I just got back from Bwiam, where I went on business with my boss Poncelet. We stayed at the Bwiam Lodge, a nice little place set up by the CCF (all profits are fed back into the community, the Lodge manager informed us, and this works so well that no one in Bwiam pays school fees, from primary through into senior secondary school. We were impressed - this certainly makes sense for an NGO to do, instead of sending money every year).
Bwiam itself is in Western River Region, beyond Brikama (why Brikama as a reference point? Because my (extremely deplorable) knowledge of Gambian geography stops around there), and about 90 minutes' drive from Kanifing. About two-thirds of the road there is good - the rest is still under construction, and is very gravelly and covered with layers of dust, and there are pot-holes everywhere, so that your car bounces up and down violently each time you hit one, and approaching vehicles leave behind a train of dust. We spent the journey rolling up the windows of the vehicle whenever we spotted a car approaching, then winding them down again to get some fresh air, after the dust had settled. To get an idea of how much dust there is, consider that the very leaves on the trees are brown instead of green, the thick, dirty brown of the road surface. When we got to Bwiam we met one of the workers at the Lodge who had also travelled from Kombo. "I just got back from Kombo", she said, pointing at her dusty clothes and dirty hair and face as proof.
We ate shrimps for almost every meal whilst we were there. Apparently so much shrimp
gets caught at certain times of the year that they have to throw some away (the Rural Electrification Project has not reached Bwiam yet, and so apart from small privately-owned generators there is no electricity, and no fridges, fans, electric lights, etc.)
There is a certain conceit which living in the Banjul/Kombo area affords you, that everything that's happening in The Gambia happens down here, and that everything else is unimportant. Travelling upcountry is a good thing because it dispels this - it shows you that there are people out there, and they are doing things, or at least trying to live their lives just as much as people in the city (notwithstanding the fact that the city has more opportunities and better infrastructure). We saw kids and schools, we saw a group of men on the road sweating and trying to rope in a donkey, we saw a kid cycling down the pot-holed road, covered in dust and grinning crazily at us. And all through the journey, before we reached Brikama, we saw construction crews on the road measuring and surveying and drawing lines on the ground, and were made to slow down as we approached each crew by tired old men in construction hats waving red flags and motioning at us to go slower.