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.
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.
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!!
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.
The hippo is out there – River Gambia, Senegal – screen grab from film footage © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio
Can you see it Jones? Waiting out the hippo – again! River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio
Youtube: “donding, donding” More hippo sightings – more waiting – River Gambia, Senegal. Click here or on image to view footage
“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!
Youtube: Florio – camera ready…even when being chased by a hippo!! Click here or on image to view footage
We live to tell another (river) tale – Ebou, Yousef and Abdou © Jason Florio
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