L-R: Ablie Janneh, Jason Florio, Chief Dadi Bah, Helen Jones-Florio – The Gambia, West Africa, 2009. Taken whilst on ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush-a 930km African odyssey’ expedition

‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey’

The Journey – 1 river. 2 borders. 3 countries

Guinea – Senegal – The Republic of The Gambia

West Africa

When: Paddles in the water mid-November 2012– Late-January 2013

Why: To create an historical – visual /audio/written –  document of the peoples, cultures and environment along one of Africa’s last, free flowing, major rivers – The River Gambia.

Estimated journey time: 2-3 months

Modes of transport: Canoes & Trekking & ‘Moto – Taxis’!

Expedition Leaders: Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

River Gambia Expedition 2012 logo

 Mission Statement

Experienced West Africa travelers, husband and wife team – multi award-winning photographer and writer Jason Florio, and, photography and expedition producer and writer, Helen Jones-Florio – will attempt to create a modern-day account of the people, societies, and life along the length of one of Africa’s last, free-flowing, major rivers – the River Gambia. There has been talk of damming the river. This journey will also be about the impact to the communities, who daily lives rely on the river to survive, and the environmental impact of damming the river.

The River Gambia Expedition Route Map

The River Gambia – source to sea – map

To read more, and find out about our previous expedition – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey’ – please visit: Why Exactly Are We Doing This Expedition…

Welcome on board! We look forward to having you all on the journey with us.

Thanks for your support,

Jason & Helen – ‘The Florios’

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Update – Nov 18, 2012 Youtube: Photographer, Jason Florio, and producer, Helen Jones-Florio update from West Africa. Click image to view footage

UPDATE – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! We did it! We completed the River Gambia Expedition23rd November 2012 – 21st January 2013 – after 400km overland in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea-Conakry into Senegal and then putting our two canoes into the water in Kedougou – we paddled (no engine!) over 700km of the River Gambia to its end, at the Atlantic Ocean in Banjul, The Gambia.

During our travels, we bounced and rattled down the mountains of the Fouta Djallon on the back of motorcycle taxis; hung out with gold miners in Senegal; drank attayah tea with village chiefs and elders; dodged very angry hippos on the River Gambia; and, as we paddled on the increasingly widening ocean-like river, we battled the wind and waves, as we neared the Atlantic and the end of our journey.

All in all, it was a phenomenal journey! Please read on to find out all about it – or visit River Gambia Expedition

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We did it!! Denton Bridge, Banjul, The Gambia – standing in the Atlantic Ocean! The River Gambia Expedition team. L-R: Helen Jones-Florio, Ebou Jarju, Abdou Ndong, Jason Florio

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River Gambia Expedition route map – YellowBrick Tracking Device (YB3) – click here to view our route through Guinea Conakry – Senegal – The Gambia, West Africa – over 1000km

Posted in Adventure, Carbon footprint, Culture, Documentary, Environmental, Expedition, Fundraising, Guinea, Photography, photography, Photojournalism, Portraits, River Gambia, Senegal, Sponsorship, The Gambia, tradition, Travel, Uncategorized, Vimeo, West Africa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Photographer, Jason Florio: Kedougou streets at night, Senegal, West Africa

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Kedougou streets at night, Senegal © Jason Florio

Random photo of the day: what served as our local coffee shop during the day became a take-out food place by night – Kedougou, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio.

To see more of Florio’s images from the River Gambia Expedition, please visit his website: floriophoto.com

Coming up next: a sad au revoir to Yousef, our Malian fisherman/guide/hippo expert…

Posted in Adventure, Carbon footprint, Culture, Documentary, Environmental, Expedition, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry, Mali Ville, People, Photography, photography, Photojournalism, Portraits, River Gambia, Senegal, The Gambia, tradition, Travel, West Africa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jason Florio’s prints for our donors – taken whilst on the River Gambia Expedition – are almost ready to ship!

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Chef de village, Horé Dimma, Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea-Conakry, West Africa © Jason Florio

Monday 8th April, 2013 – NYC, USA

Neither of us have stopped since we got back to New York in early February, after eight months away – three of those on the River Gambia Expedition in West Africa. The last couple of months have been spent wading through those three months of images (Florio), updating the blog (me)…and, generally, getting back to being home. There’s an awful lot of house-keeping to catch up on after eight months of absence. However, and at last, we are getting ready to ship prints out to all of those who got involved in ‘An Exchange’ and our Kickstarter campaign for Jason Florio’s fine art photography prints – taken whilst we were in West Africa. We have postcards too, featuring one of Jason’s images from the journey, for every single person who helped to make the expedition possible.

Prints for donors

It’s a joy to see this labour of love in print. Our apartment is bulging at the seams with the people who live and work along the River Gambia – one of Africa’s last major free-flowing rivers. Sublime visual reminders of the people we met along the way – and of new friends made – who we know we will go back to revisit. But, that will be another story…

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‘Masquerade Boy’ The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio – just one of the images offered to our donors, to make their print choice from

BIG thanks, again, to every single person who made our journey happen. Our thanks, to you, will be with you very shortly.

