Janjanbureh Camp 13:32.81N 14:46.80W

Andy Gibb
Sat 8 Jan 2011 12:12
I was keen to see Janjanboru camp upriver and Nicky was keen to see hippos.
This means freshwater about 80 miles further upriver, so we decided to leave
Intrepid at Tendaba, and travel by local transport: Car to the southbank
graded main road, bush taxi to Soma, taxi to Yelitenda, large vehicle ferry
north across the Gambia River, taxi to Farafenni on the main highway to Senegal,
then sept-place (7 seater with a Senegalese family) on the main blacktop
road, going east, passing villages that hadn't changed in thousands of
years - small round huts of thatch surrounded by a thicket fence.west to
Kantour a dilapidated old colonial town on the river slowly crumbling into
dust as the river traffic dies and the towns on the main north bank road
replace it. We were stopped at 10 police/customs/immigration check points
in 60 miles, (we were only 1 mile from the Senegal border at one point) but
paid no money.

A pirogue met us at Kantour, and after changing a 15 hp outboard for a 40
hp, Modu-char took us upriver past the River Gambia National Park, spotting
a 3 metre long crocodile having its teeth cleaned by a bird, weaver bird
nests, past the chimpanzee rehabilitation island (which actually isn't
because there are too many chimpanzees for the food available so they haven't
taken any for 20 years), to a family of huge hippos wallowing on 2 metre
deep mud flats. Hippos kill more people than any other animal in Africa, not
to eat but because they are intensely protective and territorial, and they
will kill with their massive teeth crocodiles, people anything that gets
near their young or their route to their territory. Gambians know this so
don't approach, but we were able to drift down about 100 metres away as the
guard hippo glared at us, and the others, submerged, re-appeared, blew
bubbles, exhaled in great sighs, and generally behaved like hippos should.

Janjanburo Camp has about 25 circular huts, nicely laid out in extensive
grounds on the north bank opposite Janjanburo town (originally Georgetown
and the upriver capital). The large huts have a double bed, en-suite (cold)
shower, toilet and thatched roof, monkeys play round, dinner is taken by
oil-light after the sun sets over the river, and it's a delightful location.
At £12/night for 2 people it's an attractive alternative to freezing UK,
with night temperatures just cold enough to need a light blanket, and midday
temperatures about 28C in the shade.

We bargained our way back to Intrepid by more bush taxis in about 5 hours.
Jonny had stayed at Tendaba to help a Somalian fisherman repair his softwood
boat that was leaking. I scoured Intrepid's library for advice, and we
worked out that a combination of sawdust (which expands when wet and jams in
holes), hessian and tar should work, and Jonny and his helpers packed this
into the extensive cracks . Faye, a local fixer found that the villagers
normally mix old polystyrene packaging with gasoline to produce a (noxious)
tar, Jonny's helpers smeared this onto the sawdust and hessian, and Jonny
stayed on to complete the repair and hopefully test drive the boat. I never
did find out how or why the Somalian ended up in Gambia, but in Tendaba
there were also two Malian families, one married to a Gambian lady, one pure
Mali who regularly travelled from Mali to Gambia, fishing, stayed a few
months or years, then returned. The Gambians are remarkably tolerant, and
seem to accept and welcome them.