My Favourite Bit (The Food)! 

Sorry that I haven’t been able to post in a while! Unfortunately, uni exams and dissertation work has got in the way of my blogging! 
Okay, so possibly one of the parts of travelling that I most enjoy is getting to try all of the amazing local foods, so this blog post is going to be all about the local Gambian dishes that I got to try whilst in the country (including a recipe I managed to get for my favourite dish!)
One of the things that really struck me about the local food was just how fresh it was. Our hotel complex had banana trees all over the place and these were served as part of the breakfast buffet. Breakfasts were simple, consisting of fresh fruit, bread with butter, cheese and jam, tea, coffee and fruit juice along with eggs. 
Lunches and dinners were, again, incredibly fresh, often using produce from local stalls bought that morning. 
Three of the dishes commonly seen on menus were Yassa, Domoda and (my personal favourite) Benechin. Variations of all of these dishes can be seen across the entire west coast of Africa, but they generally consist of the same/similar ingredients, just in different amounts. For example, ‘Yassa’ is a garlic and lemony dish, commonly made with chicken or white fish. However, the Senegalese version (made in Senegal, bordering The Gambia) tends to have less lemon, favouring vinegar to give a slightly more acidic taste. Domoda is a spicy, peanut butter stew, again, commonly made with chicken and white fish. 
However, my favourite dish was by far Benechin, also know as Jollof rice. This is a dish originating from the Wollof tribe from Senegal, who originally moved over the border to The Gambia (the Wollof language is now one of the most commonly spoken in The Gambia). It’s is a tomato-based rice dish, which can be made with a range of vegetables added to it (I tend to just use whatever can be found in the fridge). It’s ideal for both lunch and dinner, or even as a side dish.
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a traditional Gambian recipe, however, my wonderful mum got me a recipe book for Christmas, which happened to have a Gambian benechin recipe! I’ve included a copy of the recipe below, along with a link to the book for those who might be interested. 


Ingredients;

1 x tbsp olive/vegetable oil

2 x large onions 

2 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes

1 x red/yellow pepper, diced 

4 x tbsp tomato Puree

1/4 x tbsp cayenne pepper

1 x tsp curry powder

1 x bay leaf 

1 x sprig fresh thyme 

1 x veg stock cube 

225g x long grain rice 

Salt and Pepper  
1. For the rice, heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onions over a gentle heat until translucent. 

2. Stir in the canned tomatoes, red pepper and tomato purée, then season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and the cayenne or chilli. Add the curry powder, bay leaf and thyme, then pour in 550ml/19fl oz of water and crumble in the stock cube.

3. Cover and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20–30 minutes.

4. Rinse the rice well to remove excess starch, then add it to the tomato mixture. 

5. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 25–30 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.

6. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve the joffol with fried plantains and a crisp green salad.

And for those who may be interested in getting the cookbook, here’s a link to the Amazon page;

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B00QWRXXEK/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?qid=1463943845&sr=8-3&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=hairy+bikers+mum+knows+best+complete
Hope you all enjoyed this blog post and let me know how you all enjoy the Benechin recipe!

Have any of you guys tried Gambian food? What world foods would you guys recommend?

And the Fun Stuff…!

So, if you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I recently spent some time in The Gambia (in West Africa) doing voluntary work. But, it wasn’t all work and no play!

Fortunately, I also got the chance to visit lots of the local tourist attractions. Possibly my favourite was visiting Katchikally Crocodile Park. This was only a 5 minute drive from the hotel in Bakau. The visit to the pool itself tends to be fairly short (around 15 minutes), but you can stay as long as you like. There is also a small museum on site, giving a history of Bakau and it’s traditions, such as how the village was founded and traditional rituals and medicines. The crocodiles can grow to be huge, and can be pretty terrifying at first, but the guides are lovely and know what they’re doing. The animals are well looked after and are overfed so that they are full and docile during the day. You are given the option to stroke one (in the right circumstances , obviously!) which is a wonderful, unique photo opportunity. If you go at the right time, there can be small baby crocodiles, which again,, there may be the opportunity to hold. Oh, and the crocodiles are real and alive, which a lot of my friends still don’t believe!

As well as the Crocodile Park, we also visited Kajabang Reptile Farm. Again, probably not one for the faint-hearted! However, all the animals are well fed and well cared for, and are contained. Some of the snakes can be held (they aren’t all poisonous!), as well as chameleons, terrapins and tortoises, including baby ones, which are adorable. The farm is family-run, and fairly small but interesting. It’s quite a drive out from the main Senegambia ‘strip'(around 30 – 45 minutes), but well worth it, as the owners protect rare native species, as well as aiming to reduce the number of deaths from snakebites in The Gambia through education and awareness of the locals.

(Please ignore the lack of makeup/messy hair in the above pictures!)

