A Visit to the Wassu Stone Circles

A Morning Visit to Wassu

After getting up in the middle of the night and a long journey first  over the river and then by 4WD for several hundred kilometres on bumpy roads we finally arrived in Wassu.

As you can see there were some hold ups along the way!The goat herder was in no hurry to move his charges off the road.

road hold up

But we got there eventually!


The mysterious stone circles at Wassu are 1000 to 1500 years old and not much is certain about them.

This UNESCO site consists of stone circles made up of  Laterite pillars. This rusty red rock was  shaped with iron tools into cylinders and placed into circles of various sizes.

They we probably the burial mounds of ancient chiefs.

Local legend says there is a curse on anyone who disturbs them which is possibly why they have been left untouched until present times.



 Pa Sanyang guided us round the site. He was really nice and welcoming but he had some incomprehensible ideas about numbers all  involving nine.

One thing he did explain was the little stones on top of the pillars. You put a small stone on the pile and make a wish.

We left the site with no more knowledge about the origin of these circles than we came with but it was an interesting excursion.

Next a ride along the river to our hotel ( I use the word loosely) for the night.

sunset on the river

Sunset on the Gambia river – beautiful.

Janjangbureh hut

A night with no electricity – no problem, no water, not even cold water, – not so good! However we survived (baby wipes – never travel without them).

Then on to Janjanbureh

river boat

Escape by river boat and on to George Town

Officially named Janjanbureh but called George Town by everyone this dusty town is 300 km from Banjul. It has a ferry port, a post office, a market, and a prison.

Guides will tell you sad and convincing stories of the slave trade involving their ancestors but apparently these have been greatly exaggerated to feed the tourist industry.

Fast food in George Town

Must be lunch time?

Gambian Children

We had taken pencils, sweets and a bag of clothes our grandchildren had grown out of.

The kids seemed to appreciate them.



A Day Trip to Fathala, Senegal

Getting To Fathala

Next we wanted to take a day trip into Senegal.The best bet seemed to be a visit to the  Fathala Reserve. However  this was not as simple as we had expected.

The Gambia is a small thin country either side of the Gambia river. It is surrounded by Senegal so we assumed it would be an easy journey. We finally found someone who would take us to the Fathala game reserve, a day trip not recommended for the elderly – well ignore that to start with! We later found out that the reason it was hard is because many operators are currently refusing to use the Banjul to Barra ferry, the only sensible way to get across the river and on to Senegal, because of safety concerns. However we were blissfully unaware of this as we left in the very early morning for Banjul.

We arrived at the ferry terminal on time but we had to hang around for about an hour before we could board, a common occurrence apparently. Luckily our guide got us on quickly and we got a seat so we could people watch the crowded chaos around us.

The boat ride took  about an hour. We watched people begging and others selling a random assortment of items from bags. Colgate toothpaste seemed popular- no idea why!  Eventually we landed at Barra and our 4WD took us to the border with Senegal. Getting in was easy we only had to hang about for a few minutes sitting in the Jeep while our passports were checked  and then we drove on to the reserve. The road was straight and in quite good condition. Unsurprisingly the country side didn’t change at all. The only real difference we found was the language. Gambians all speak English as well as their tribal language ( our guides spoke Mandinka). In Senegal every one speaks French. The Gambia has no large animals but the reserve in Senegal has animals imported from South Africa.

We knew the time of year wasn’t the best for seeing much wildlife but we really just wanted the adventure of a trip to another country.

At the Reserve


We drove around the reserve in our Jeep looking for wildlife. The driver tried really hard but we saw a lot more termite mounds than wild animals. I also got bitten by insects a lot!

But we were allowed to stand up as the Jeep hurtled across the bush, very Indiana Jones. All our bruises were definitely worth it. No health and safety rules to spoil the fun.

 Not Walking with Lions

There was the option to walk with lions. A fantastic photo opportunity billed as a chance to interact with young lions in their natural habitat. However either the lions are tame and no danger or they are wild and its not safe! I decided that it was probably safe, killing your tourists isn’t good business. So the lions were tame and young enough not to be a danger but lions should not be tame and safe to walk with  they should be wild and free. Then they are worth seeing.

We didn’t do it.



Gambia, Called the Smiling Coast

Winter Sun in The Gambia

The cold wet  start of November makes you want to go somewhere warm. The obvious and cheapest option is a beach holiday. Great, but we don’t do beach holidays. I’ve never been able to spend any length of time lying in the sun. A quick paddle and I’m done. So last November we booked  week at the beach with plans to go to as many places in the country as we could.  As it’s only a six hour flight and there is no time difference The Gambia seemed a good bet. You need malaria tablets which isn’t great but nowadays you can get them for a reasonable price in a supermarket chemist. So when we   found an economical package holiday with  flights, transfers and hotel all included we booked it. Sorted!

