Wassu

With its perfect temperatures and beautiful beaches it's easy to see why the Gambia has become such a popular choice for discerning travellers. For those that want to take a break from the golden sands and have an eye for adventure and culture the village of Wassu in the east of the country makes a fascinating diversion.

The friendliness of Gambians and the country's long beaches have long appealed to visitors from Europe but the Gambia also has a rich culture and history to share with tourists. The 11 ancient stone circles of Wassu are found around the Central River Region. This site is unusual and is well worth a visit particularly for those with an interest in history, Africa and its people.

The village itself is fairly small but it offers an extraordinary and rather mysterious attraction. Wassu boasts stone circles that date back about 1200 years. They are said to be one of the best examples of megaliths which are a key feature of the area.

No one is entirely sure why the stones are there or what they represent although there are numerous theories. The number of stones in each circle varies from 10 to 24, they have different heights and diameter: the tallest is just over three metres and the widest is seven metres. The stones were cut from local quarries and set into pre-dug pits.

Over the years there have been dozens of archaeological excavations at the 11 circles. During the different excavations archaeologists have found iron weapons, arrow and spearheads, knives, pottery vessels and bronze ornaments. There is a museum in Wassu which displays some of the finds, has models and photographs that set out to explain some of the history of the stones.

Stories and legends are an important part of Gambian culture and there are plenty linked to the circles. Some say they were built by giants, home to the spirits but many people believe that Wassu was a burial place for Kings. Local legend has it that there's a curse on anyone who disturbs those laid to rest at the site which perhaps explains why there is still so much mystery surrounding the circles.

Getting There And About:

Getting around in the Gambia is made far easier than in some other African countries because the official language is English. Most people you meet will be more than willing to help you by pointing you in the right direction. Tourists only need one day to visit the stone circles.

Wassu is on the north side of the River Gambia about 25 kilometres north west of Georgetown so it can be fairly easily accessed from there or alternatively it can be reached from Banjul where there's a wide choice of accommodation on offer.

There are also a number of hotels in and around Georgetown ranging from Government-run hotels to riverside camps. It is possible to hire cars in the Gambia but driving can be difficult because of poor conditions and bad roads.

Getting to Wassu is possible by taxi. There are numerous different types of taxi that are available to tourists ranging from private vehicles to collective or bush taxis. It gives quite an interesting perspective to take a bush taxi as it provides a small snapshot of life for Gambians.

It takes about five hours from Banjul. You get out at Janjangbureh follow the signposts and make your way to the site. The other way of getting there is to travel from the Gambia's second largest city Gorgetown by bush taxi. From Georgetown a bush taxi to Kuntaur waits most mornings at the north bank ferry ramp. Another option to get to the stone circles would be to hire a bike but it's probably not for the faint-hearted because of the distance there and back.

Nightlife

Mostly there isn't a great deal of nightlife in the Gambia and what there is tends to be fairly low key. The majority of the nightlife tends to be focused around the coastal resorts and in the largest city, Serrekunda.

The resort hotels do offer their guests a range of traditional Gambian performances including drumming and dancing as well as musical evenings with musicians playing on the West African Harp.

Most of the country's nightclubs and bars are found in the touristy places such as Bakau and the Senegambia area of Kololi, with a few close to the Kotu and Cape Point hotels. Serrekunda's Jokor club and a new venue called Duplex which has just opened in Kololi attract a mixture of locals and tourists who go to see West African bands.


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