My Significant Birthday in Gambia.

Birthday in Gambia

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Celebrating my “significant” birthday at Footsteps.

When my wife Sue, asked me whether I would like to have a party or go away for my 60th birthday, I replied without any hesitation, that I would like to spend it in The Gambia and more specifically at Footsteps Eco lodge. As things turned out I also had a fantastic party at our local pub before flying out to The Gambia for wildlife watching by day and protracted celebrations during the evenings.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”3323″ img_size=”medium”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]So, the big day arrived and we left Footsteps with local guides for a full and very productive day’s birding at a selection of the less well known sites. Some difficult to find species such as White-spotted Flufftail and Brown-necked Parrots were spotted taking us to a total of 85 species of bird that day along with some interesting reptiles including a Skink and Monitor Lizards. Back at Footsteps we got great views of Pygmy Kingfisher and Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher as well as frequent glimpses of an African Goshawk.

See a list of birds Steve Keightley and myself compiled back in 2014 here[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”3148″ img_size=”medium”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]That evening we had a great party at Footsteps joined by the many friends that I have made in The Gambia on my previous nine trips.  David had laid on a Cora player and who serenaded us whist we enjoyed drinks on what turned out to be one of the hottest evenings of that season. We then enjoyed a veritable banquet organised by Sue, David and Footsteps talented chefs. The final course was my birthday cake; a delicious chocolate cake that became known as the chocolate puddle cake as it began melting before our eyes in the forty plus degrees of heat that evening!

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”3315″ img_size=”medium”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I really did not expect any more presents, but David presented me with a magnificent carving that “Six Fingers” had made of a Heron feeding its’ chick, made from one piece of wood. Heather had painted me a lovely picture in The Gambian style and Colin and Binta Cross donated a day’s guided birding at Kartong Bird Observatory, which on the day included a lot of beer!

Needless to say, the day after my birthday was spent chilling out around the lodge and nearby forests nursing a bit of a sore head.

I think of The Gambia as my second home and I can’t wait for November when we go back and stay at Footsteps again.

Ian Misselbrook

September 2017.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

But it was comfy

Taxi,Gambia

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I love the old E Class Mercs and they just seem to go on forever, regardless of what may fall off or cease to function along the way. In their distinctive green and yellow livery, these timeless classics make up around sixty percent of the tourist taxi fleet in The Gambia.

Cheap to buy, inexpensive to maintain and rugged, what more could you ask? Particularly when you consider the roads in The Gambia. There are a few tarmac sections, some more reasonable gravelly tracks and a host of rural ‘roads’ which would undoubtedly be considered far too extreme for an Olympic Mogul Skiing course.

The weather doesn’t help, of course, as many of these roads get washed away or heavily rutted each year during the rainy season. However, these old Mercs seem to cope quite well and are generally pretty comfy.

My first journey in one of these local taxis involved all types of terrain. I quickly discovered that there was no point in wondering how fast you were travelling, whether or not the driver was signalling, how much fuel they put in the car, how warm it was or anything else relating to dials or gauges as none of them worked. Even opening a window was a struggle, no handles, but it was comfy. In general, I found that the only thing that consistently worked in any taxi was the radio or cassette player.

Heading down one of the heavily trenched ‘roads’, there was a sudden clatter and we stopped. I looked out of the back window and there, in the middle of the track, was the entire exhaust system. Out we got and for the next twenty minutes or so we sat chatting to some locals outside whose home we had broken down. I assumed that the driver had summoned assistance and that the excursion had reached a premature conclusion.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”3304″ img_size=”medium”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]But no. After twenty minutes, the exhaust had cooled down sufficiently to be thrown into the boot of the vehicle and, having said farewell to the local family, we were off again. Got to hand it to these old Mercs.

We then managed the enormous distance of about twenty metres before there was an enormous jolt as the front wheel plunged into a huge crater and punctured the tyre. Out we got again and rejoined the bemused local family for another, lengthier chat and a drink.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”3305″ img_size=”medium”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]This second stop was much longer but we eventually got back under way and, fortunately, there were no further incidents. Comfy though.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]