Day 8: Entering Open Water – by Kamil

So last night, after our relaxation period in the sun, we hopped back in the kayak for a dusk paddle to ensure that we reached Elephant Island and brought our day total up to 55.6km. As with the last couple of days, we could feel our speed increasing, but more importantly for me, I knew that we were now almost completely past the danger of encountering large numbers of hippos and that will certainly make evening/night paddles more enjoyable from here onwards (there have been sightings of one or two further down-river).

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The view from our toilet - its not bad at all!

The view from our toilet - its not bad at all!

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Now that we are in the lower half of the river, it’s very clear to see the vegetation changing around us. Just a week ago, around Fatoto, we were surrounded by steep cliffs and dry banks, days ago we were passing countless rice fields and now it seems we are immersed totally in mangroves! As we set off this morning around the south side of Elephant Island (to make the most of the stronger current rather than the shorter northern route) we could really see for the first time how huge the mangroves grew here, approx 20-25m tall!

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Grant getting a massage from Jamil and our Kayak Safely onboard!

Grant getting a massage from Jamil and our Kayak Safely onboard!

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Last night at least four of our crew were woken in the middle of the night by the sound of big bubbles circling the boat- we are still in croc territory but it was most likely a manatee, but nothing was sighted. I found it scarier waking up to one of our crew, Joe, shouting in his sleep. He’s also been sleep walking previous nights!

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Kayak raring to go at sunset

Kayak raring to go at sunset

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The morning had blessed us with glass-like waters and high speeds for our first stint, but our second was much less enjoyable. On the final couple of bends before the ferry crossing between Farafenni and Soma we were met by what seemed to us to be some sort of mini-tsunami… We had to put on our spray-decks (to make the kayak water tight from waves) for the first time… Waves were reaching my chest and flushing right over the kayak and really giving us a tough time. Depressingly, when we had a chance to glimpse to the side at our support boat, the large pirogue was simply floating over these waves as if they weren’t even there… and even more annoyingly they were towing a small dug-out canoe to rescue some local fishermen from the onslaught of the waves! We had heard a lot of stories of the waves getting much much bigger than these further down stream of the ferry crossing, so doubts have entered my mind as to whether our kayak could actually make it to Banjul. The width of our final crossing from Dog Island to the safety of the creeks around Banjul is over 10km, the width of our troublesome spot today was a mere 2km!

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So as we passed the ferry crossing, Mark’s smaller boat went to dock and buy us some more ice and water to last us the remaining days. My mum had also kindly sent up some local peanut stew, Domoda, to keep us going, as well 10 large containers for us to fill with fresh water from a nearby village as the river water was now completely salty.

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Another afternoon waiting in the heat for the tide to turn lay in front of us, mixed with thoughts of what conditions are waiting for us around the next bend, helpfully named Devil Point, where the river starts to widen to the ocean.

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We had our fill of domoda and got on our way. To our delight the water was as calm as we’ve ever seen it, the moon was full and torches unnecessary. The water was full of activity though… Hundreds of small Kobo fish were clearly being chased by something more sinister under the water, possibly barracuda, and their only method of escape was to become airborne. For us, sat only a few inches above the water, this meant we were getting peppered by miniature missiles: I for one took at least four direct hits to the body.

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When we reached the large channel, out by Tendaba Tourist Camp, the tide was beginning to turn and the waves beginning to grow again. We donned the spray decks once again and bore the brunt of the waves for as long as possible, but our speed began to drop significantly so we called it a night just before 10pm. We have brought the kayak onboard for the night, rather than leaving it tied to the side of the boat, as the last thing we need is to wake up to a half capsized kayak!

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We’ve clocked up a massive 66.1km today, bringing our new total to 380.8km paddled in over 45 painful hours!

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Location Day 8

Location Day 8

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Tomorrow we aim to get up at approx 4am to catch the early tide and see if we can reach Dog Island before the end of the day, a whole 80km, but this would mean that we could reach Banjul on Sunday, Day 10! Fingers crossed!

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