After the paddle from James Island to Dog Island in the early hours of this morning, which I found to be the hardest stretch so far (to the extent that I almost cried during it!), we got to go back to bed for a bit of a lie in before our final day. By lie in, I mean that we went to bed at 5:30am and woke up at 8am when the sun had started to cook us in our sleep. Still, we are actually used to capitalising on a couple of hours sleep at a time as that has been the reality of our schedule for the last few days!
So we knew that high tide in Banjul was at 11am ish, and wanted to catch the slack tide to make the crossing over to Mandina as soon as possible as the later we left it the stronger the winds would get and therefore the more effort it would take, so we left Sitanunku Lodge at 11:25am. Initially we thought we wouldn’t need the spray decks, but after about 3minutes we realised we were wrong! An hour later, after struggling against some strange currents and only paddling at about half our usual speed, we made it 3/4 of the way over to the south bank and had to take a break. Despite the terribly slow progress our spirits were high as we were so keen to get back to Banjul! After a 50min break we got back to it, hoping the tide was now gonna help us out. Our speed did increase but so did the strength of the wind and waves and the following 2hours was way harder than we had hoped for and it seemed that Banjul was just never getting closer! At times it just seemed that we weren’t making any progress and we’d never make it home.
Finally we reached the mouth of the mangrove creeks and had a local drumming band waiting there on a pirogue, it was a great motivator to keep paddling. Just a few curves away through the creek we opened up to the main channel which Denton Bridge crosses and where our friends and family would be waiting for us. We knew and handful of them would definitely be there… But when we saw the wooden pier in the distance we could make out a sea of white Kayak River Gambia t-shirts waiting for us… There was at least 30people there cheering us home and it was an amazing sight! As soon as we reached the pier we paddled for the shallows got out of the kayak and found dry land for the last time. After the hugs and pictures settled down, Grant and I were able to enjoy our first sip of Julbrew Beer for way too long.
It is so great to be home in one piece and ahead of schedule, it was an unforgettable experience! Now on to the small tasks of collecting outstanding donations/pledges, working out our totals and getting on to how best to spend it on the kids here in The Gambia (not to mention getting over our ‘sea-legs’)!
56hrs 55minutes paddling
Over 400,000 strokes of those damn paddles
481.3km (300miles) covered from Koina to Banjul (it would seem that Grant’s hippo-antagonising racing-line managed to shorten our final distance!)
Thanks to our support crew: Mark & Grant, Joe, Jamil, Nassif, Hassan, my mum, Dudu, Lamin, Musa and Ebrama! Without you all this wouldn’t have been possible. And thanks to all of our generous sponsors, without you this wouldn’t have been worth the pain!