The day had come for my Roots excursion that I had booked up during the induction meeting with my Gambian Experience rep. My new Gambian girlfriend had wanted to come with me, to take a day off work, but it was a bit short notice and would cost me £65, I made the excuse that the Roots day trip was the most popular and was fully booked.
If I had not booked up at least one day trip the only part of Gambia I would have seen would have been Kololi beach and the strip. The bus picked me up outside the Kairaba around 7:45AM, we stopped off at a few more resorts to pick up some more day trippers and then made our way to Bangul and the port and the mouth of the river Gambia.
The day trip was to start with a 2 hour relaxing trip up the river Gambia, but hopefully not in a boat that lay partly submerged in the water. It was lovely sitting on deck enjoying the sunshine and the sights including the occasional dolphin. The wind here was alot less strong and made for a very pleasant trip.
Eventually we reach the ancient slave trading station of Albreda. We alight the boat and are taken into a village called Juffure. Its from here all the black African slaves were traded and in the distance you could see James Island where they would keep the slaves before being transported to the Americas.
If a slave on James Island could swim the channel and touch the flag pole at Juffure then he won his freedom. None did, I wonder if psychologically this is why black people are not know to be good swimmers does it originate from this?
Juffure is a 100% Muslim village now and most of the men have 4 wifes. There are kids everywhere, school is not compulsory and most sing and dance in front of the tourists hoping for some cash or presents.
You are encouraged not to give the kids any money in the hope they will goto school. Nobody takes any notice least of all the kids. We then meet some of Kunta Kinte descendants who was actually from this village hence the name the roots tour after the late 70s drama about the whole travesty.
Next stop James Island, we get back on the boat and make our way across the river. Its harrowing to believe that up to 800 slaves would be held in captivity here.
It was not only the Europeans and Americans responsible for this the local African tribes were always at war trying to control the slave trade. It was fought over repeatedly by the Portuguese, the French and the British. Gambia was originally part of French Senegal but the British calved out a strategic strip right through the middle that included the river.
Some of the local African men were visibly emotional about the subject like what happened then somehow was effecting their lives now. As much as any white Europeans living today were somehow responsible for this. Slavery has always existed and always will in some form or another. Today it is people trafficking, in fact they reckon today there is more slaves than there has ever been, just they are not primitive and their faces are not all black. When it becomes systematic it becomes much more abhorrent, that is what is striking about this period of time, like the Holocaust in more modern times.
An experienced monger is not interested and does not pursue slaves, if he goes with a girl it is for mutual benefit and with mutual consent.