More tales and images from the River Gambia coming soon, here on the blog.

Helen & Florio x

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P.S. There are a few of you out there who have yet to make your print choice or provide us with an address for the postcards. Please let us know, soon as, and we can get your print and/or postcard out. Thanks!

Posted in Adventure, Carbon footprint, Culture, Documentary, Environmental, Expedition, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Fundraising, Guinea-Conakry, Mali Ville, People, Photography, photography, Photojournalism, Portraits, River Gambia, Senegal, Sponsorship, The Gambia, tradition, Travel, West Africa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jason Florio – new images from the River Gambia Expedition, West Africa

boy and bucket © Jason Florio

Many people from the Cuuballo people of Senegal come to The Gambia for fishing in the fresh water regions of the River Gambia. Photographed here is Sinju Mangan who came with his family to Kaur for the seasonal fishing. Image © Jason Florio

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L – Alkalo (village chief) of Karantaba preparing his fishing net in the River Gambia.
R – A young boy with a dead fish and net at the village of Karantaba, The Gambia. Images © Jason Florio

To view more of Florio’s latest body of work, taken whilst on the River Gambia Expedition, please visit his website: floriophoto.com

Posted in Adventure, Carbon footprint, Culture, Documentary, Environmental, Expedition, Fundraising, Guinea-Conakry, Mali Ville, People, Photography, photography, Photojournalism, Portraits, River Gambia, Senegal, Sponsorship, The Gambia, tradition, Travel, West Africa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photographer, Jason Florio, talks about his current New York exhibition ‘Silafando’ – portraits of Gambian chiefs and elders from our 2009 journey

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Youtube: Jason Florio talks about ‘Silafando’ – his current New York exhibition at the Corridor Gallery/Rush Arts. Please click here or on the image to see the footage

In 2009 we walked 930km’s around The Republic of The Gambia, West Africa, completely by foot (‘bi tamala singalah’ – Mandinka language),  with three local Gambian friends, two donkeys, and a cart – to carry our camera gear and camping equipment: ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey

Each evening, we would approach a village and ask the chief if we could camp there – using the traditional method of ‘Silafando’ – which roughly translates as ‘a gift to you on behalf of my journey‘ – of giving the bittersweet, caffeine-containing, kola nuts. Following this age old protocol ensured that we were taken in, under the protection of the village chief – the ‘Alkalo’. Once we were accepted into the village by the alkalo – and his elders, with whom he shared the ‘Silafando’ – we would ask him (or her – there were 5 female chiefs in The Gambia at that time) if he would sit for formal portrait. These are just a couple from what has since become an award-winning body of work by Jason Florio:

One of Jason's fine art photography prints, available to donors in 'An Exchange' from the 2009 expedition 'Herouna and white horse' The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio,

‘Herouna and white horse’ The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

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L-R Bubu Dabbo – Farmer, Brifut. Alkalo Masanneh Cham, Chamen Sosseh
The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

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Alkalo Jare Sowe, Felling Koto, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

To view more from the series of portraits, please visit Florio’s website – floriophoto.com – or, if you find yourself over in Brooklyn, NY, before May 5th, 2013, pop into the Corridor Gallery and see them up close.

Thanks to Rush Art Philanthropic Foundation/Corridor Gallery curator, Charlotte Mouquin Vosnesenskiy, for an excellent  job in putting the show up. Over three years later and the alkalo’s are still garnering so much attention. It’s an honour for us to have the work out there still. It’s with great thanks also to all the alkalo’s who graciously welcomed us into their villages and accommodated our request to sit for the portraits.

The Florios – H & Flo

Rush Arts flier

The Corridor Gallery is not open 7 days a week so please contact them directly to find out their opening hours

Posted in Adventure, Carbon footprint, Culture, Documentary, Environmental, Expedition, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Fundraising, Guinea-Conakry, People, Photography, photography, Photojournalism, Portraits, River Gambia, Senegal, Sponsorship, The Gambia, tradition, Travel, West Africa, Youtube | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photographer, Jason Florio: the source of the River Gambia, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry, West Africa

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The source of the River Gambia, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry, West Africa © Jason Florio

Random photo of the day: ‘The source of the River Gambia is surrounded – protected – by a low, red stone, wall. We entered through a tiny gap in the wall, into a copse of trees – Florio and I going first. We needed time to savour this momentous occasion. We had, after all, been planning this together for many months…’ read and see more here

www.floriophoto.com

River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey

Posted in Adventure, Carbon footprint, Culture, Documentary, Environmental, Expedition, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry, People, Photography, photography, Photojournalism, Portraits, River Gambia, Senegal, The Gambia, tradition, Travel, West Africa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More hippo sightings and more of the waiting game on the River Gambia, Senegal

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A young mine worker waits to be ferried across the River Gambia after working with his father at one of eastern Senegal’s artisanal gold mines. Image © Jason Florio

Friday 21st December, 2012 – Paddling distance: 22.08km (total to-date: 105.73km) – River Gambia Expedition

Before we headed back out on the River Gambia for the town of Mako – or next port of call – we paid a last visit to one of the gold mines near to where we camped last night.

