I make my way East along the North shore of the Gambia River, driving into the heart of the country. Immediately I notice people living more simply in straw huts, and a lot more people visibly farming and living very close to the land. There are many military stops along the highway, and all are extremely friendly and happy to meet me. More than a few ask for my email so we can keep in touch.
I stop to take a photo of a huge anthill, and a local lady approaches me. We smile and exchange a wave, though I get the feeling she does not speak English. After a minute or so she picks up fruit that has fallen from the tree above, and shows me how to peel and eat it. I pick up my own and bite into it – kind of a grainy textured apricot if I had to place it – absolutely delicious.
The lady, standing quite close to me, holds out her hand and says, in very clear English “Give Me Money”. I have had children begging, and even the odd injured person hold out their hand, though this demanding in my face is new. I feel really uncomfortable, and quickly move on.
The Wassu Stone Circles are a UNESCO world heritage site, and somewhat resemble Stonehenge. The reason for their existence, and their age, is not certain, though it’s widely accepted they are some kind of burial or sacrificial monument. Many such sites are scattered around this region of Senegambia.
The “Stone Man” quickly appears to show me around the site, who turns out to be quite the character. Stone man has all kinds of ideas about how the number 9 (or whas it 13?) is central to everything, as are symbols that can be found on everything from money to company logos. He’s crazy, and I like him. I know we’ll see each other again in the coming days.