The Beach and Beyond

Internet research showed several local tour operators providing one and two day tours around the country so the plan was to try to find something to do each day. Our hotel was OK, a standard tourist place with three different bars and several restaurants spread over quite a large area with gardens and a beach.

Outside the hotel grounds we found a supermarket, well that’s what they called it, cigarettes biscuits and soft drinks, if you needed anything else you were out of luck.


Walking along the beach meant a great deal of hassle. You meet a fruit lady , a sewing lady, a massage lady, a tour man and, a boat man. Everyone can tell you have just arrived and their aim is to be the first to claim you as their customer. They will give you a business card, often a piece of torn paper with a name on it, sometimes a neat little laminated picture. Once you have these they are your protection from all the others. Tell everyone you have been in the country for a week and already have a fruit and massage lady. They will respect this and your peace is restored. Well mostly!


A visit to Serrekunda Market


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Kachikally Crocodile Pool

Kachikally crocodile park Gambia

Then a visit to a crocodile farm, about a hundred crocs busy ignoring you. You get to stroke their heads!

We managed to leave with all our limbs still attached.

On to Lamin Lodge for Coffee

coffee break – sharing donuts with the monkeys.

This wooden restaurant on stilts is in the middle of a mangrove swamp.


A Look Around the Countryside

We had a lightening visit to a school to see the local education standards. The kids were a bit shy but smiled at us.

They must be used to being on parade in return for  pencils and the odd packet of sweets.

I found this a bit uncomfortable but its how things work in The Gambia.


Then at the end of our tour time to relax on Paradise Beach. It was surprisingly peaceful with few of the hassles we experienced at the hotel beach. Just a couple of bumsters, the young men who want to be your best friend and holiday guide, trying to sell us drinks and boat trips. Twenty minutes strolling on the sand and we were ready for the drive back to our hotel.

 Just in time for happy hour, two for one cocktails,  and a seat by the pool.

Maybe this sort of holiday isn’t so bad!


Coffee Time in Canterbury

Sitting in Costa during  a regular shopping trip to Canterbury we had great coffee and toasted sandwiches. These are delicious and reasonably priced

Costa is the biggest coffee shop chain and you can get the same experience in any  city. I even had a Costa in Shanghai recently – exactly the same!

Reliability is good but the same as last week and the week before had  become boring.

It was time to try something else.

So the quest for the perfect coffee in great surroundings began.

We would try every coffee shop in Canterbury in a search for the best.

I have to say this idea formed before we considered how may coffees we would have to get through but once started we will carry on to the end!               

  First stop – Cafe Nero

Cafe Nero claim to provide a continental European coffee house atmosphere with an Italian based food menu.

Its a big chain with two branches in Canterbury city  centre so it seemed a good place to start.


  • In a good location at the top of the town.
  • There was a queue but  the service was fast and friendly.
  • Comfortable seats.
  • The coffee was nice although not very hot.
  • The toasted panettone was delicious.
  • Not too expensive.
  • The toilets were quite dirty. It looked like no had given them more than a quick wipe for a long time.


Acceptable coffee and nice food but the dirty toilets are a major problem.

 This won’t be replacing our Costa visits any time soon.

Eating in The Ukraine

The obvious Ukrainian dish, Chicken Kiev, isn’t Ukrainian.

It is French. It was first served in Kiev when  tourists began arriving  in the 1960’s and asked for it assuming it was a local dish.

But there are some delicious genuine Ukrainian dishes



There are so  many sausages in The Ukraine.

I think this one  is called Kovbasa  but they all seem to have more than one name or I’m missing some of the intricacies of sausages.


These are filled dumplings made from a flour dough.

They can have almost anything inside – cabbage, mince, potatoes or cheese. They taste a lot better than they look.

All the cheaper eating places sell them.




Deruny are potato pancakes sold everywhere, most often as lunch. They are very easy to make.

You need:-

Three potatoes

Three onions

One egg

Two or three tablespoons of  flour

Peel and grate the potatoes and onions.

Then add the egg and mix everything together.

Add flour until you have a good consistency, probably a couple of tablespoons.

Fry on both sides until brown – about twenty minutes.

These taste good served with mayonnaise, ketchup , or if you want to be authentic, sour cream.