[ Bissau, Guinea-Bissau ]
The next days were marked by the rhythms of Ramadan, the heat (now 36-38C/97-100F in the afternoon), and a new mechanical problem with the bicycle: a dead chain and toothless chainring.
The most visible effect of Ramadan is the daily fast, during which nothing is supposed to pass the lips of the believer from roughly sunrise until sunset. No food, obviously, but also no water or drinks of any kind. This means there is a short window of activity in the mornings, while everyone is still feeling well-fed and the heat hasn’t climbed into the uncomfortable zone. The rest of the day is one of repose, punctuated by the calls to prayer. Finding food takes more effort and preparation.
Riding through Ramadan is another story, though. You’ll probably have to wait for The Book for that one. What matters for the rest of The Gambia is that people are congregated under village trees, near the water wells, in shops and homes. Rather than running around working, they’re conserving energy and staying cool, and most intrigued and talkative when the strange foreign man rolls up on a grimy bicycle. The daily rides were about people; about constant interactions.
Regarding water wells: I stopped easily five times every afternoon to completely soak my head, hat, scarves, and the long-sleeved shirt I wear to protect me from sunburn. These stops were invariably interactions with women and children. The tree stops on the other hand–often village center and next to the mosque–were invariably all-male interactions. These are the places I would stop for an extended rest and, often, a brief nap mid-afternoon.
The nap was even more necessary after I lost the front center chainring (meaning all the middle gearing). I rode only with the big, harder-to-crank gears for four days, all the way to Basse.
Enough for now. Enjoy days 3-4 of the ride. More coming soon…