many holidays let the youngest child go free which is a great idea. Other holiday firms offer the third week free which is what we took. So we set off on an adventure that was to stay in the recesses of memory for ever.
On arriving at the airport, I remember them opening the doors of the plane, and there was a smell of burnt vegetation, like the daytime sun had shone brightly, and for the first time in my life, I stepped from my relatively easy lifestyle in the UK, into what I can only call chaos.The airport is very small at Banjul and all the cases are piled in a huge heap unceremoniously and it really amused me that people fought for their possessions as if they were afraid that someone else would pinch them. It was a concept that really is not too well understood by the Africans, and was an amusement to me.
Having got our bags loaded into a bus that looked like it had seen better days, we were escorted to our hotel, and the lady bus driver gave us a description of life in the Gambia. What she was really saying was "chill out folks. Life here is slow".Arriving at the hotel, we were amazed by the temperature. It was the kind of weather to be wearing shorts at 11 at night. We put the kids to bed, and were pleased to note that there was a club for children for activities during the day, and so would have some time alone.
The choice of things to do in the Gambia are amazing, and we took a trip into the Bush, and travelled by boat through the mangroves. There was a man on the boat that cooked for us, and it was basically bananas with a hot sticky coat of something that ressembled toffee. They were delicious. The wildlife was pretty amazing, and I liked the fact that we stopped off at a typical village to take a look at how the people there live.What disgusted me was the ignorance of the people that formed part of our party who were basically ridiculing the local inhabitants about the place that they live in. We were introduced to the local chief, and I sat down and talked with him. He was an interesting man. The Gambians live in small communities, and the chief is the person who decides in matters of dispute. He was a sage old man and a lot of what he said made me feel humble. He told us about families splitting up and how he deals with it. If a woman is unfaithful, then she goes to live with the lover, but she has to take any children with her. A big responsibility for a lover, but it kind of made sense.
Another thing that they do which I thought was wonderful is look after their aged, and their orphans. There is no question of youngsters or old people going into any kind of care. If they have no-one, then they are still kept on as part of the community and these people care enough to love and nurture them as part of a village and would never dream of putting them in old peoples homes or orphanages.We discussed neighbours and disputes with neighbours, and all this is sorted out by the chief and his word is final. We said that we did not know many of our neighbours in England, and the concept of that was beyond their comprehension. They said "How can civilised people live like this ?", and they were right.
A visit to a local school was an education in itself and great for the kids. We saw how the children learn, and if they cannot produce a pen, then they are not allowed to go to school. It's as simple as that. That explained all the children that follow the buses and cry out "pens pens", and why so many tourists throw pens from the back of the buses for the kids.The local food is in short supply, although this does not affect the tourist, who is spoiled for choice. This seemed a little off to me, as most of the employees in the hotel were paid so little that they could not feed their families. I met a local family and was invited for a meal, and although I would not wish to repeat the experience, I was humbled by it. They gave me their food and went without, and I could not refuse it because it would have been very rude and very selfish, although we ate chicken that had been cooked in a sand pit and it was gritty and inedible, but we ate it non the less because we appreciated the gesture.
You can hire motor bikes or cars in the Gambia although the servicing of these vehicles is a little questionable. Much safer to stick with the organised safaris and public transport, as it is a taste of life as it is every day for the people that live there. I loved the buses. The people were friendly, although here too much friendliness was discouraged by the police because a lot of Gambians are seeking sponsorship for their children, books for their classrooms, and we were warned that if we invite a Gambian to our home in England, it was not taken in a flippant way. They would turn up and they would bring the whole family !!!What I loved about the Gambia was the beaches, mile upon mile of white sands. What I did not like was the fact that you were not safe to wander along the beaches at night, as we were warned of bandits. I love the ocean and I love to sit and watch it at night, and here I was really unable to do that.
The local market was interesting though a little educating, because you would see people selling things like two tomatoes and it was explained that the person concerned wanted to sell them because it was all she had, and she wanted to buy rice which is their staple diet.Peanut farms are the main produce of Gambia, and we went to a peanut farm and were lead everywhere by children. Whilst the fathers worked in the peanut farms, the wives hung huge batik cloths that they had died on lines to dry and it was beautiful to see the colours. They were exquisite.
What shocked me in the Gambia was that I expected to see some stunning sunsets and instead, there is kind of a lull between day and night and the sky just darkens without all the shades of red that I expected to see.I feel that the Gambia was a good choice for the holiday. There is something for everyone there, and it is so warm, so inviting and the people amazing. I sat on a beach and ate green oranges and green bananas and they were delicious.
Even having pointed out the pitfalls of the Gambia, keeping within the guidelines given by the tourist office, the Gambia is a fascinating place, and it is certain that their own local brew which is caught in small bottles attached to coconut trees will reach your lips at some stage. It is delicious, but in large quantities extremely dangerous !!I remember water, I remember countryside and a landscape of red sand, I remember a golf course that was all brown because things don't stay very green in such a hot climate. I remember warmth, I remember one thing that I have never experienced on holiday since then as well. That sense that you are at peace with the world and can relax. For those who struggle to relax, the Gambia is ideal because you really do get into that pace of life.
Great holiday location.Thanks for reading.
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