The Journey – 1 river. 2 borders. 3 countries – Guinea-Senegal-The Gambia, West Africa
Paddles in the water: early October 2012
During our journey, we’ll be traveling by canoe and foot – thereby maintaining a low carbon footprint/environmental impact – through the homelands of several West Africa tribes – beginning at the source of the River Gambia, where it trickles out of the Fouta Djallon highlands of Guinea. We’ll then cross over the border into Senegal, to canoe and trek through Niokolo Koba National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and finally into The Republic of the Gambia – following the same course as the early gold and slave traders had done century’s ago – to the 10km wide mouth of the river, where it opens into the Atlantic Ocean after over a 1000km journey.
We’ll collect – through multiple medias: visual/written/audio – stories documenting the lives and cultures of the indigenous people, who live and work along the course of the River Gambia.
Although we will undoubtedly encounter hippo’s all along our route, both on the river and the land, Niokolo Koba National Park is particularly abundant with hippo’s – an estimated 6,000 of the beasts!! And, we’ll be on the river, in there for around 200km’s – trying to dodge them/not bump into them/paddle over them – thus, avoiding pissing them off!!
In a recent interview with Matt Smith for The Gambia Blog, the question that is always prevalent in our thoughts was asked:
TGB: And lastly, what do you intend to do about all those hippos?!
Helen: ‘Slap the canoe paddles – as rapidly and as hard as possible – on the surface of the water, whenever we you see a hippo fully submerging!’ paraphrasing Richard Grant, adventurer and author of ‘Crazy River’, who I went to hear his reading of said book in New York a couple of months back. Apparently, the vibrations scare them away. Who knew. I keep (half) joking with Florio “can’t we just attach mechanical paddles to the canoes which, at the flick of a switch, beat the bloody water hard and fast?!! Either that, or have an outboard engine attached for a quick smart getaway!”
We’ve been strongly advised to take an armed guard with us, from someone who lived in the park for over 7 years, through the park – not to shoot the hippo’s, we hasten to add…more to deter them (and the poachers – but that another story). We will heed this advice. But, if anyone out there has another other advice or experience with hippo’s, aside from beating the water really hard with the paddles, please leave your comments below.
They will be extremely appreciated!
The Florios – River Gambia Expedition 2012 Co-leaders