The ancient stone circles by the Gambia River

The Baboon Islands in the Gambia River is a nature reserve where you’re not allowed to anchor, so we made sure to stay outside of the park limits, but anchored close enough to see the hippos through our binoculars. And as darkness fell, the animals started to come alive and we could hear their deep roars around us. A bit scary actually, when you cannot see a thing, but soon it stopped again and we were alone with the fireflies in the dark. We heard that the locals are not happy with the increasing number of hippos in the river, because they come to the rice fields at night and destroy the harvest, so the park has arranged drum guards to be in the fields and scare the animals away. We don’t know if it’s a true story, since we were in the area after the harvest, but we hope that the conservationists do work with the local farmers. If their worries are not taken seriously, the protection will never work. While anchored by the park we noticed that the fishermen did not care about the park being off limits for hunting – their families have probably been fishing these areas for as long as they can remember, and the people clearly need income they can get, but it still made us a bit sad that this small piece of the river is not left alone.

Wassu1

Looking for hippos

We had first learned about the megalithic stone circles of West Africa when we visited the museum on Île de Gorée in Dakar. These circles, more than 1000 in total, can be found in Senegal and The Gambia. Not much is known about them, or about the people who created them, but they are thought to be burial grounds and sites of religious activity. We anchored by the city of Kuntaur to visit the Wassu stone circles, one of the more famous sites. We decided it would be healthy for us to walk up there. So we made our way through the town early in the morning to avoid the heat, and greeted the many people we met on the way. The area is very dry, and the roads made up of sand and dirt, and most people move around by donkey “taxies”. Most found that we were very strange, insisting to walk even though we were offered lifts. The stone circles are supposed to be one of the main tourist attractions in The Gambia, but despite of this, there were no road signs showing the way, and the road that led to the circles was so bad you would need a 4WD to get there. We were happy we had google maps to give us directions. The stone circles are UNESCO world heritage, and have a tiny museum informing visitors about the history of West Africa. We mainly learned that very little is known about the circles. The stone circles themselves were quickly seen, and then we made our way back to the boat. We found a small shop that sold us some drinks, and then we were ready to move on.

Leaving the fresh water section of the river, we decided to move a bit faster on the way back; we would like to experience the carnival in Mindelo, Cape Verde, but we also wanted to visit a Gambian girl in the Banjul area, whose school we have been sponsoring for the past 10 years. So our 50-year old Volvo Penta engine got no rest, and soon the river became wider and the banks covered in mangroves again.

This time, we wanted to try another anchorage by Banjul, Oyster Creek, which is close to the main road. This location makes it easier for us to do excursions in the area than if we had been anchored by the Lamin Lodge, where we had been before our trip up the river. Only problem with Oyster Creek is that it is a lot trickier to reach; you have to sail through a narrow creek with loads of shallows – and of course it’s not charted. But we got our cruising guide out, created a small tool to measure the depth if (when) we got stuck (a piece of string with a dive weight tied on the end), and off we went. Soon the depth decreased to 1.5 meters, which is the same as our draft, and then our echo sounder measured -10 cm…In other words, we were stuck. But knowing the tide was rising and that we were just stuck on a tongue of sand, we kept the engine in slow forward, and the keel carved our way through the sand until we were through. The rest of the trip was interesting, but we didn’t touch the bottom again, and then we were through and could anchor in Oyster Creek, with the many colorful tour boats, for the next week.

To see Chip-Chip’s most recent position, click here and scroll down.

 

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2 thoughts on “The ancient stone circles by the Gambia River

    • You know, we always cook outside if possible in warm countries. Anything to keep the temperature down under deck 😉 and no, not exactly Stonehenge size – we actually found the walk there more interesting than seeing the stones…

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