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Gold miners, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio

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A future gold-miner? A little boy plays at washing dust for gold, whilst his mother washes the dust, brought down to the river from the mines, in hope of finding gold. River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio

Near to our campsite, migrant workers – from all over West Africa – and local villagers would come to the river each day to either launder their clothes, wash their bodies, swim, or to wash the crushed rocks from the gold mines, in the hope of finding gold in the dust.  This little boy came down to the river with his mother, imitating her as she washed the dust.

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Gold miners being ferried across the River Gambia after a day in the mines, Senegal © Jason Florio

Leaving the gold mines behind us, we got our two canoes back out on the River Gambia, heading towards the town of Mako – where, sadly, we would bid farewell to our Malian fisherman, guide, and hippo expert – Yousef. After Mako, we would no longer have his expertise on dealing with hippos. However,  despite his perhaps rather unorthodox ways of dealing with the huge mammals – which included catapulting rocks at them, posturing, and making baboon-like noises! – it was actually a scary prospect, knowing that it would be just the four of us, from then on, facing the hippo’s. None of us had had any experience with *‘one of the most aggressive creatures in the world… regarded as one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.’ Up until, that is, our week long crash-course with Yousef.

All along the river bank, as we paddled along, we spotted fresh hippo tracks leading into the river. At one point we passed a family of three hippo’s,  over on the other side of the river – “donding, donding” (slowly, slowy). Yousef’s mantra whenever there were hippos in sight – that and “natah, natah!!”, which basically translates as get a bloody move on – the hippo’s are coming!!

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Jason Florio on our close encounter with a hippo – film footage © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio 2012. Click here or on the image to view footage

After a very close encounter with a very large hippo (do they actually come in any other size?!), we spent over an hour on the rocks, waiting for the hippo to let us pass.

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The hippo is out there – River Gambia, Senegal – screen grab from film footage © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

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Can you see it Jones? Waiting out the hippo – again! River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio

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Youtube: “donding, donding” More hippo sightings – more waiting – River Gambia, Senegal. Click here or on image to view footage

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“It’s just gone under again!” Yet more waiting…the hippo(s) is out there – still from film footage

We spent an inordinate amount of time, hugging the river bank. Waiting became part of our daily life for a long stretch of the River Gambia. Then, after we waited so long and/or we couldn’t see where the hippo(s) was any longer, we’d paddle like bats out of hell to get out of their territory!In this particular encounter, Yousef had the bright idea of ‘distracting’ the hippo by throwing one of our 25 gallon water containers as far as he could, across the river, hoping that the hippo would think it was our canoes and thus head in that direction(!?!). Here we are, in the following film clip, paddling furiously, with Yousef steering our canoe into the middle of the river.  “What the hell are we doing when we aren’t quite sure where the hippo is at this point – i.e. it could be right there – in the middle?!” I screeched at Yousef – which then had to be translated to him by our team mate, Ebou. Apparently, he wasn’t about to let that bright yellow water container go that easily – paddling towards it – as it floated in front of us, up the river! “But they only cost about 50 cents” Flo hollered “we can buy another – we can buy 10 more!” Just as Yousef laughed out loud, as he deftly scooped the container out of the river – hardly missing a stroke of his paddle!

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Youtube: Florio – camera ready…even when being chased by a hippo!! Click here or on image to view footage

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We live to tell another (river) tale – Ebou, Yousef and Abdou © Jason Florio

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Phew! Abdou and Helen – safe on the river bank, Mako – screen grab from film foootage © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

Now, where is that Kelly Kettle?!

Further adventures on the River Gambia to come soon.

Thanks, as ever, for stopping by.

The Florios – H & Flo

To check our more of Jason Florio’s images from the River Gambia Expedition, please visit floriophoto.com

*Wikipedia

Posted in Adventure, Carbon footprint, Culture, Documentary, Environmental, Expedition, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Fundraising, Guinea-Conakry, Mali Ville, People, Photography, photography, Photojournalism, Portraits, River Gambia, Senegal, The Gambia, tradition, Travel, West Africa, Youtube | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Today’s ‘shout out’ goes to the girls at Kemoto Point, The Gambia, for helping the River Gambia Expedition team to say ‘Thank you!’

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Girls just wanna have fun – Kemoto Point, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

We had a whole host of eager little volunteers at this particular village, where we camped overnight whilst on the last leg of the River Gambia Expedition.

So, today’s BIG shout out to the Kemoto Point kids – and all the other kids we met along the way – for their help in giving us a hand to say thank you to those donors who got involved in our ‘An Exchange’ and ‘Kickstarter’ fundraising campaigns.

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Thank you! Kemoto Point, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

If you’d like to check out more about how we said ‘thank you’ to our donors, please visit our page: BIG Love, thanks and respect to family, friends and well-wishers’

Posted in Adventure, Carbon footprint, Culture, Documentary, Environmental, Expedition, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry, Mali Ville, People, Photography, photography, Photojournalism, Portraits, River Gambia, Senegal, Sponsorship, The Gambia, tradition, Travel, West Africa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment