Day 166

Monday. Today we hired a car to take us to Bakau, an old town up North located between the ocean and the mouth of the River Gambia.

A while ago Dan and I did a Batik workshop with the artist Baboucarr Faal and the boys played along so patiently, that Baboucarr invited them to his studio in Bakau for a one-to-two workshop, and I arranged to meet him today.

The studio is a small room right next to the holy crocodile pond Kachikally, which is a major tourist attraction we have already visited a few months ago, but somehow missed the art studio right next to it. The building is part of a family compound and Baboucarr chose to rent the space as its prime location gives him the opportunity to expose his works of art to prospective clients. He shares the space with his nephew, a young architect, who sat there drawing is new design with a black pen on transparent paper, the razor blade to hand for amendments. Fond memories!

Baboucarr set up a table at the back yard and patiently guided the boys through the technique.

Although Oskar wasn’t happy with his overall result and Vincent with his Baobab tree, both very much enjoyed the process and the experience of working with hot wax.

Bakau used to be a small village at the turn of the 19th century with beautiful palm fringed beaches and grew in importance as it became a favourite place for private residences of colonial administrators. Despite now being a major town, the old village still exists and like any other Gambian village it is organised with an ‘Alkalo’ and divided into┬áKabilos.

a tailor’s workshop
the botanic gardens in the background

Bakau has a few attractions we wanted to visit before we leave, and we spent the rest of the day wandering from one place of interest to the other. There is the arts and crafts market, where we bought a few small things for us and presents to take home, there are the botanic gardens, which are in a pretty neglected state, and there is Cape Point, the headland between the ocean and the River Gambia, which is a beautiful spot, but unfortunately spoilt by large hotels.

the entrance to the Botanic Gardens

Vincent’s highlight of the day was the ride on one of the little two-seater taxis that are common in the urban area and that took us to the beach at Cape Point:

the beach at Cape Point with a watch out hut in the distance at the point where the river ends and the ocean starts
the stones were installed to stop severe beach corrosion
the beach at the ocean side, lined with the usual rubbish
a praying circle at Cape Point

There is a very beautiful restaurant and bar at the beach front called Calypso, which is set within a group of old Baobab trees. Apparently the whole beach at Cape Point was once lined with Baobab trees, but step by step removed for tourist accommodation. At Calypso, which is owned by a European lawyer, the old trees have been preserved and bar and restaurant were built around them. It gives the place a very beautiful and peaceful atmosphere.

It also has a natural pond next to it in which wild crocodiles live. They are being fed by the restaurant staff so that they pose no threat to the guests.

difficult to see but there is a small one lying at the opposite shore

We ended our Bakau day with a drink and ice-cream at Calypso and also met Folonko there, a guy who writes simple English-Mandinka-Wolof dictionaries and who we meant to meet since quite some time in order to buy a copy off him. He came specifically to meet us and the five of us had a very nice and entertaining chat about our time in Kartong and the linguistic and cultural differences we experienced. He wrote the dictionary and another little guide about hospitality and visits hotels and restaurants to give lessons on these topics. Ironically the place we have come across him is the place with the staff’s most obvious ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude…

The amazing thing about Baobab trees is that it took only two heavy rain falls for them to change from entirely naked to full of leaves and even flowers! I noticed this already in Kartong and here we learned that the tree’s large, white flowers are a delicacy for monkeys. We were the only guests and seemed to appear peaceful enough for them to come to the tree right next to us and munch away the flowers

Oskar went to the upper deck to sneak up on them but they pretty clearly communicated to him that he is an unwanted intruder and he very quickly came back down again, rather scared!!

2 thoughts on “Day 166

  1. Andreas

    Favourite sentence: [The crocodiles] are being fed by the restaurant staff so that they pose no threat to the guests.

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