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The Gambia: Jangjang Bureh

Mark relaxing on a boat on the River Gambia
Relaxing on the River Gambia

The old colonial town of Georgetown – now officially renamed Jangjang Bureh after its pre-colonial name – is a delightful spot, perched on MacCarthy Island in the middle of the River Gambia. Like St-Louis it's the location rather than the town itself that lends the place such a pleasant ambience, and after the stress of the journey from Tendaba, ambience was exactly what I needed.

The River Gambia from Jangjang Bureh Camp
Looking across towards Jangjang Bureh from the Jangjang Bureh Camp

The Freedom Tree

A man laying concrete at the Freedom Monument
Building work at the Freedom Monument

The next day – yesterday – I set off to explore the old colonial town of Jangjang Bureh. MacCarthy Island was bought by the British in 1823 at the request of a local king as a way of stamping out domestic slavery in the area; although slavery in British colonies was abolished in 1807, for years afterwards there were still large numbers of slaves kept in captivity, often as a result of inter-tribal rivalry. To help put an end to this, the British built a military base on MacCarthy Island called Fort George, and set it up as a place to which slaves could escape and be declared free by the colonial government.

The Methodist Church in Jangjang Bureh
The Methodist Church in Jangjang Bureh is apparently extremely old

Down by the Docks

The 'slave house' in Jangjang Bureh
Ah yes, the 'slave house'...

It's a different story down by the northern ferry jetty, where there's a collection of old warehouses decaying into the river. These warehouses were built in the latter half of the 19th century, but that doesn't stop the locals calling one of them the 'slave house' and trying to drum up business. A young lad sauntered up and introduced himself as Alex, and memories of the publicity stunt on Île de Gorée came flooding back; this looked like it could be fun, so I smiled and waited for him to make his move.

Ruined warehouses by the River Gambia
Ruined warehouses by the riverside

Lazing on the River

The River Gambia
The wonderfully tranquil River Gambia

Last night a tour bus rolled into the camp and filled it up with Dutch tourists, and half an hour later five people turned up whom I'd met in Tendaba (though they'd managed to get a lift from Tendaba to Soma with the UN, so they looked a little less shell-shocked than I had when I'd arrived). Although this shattered the camp's peace, it was a welcome turn of events, as it meant I could join in with some of the tourist activities on offer.

A Gambian musician playing the drums
A Gambian drummer