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Instead of bringing back 1600 plants, we might return from our journeys with a collection of small unfêted but life-enhancing thoughts. - Alain de Botton

23 January 2020, Soma
Nyima’s Travellers Lodge 450D including 50D for wifi (R126)


Stonehenge they are not, but the Senegambia stone circles are worth a visit (or two) nonetheless. Erected for 1500 years beginning the third century BC, the circles cover an area north of the River Gambia that is 350km long and 100km wide. There are 1,053 circles comprising 28,931 stones, the biggest concentration of stone circles anywhere in the world. 93 circles are incorporated in four Unesco World Heritage Sites, two in The Gambia, two in Senegal. The stones were excavated from laterite quarries and average two metres in height; some weigh up to 7 tons. Though the circles are associated with burial sites and rituals, little seems to be known about exactly why they were constructed or by whom.
We decided to visit the Wassu site today, and thought perhaps we might find time also for the Kerr Batch site, but did not. Two share taxis (Renaults), each carrying a driver and seven passengers in relative comfort, transported us first from Soma north to Farafenni (100D each), then east to Wassu (150D each). It was a slow ride, incorporating as it did a longish wait for the second vehicle to fill up, so we reached Wassu at lunch time only, and hungry. Outside a small shop with a good fridge and therefore ice-cold drinks, the young proprietor also had a table and benches and there served his clients with fresh bread, the long loaves standing upright in three cardboard boxes, and omelettes to order. Into our two-egg omelettes, he cut a tin of pilchards and some onion, and smeared the cut-open baguettes with mayonnaise. Simple, tasty, filling. We were bemused to see that the newspaper in which he wrapped our meal was a Swedish daily.
We walked then to the Wassu site, circles and a museum enclosed by a low stone wall. Just within the compound, a small group of small children beat makeshift drums, sticks rhythmically pounding the ubiquitous 20-litre water containers used throughout Africa to transport water from river or well to home. We were thrilled to find a tour bus at the site, and to see another pull up shortly thereafter. There are so few tourists in West Africa, and such a need for tourist dollars, that it is great to see a country making an effort to promote whatever it is it has to offer. The first tour bus carried a group on a week-long cruise from Dakar; the second, mainly Hollanders spending two weeks in Senegal and The Gambia.
Several stone circles, some more intact than others, filled the compound. Some stones are short and fat, some tall and slender. Pleasing to the eye; dark against the dry tan of the African bush.
On the way back to the main road to change Central African Francs to Gambian Dalisis and get a lift back “home”, we passed a herd of cattle, one of which had a normal horn, the other growing in a curve below her jaw. And passed a pregnant goat eating cooked rice from a woven bag. And on the ride to Farafenni, passed again the several hundred baobabs we had seen on the way to Wassu. And the several police stops. On our earlier ride, our passports had been politely checked at one of the many stops, and we were glad we had made the effort yesterday to get them stamped.
For the first time since Ghana, we have encountered real beggars, in other words, people or children who beg for a living as opposed to those making random demands of passing whites. The children either carry, exactly as they did in Ghana, a large can that formerly held tomatoes, or just cup a hand. We have found them to be polite and diffident, and willing to go away once we have clearly said no.
We are also hearing “Salaam alaikum” (peace be upon you) more regularly, and responding with “Alaikum salaam” (and peace be upon you too).
In the Soma market we saw what looked like a delicious soup and decided to take some home for dinner. The seller first measured the soup into a tin mug, then poured the steaming brew into a plastic bag and tied a half-knot in the top. We bought a baguette to accompany it, and a couple of apples, and a beef roll for Charl. Sadly the soup was a major disappointment. It had a strange flavour, was floating with treacherous fish bones, and the potatoes were undercooked.

Farafenni
Farafenni
Farafenni
Farafenni
Wassu
Wassu
Wassu stone circles
Wassu stone circles
Wassu stone circles
Wassu stone circles
Wassu stone circles
Wassu stone circles
Wassu stone circles
Wassu stone circles
Wassu stone circles
Wassu stone circles
Wassu stone circles
Wassu stone circles
Wassu stone circles
Wassu stone circles
Wassu
Wassu
Wassu
Wassu
Wassu
Wassu
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