Quite possibly the most thought provoking activity I did out there was the ‘Roots’ tour. For anyone who has never seen the series, Roots tells the story of Kunta Kinte, a young man born in The Gambia during the peak of the Colonial Slave Trade in American and the rest of the Western World. It then proceeds to show how his family escaped to freedom in America. The village where Kunta Kinte was born is still there today, and is easily accessed by arranged boat tours (which is probably also the safest way, and it allows you to see as much as possible in a day). There are a number of museums around the tour displaying artifacts from Colonial times, and explaining how slavery was abolished. The tour can also be combined with a tour to Kunta Kinte (Fort James’) Island, which was a fort built to hold those who had been caught before moving them onto ships to the ‘New World’. Based in the mouth of the River Gambia, it had changed hands several times in history, and is an interesting place in its own right. Speaking to our tour guide, he explained to us that the traditional bracelets and necklaces often worn by the native women would be torn from them as they arrived at the island, and small beads can still be found washed up on the beach. After being told this, some o the young people were keen to go and explore, so we went to the beach and actually found three (and a half) small beads, made of clay or stone. This was a particularly strong memory for me, as it makes you realise just how real the slave trade was, and just how many people and families it affected.

There were also a few other activities we did, including the monkey park, where you get to feed monkeys (they’re so funny to watch as well). I was also lucky enough to get to go horse riding along Senegambia beach, because, lets be honest, what girl hasn’t had the dream of horse-riding along a beach at some point in their lives! Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of these moments, although if I do dig any up, I’ll add them to this post when possible.

The Gambia really is a wonderful place to visit, and had something for everyone. It has a rich cultural history, friendly people, incredible food (which will have to have its own post) and wonderful weather. Its somewhere that I would recommend to anyone, and I am so lucky that I managed to go. To anyone wishing to travel, it is well worth looking into any trips local youth groups are running. If you offer to volunteer, they may well let you go at a heavily reduced rate (which is what I got), or I know some people who have been able to go for free!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask away in the comments!

Don’t forget to follow me in Instagram @studentbudgettraveller

So, Why I was Actually in The Gambia…. 

….AKA; How I got to spend 10 days there for less than £400.

So, from the 10th – 20th February, I was in the glorious sunshine of The Gambia! With the lowest temperature over the whole time being 28 degrees Celsius, it was a welcome change from cold, rainy England. 

The majority of my time out there was spent doing aid work within the local communities (we did do some touristy bits, but they’re a blog post all of their own!). A lot of this involved working in schools, such as teaching English lessons, painting/decorating classrooms and playing games with the children, but we also visited some compounds, offering donations of clothes and bags of rice to those in need, along with medical supplies which were given to a local medical centre. 

Working at the schools was an incredible experience. It’s pretty unusual to see how much the children over there really value and appreciate their education, and it definitely made me realise just how much I took my own education for granted. The classrooms tend to be dark, and a bit scruffy (by English standards, anyway), but a quick run-round with a paintbrush and some colourful stickers and posters soon sorted that out. 

 

Before the ‘Classroom Makeover’
  
After the Classroom Makeover – Amazing what you can do with a bit of paint!
 

The children were all so excited when they saw their classroom the next day! The photos below are from 2 different schools, the first from where we did the ‘Classroom Makeover’ and the second from on of the schools where we played some games and helped the teachers out.  

   
  

Visiting the compounds was also incredibly rewarding, and a great way to see how the locals lived and to really get involved (Quick tip; take tissues/wet wipes/toilet paper and hand sanitiser if you’re going anywhere away from the resorts. Toilets consist of a hole in the ground, in local schools, compounds, etc and there are no such luxuries). We were lucky enough to visit a family who had several babies, who were absolutely adorable. Here we started donating the baby clothes, which had a lot of knitted hats, cardigans, babygrows and other bits. There were shared through the compound (a group of houses shared by a family) and then passed on around the compound to those in need. 

   
 

All of these donations were collected by a group of local young people from my local area, who I travelled to Gambia with as a volunteer youth worker. I would definitely recommend volunteer work as a way to travel. Not only is it generally a bit cheaper (I got mine for less than £400, including flights, breakfast and dinner,) but it’s so so rewarding, and doesn’t always have to be organised abroad. The youth club I went with are from my local area and run several other programmes to The Gambia, although I do know of others who go to several different places. It’s well worth having a look at local projects and seeing what they do. 

Hope you all enjoyed reading about the more ‘serious’ side of my time in The Gambia! I’ll update with some videos when I get a chance and my next post will be about the more touristy side as well! 

 

First (of Hopefully Many) Blog Post! 

So, this is my first ever blog post (I’ve never had a blog before. Ever.) so I’m not really that sure of what I’m doing, but hey, here goes nothing!

Wandering round my local rainy town centre has been making me miss my time in The Gambia so much. I came back on the 20th Feb, so have only been back 2 weeks! But the weather was incredible, there really is no comparison (here’s some pictures so you can see for yourself!).

  My rainy, grey, pretty miserable town center…

 Sunny Bakau, ft. the hotel pool (and poolside bar!)

I want to use this blog to talk about my time in The Gambia, the other places I’ll be visiting this year (including Phuket, and Sri Lanka), as well as talking about how I’ve been able to afford it all (I’m a third year student at university, so money is constantly pretty tight).

I’d love to hear what you guys have to say about my blog, including any tips and your own experiences of travelling!

I’ve also created an Instagram account (@studentbudgettraveller), so don’t forget to follow and keep up to date with that. I hope you all enjoy my blog and don’t be afraid to get involved! Happy scrolling! 🙂