“I’ve got you a present Sis”
As she handed me the parcel I knew it was a book, and given that we had been trying to sort out our travel itinerary the week before, it was no real surprise that it was a Bradt Travel Guide-The Gambia.
The lack of surprise however, did not dull the shine or joy of the gift. I gleefully hugged her, and we did the happy jumping up and down thing, whilst hugging, which meant she was suffocating in my boobs. The short arse.
I read the Bradt guide, like I do with all travel guides, fervently, excitedly, and taking my pen to it, marking places with stars and underlining things. Drinking in the maps, circling things and joining them with arrows and question marks. It is an absolute chaotic mess to be honest. But I never did intend to pass it on.
Geekdom Level 100 was hit when I overheard a fellow passenger mentioning an attraction there and I knew which page in the guide it was on. No wonder I am single.
In the foreword of this guide, was as usual, a nod to the authors, updaters and contributors that had penned the guide, and something that stood out to me.
That Simon Fenton, a seasoned travel writer and photographer, had fallen in love in Senegal (the neighbouring country to The Gambia). Packed up his life in the UK, and taken to living with his Partner, amongst the Jola tribespeople.
From there they built an eco-guesthouse, The Little Baobab Guesthouse and Simon documented his adventures in the book Squirting Milk At Chameleons- An Accidental African. The passage in the travel guide turned out to be a eulogy of sorts. He was killed in a car crash in 2017 in Senegal.
I ordered the book before the holiday ended. Returned home and devoured it, then ordered the sequel- Chasing Hornbills- Up To My Neck In Africa.
I just found the whole thing, charming, funny, romantic and often ridiculous. The tightrope of the middle class Englishman and his Tribeman alter ego, often bumbling his way through, not even pretending to have a clue what he was doing- had me chuckling, and admiring him at the same time. Even if I had, no first-hand knowledge of Africa, I still would have enjoyed it. No doubt at all.
Sometimes, when you read something, a chain reaction starts, a series of events is set in motion. The lovely gift of a travel guide, led me to 2 books I fully submersed in, a fascination for the Jola tribe, and the determination that I would go and stay at the Eco-guesthouse, in Abene, Casamance.
I will write more about my Gambian adventure on the Places Blog. I really do recommend you read Simon’s first book Order Here, see how it makes you feel, and take it from there.