Hotel Karone, Heaven, Hell and In Between
Trip Start Jan 14, 2014
15Trip End Mar 16, 2014
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We were excited to drive through the fishing village, as we had not been there yet. Our excitement quickly turned to disgusted awe. We were driving through a cloud of smoke, but there were people everywhere, functioning as if there was no smoke. People working, kids playing, shops open... in the smoke. And it was thick, as there were hundreds of stalls smoking fish, in addition to the many hundreds of tables full of drying and salted fish. Women were sorting fish everywhere. Loads of firewood were piled everywhere, and I immediately wondered where it all came from. I had seen the smoke daily from the beach and the boat, but never imagined that a whole town full of people was living in it.
But this [short] drive was still not over. A minute after seeing all this, we were passing through what I can only describe as the "suburbs" of Kafountine. These are the houses and hotels sitting right on the beach. The houses looked occupied, at least by caretakers, but every hotel looked empty. It was a lot to comprehend. I couldn't believe all these rich people drove through the smoke every time they came and went. It was a crazy juxtaposition.
We were hoping to have lunch or borrow a canoe at Karone, but it was deserted. We told our driver when to come get us, and we had the whole place to ourselves. The beach was beautiful and all ours. No annoying Gambians talking our ears off, just a couple of cows and wide open beach. The tide was low and the water was warm. After a while on the beach, we decided to check out the river and have a look around. Some of the lights on the long seawall were busted. The two-story office/restaurant/bar had a giant hole in the roof and a broken window. The guest houses, set in an amazing palm-eucalyptus forest, were empty and just starting to show signs of neglect
We tried fishing the river (one fish bit but I couldn't land it) and harvested two of the many coconuts going to waste. Back to the beach and our driver arrived to pick us up.
The people are telling us that sea is rising every year. Every year the heavy rains and big storms of July - October encroach further inland. The houses closest to the water are either destroyed or filled with up to a meter of water. I think this may have something to do with these hotels being empty. Of course, all the beach front houses and hotels are European-owned, but very few Europeans stay year round, real estate or not.