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About Gail Howard's Gambia, West Africa Travel Adventures
Gail Howard's travel adventures in The Gambia, West Africa, where Gail Howard hunts wild boar to help feed the Gambian village of Bansang on the River Gambia with her quarry. When world traveler Gail Howard meets famed African adventurer Bernie Adams in a nightclub in Bathurst (now Banjul), capital of The Gambia, and hears of his plan to hunt wild game on the Gambia River to feed the villagers of Bansang, she determines a 200-mile trip up the crocodile and hippo infested waters is just the ticket.
With a borrowed 12-gauge Browning automatic shotgun, off she goes to hunt wild boar and other savory quarry among the termite mounds, mangroves, and elephant grass of the African bush. Gail hunts guinea fowl, sand grouse, rock pigeons and palm birds (good chop, the Gambians say). Gambian village boys accompany Gail into the wilderness to retrieve the kill, skin it or de-feather it, then run back to Bansang with the precious edibles.
While night hunting Gail makes close acquaintance of bats, squirrels, and sundry slithery marsh things. She discovers that wild boar are as likely to be hunters as the hunted and barely escapes an attack by scampering up a tree, only to be viciously bitten by hundreds of huge ants. A wild boar is shot but escapes and her famous guide gets lost in the bush (twice) and turns out to be quite the boor. Fed up with the ex-corporate exec, Gail takes to photographing a wedding party of beautifully adorned Gambians.
The Imam of Bansang personally makes a juju (fetish charm) for Gail. Hunting over with, Gail takes a grueling 11-hour bus ride back to Bathurst where the ever charmless Bernie swears off women, thereby doing great service to the world. Gail Howard is rewarded with several luxuriant days in Sierra Leon in the company of a 30-year old millionaire and his German movie star girlfriend, Heidy Bohlen. The Gambia, by the way, is known as the birthplace of Kunta Kinte of Roots fame.
Gail Howard's Travel Adventures Hunting in The Gambia
The Gambia, West Africa 1968
The Gambia is a tiny West African country that is completely surrounded by Senegal. The English used to trade up the Gambia River, so the French allowed the British keep the area 10 miles on each side of the river as a Crown colony. The Gambia is a narrow country, 300 miles long, and varies in width between 15 and 30 miles.
In the capital city, Bathurst (now Banjul), I managed to find a vacancy at the Atlantic Hotel. My room was dark, dirty and depressing. I had a cold drink in the hotel lobby where a group of Gambian government officials, justices and lawyers had gathered. They had been educated in England and were kind and well-mannered. After introducing me to the Director of Tourism, they took me sightseeing.
Bathurst was buzzing with news about an American named Bernie Adams who had just returned from an impossible 18-day trip, rowing a canoe the length of the River Gambia. No one had ever done that before. The Gambians were amazed that he came back alive because the river is full of crocodiles and hippos.
The night before I was to fly to Sierra Leone, the same group of Gambians invited me to an exhibition of African dances at a local nightclub. Bernie Adams walked in and we were introduced. Bernie had been traveling for two years since he retired from corporate management at age 32.
When Bernie told us about the hunting trip he was making up the Gambia River in a couple of days, I was intrigued and said I'd like to go, too. He said I was very welcome but that he didn't think I would actually go. By the end of the evening Bernie was pleading with me to stay in The Gambia and go hunting with him. He said he wouldn't believe I was serious about making the trip unless he saw me after my morning flight to Sierra Leon had taken off without me.
The purpose of Bernie's hunting trip was to feed the villagers in Bansang,. Bernie didn't know that I wanted to go even more than he wanted me to. I looked forward to an adventure in the hinterlands, 200 miles up the Gambia River, with Bernie as my personal guide and hunting partner and feeding a village with our quarry.
We spent the next day getting our hunting licenses, buying supplies for the trip, and borrowing a 12-gauge Browning automatic shotgun for me.
Next morning I was up and dressed and out on the street by 8 a.m. to run a few errands before Bernie was to meet me at 9:30 a.m. to catch the micro bus for Bansang.
Bernie loaded everything onto the bus and we waited for departure. The driver was waiting for his uncle. We waited and waited. At noon we went back to the hotel for lunch. After lunch, we waited some more, along with the driver and the other passengers. Finally the uncle showed up. At last!
The driver started the motor - only to drive around the corner to fill the gas tank. We drove a couple more blocks and the driver stopped for cigarettes. Then, we drove around the city, stopping here and there while the driver shook hands and said goodbye to all his friends. Finally, we were on our way.
The Gambia is bush country famous for its colorful and unusual birds. Bird watchers (birders) come here from all over the world. Off the road we saw termite hills, some 15 feet high. Mangrove trees were kept well manicured at the bottom by goats, which the Gambians called sheep. Occasionally a monkey would scamper across the road.
We stopped at a small village so the Muslims on the bus could pray. The roads felt bumpier than they looked because the bus had no shock absorbers, but it had been a pleasant ride.
Six hours after we left Bathurst we reached Bansang. We dumped our gear on the side of the road. I sat on it in the dark while Bernie went to find the Alcalde (mayor) of the village who was going to put us up. Bernie returned with the Alcalde's son, S.M. Badji, the Treasurer of Bansang, who gave us the meeting house to sleep in.
Beds were bare hard boards. Fortunately, we had brought blankets with us. After a dinner of fruit and tinned food, I wanted to bathe. A pail of water was brought from the river. I went to sleep hardly aware of the hard boards under me. Next morning, I ached all over.
We were up and out just after dawn to have a look around. The atmosphere was tense and disagreeable because I wouldn't let Bernie get near me, and I was angry because he had assumed he could.