Bakau Fire Station
Bakau Sea Rescue Station
Brufut Sea Rescue Station
Tanji Sea Rescue Station
Sanyang Sea Rescue Station
Gunjur Sea Rescue Station
Brikana Fire Station
Today was spent driving down the coastal road to visit all the boat rescue stations, The Gambian waters are renowned for being rough, full of fishing boats and tourists to be swallowed up. Samba and Paul picked us up and had dressed casually, we wished we had known it was a dress down day, anything not to wear the uniform in this heat. We had a whistle stop tour of Bakau fire station, where we were given the usual smiling welcome with a salute. There were piles of breathing apparatus sets in storage which gave us hope that the guys won’t have to walk into a fire without protection, but the compressor was broken. Leaving here we headed past lots of embassies on the left, looking clean, expensive and well guarded, on our right were houses of corrugated metal. We turned down one of many many sandy, rocky roads that bumped us around the 4×4, passing cattle, cats and goats everywhere, the chickens are hard as nails and literally played chicken with us. Down a concrete ramp we passed hand made wooden boats that were very impressive, they were brightly coloured fishing vessels that any carpenter would be proud of. Stepping into the heat there was still no sun as the dust from the Sahara winds have covered us. The smell of fish hit you first, then the flies buzzing about. We were being offered fish from all angles, and saluted by a guy who used to be a fireman, then asked for sweets by dusty, cute kids, alas, we had none. We entered a building that looked out to sea; they would have been amazing views on a sunny day. Once more we were met with salutes and handshakes by the lady in charge. She showed us the equipment they use, yet again, it was all basic but they have the initiative to overcome and the sea experience to know what to do. The boat they have to save people from rough seas were maybe 8ft long and 3ft wide and made of plastic. The outboard motor was separate and left in the building, this was the same at all stations, they drag the boat to water and someone carries the motor and off to sea they go.
The theme continued for most of the day, bumpy dusty tracks, chickens, donkeys & goats. The smell of fish cooking on open fires was very inviting and we were offered food and drink everywhere we visited. Samba had packed some grilled chicken that his daughter had been very kind to prepare for us along with an ice bucket full of cold drinks. We enjoyed these together during our stay at Sanyang, the chicken was amazing. We were given more food at our next stop and being that the smell of the smoked fish had been so inviting all day we couldn’t turn it down. The meal, called Chu, was lovely and probably the freshest fish anyone is likely to have, we took a spoon each and dived in; communal eating is the norm throughout Gambia. Stuffed, we were invited by the ground commander, as he proudly announced himself, to the beach. We passed the same scene as at all the coastal areas; market stalls, gutted fish, handmade boats and nets lined up ready for the next day. We got to the sea and a long line of people were in convoy carrying baskets of fish on their heads from a boat to the new processing plant, it looked like hard work running in water, on sand and with a decent weight on your head in high humidity, not sure it’s for me.
Leaving these guys we headed back up the coast, again lots of animals on the road, I (Paul) saw wild monkeys, Rich didn’t 😂. I think we were flagging by this time, Samba was aware of this so we stopped at another fire station, one that he had worked at many years ago, to meet the guys and stretch our legs. Refreshed and back on the road we were privileged that Samba asked us to meet his family. He took lots of twists and turns down back street short cuts, we found ourselves in Lamin, a bustling town with markets and garages everywhere. Pulling through the gates, it was a squeeze, we met Samba’s lovely family; dad, mum, wife, kids, nieces and nephews. The usual family setup here is that they live in separate houses but they are joined in the same compound, these properties are built by family members and passed through generations. Samba explains his parents looked after him and he will look after them in old age, this will carry on for decades to come, but all in the same compound and houses. Paul invites us to his home to meet his family, the area looks very similar just a bit more rural, we chat to his neighbours who offer us cashew juice but warn us it is potent, we stuck to beer. All of Paul’s family come to say hello, as with Sambas family, they are all living next door.
After a cracking day, which, although fast paced was less work related we are both exhausted. So back at our hotel with a cold one and a poor internet connection we will sign off of the evening. Pictures from today will be added to this entry when the internet improves.
Paul & Rich out!