What do you do with one day to kill in The Gambia? That’s easy: If you’re a Canadian or European sugar momma, you go to the beaches around Senegambia and respond to shouts of “Hey Boss Lady!” from glistening Gambian studs, a.k.a. “Bumsters.” If you want last-minute shopping, you head to Bakau, where you bargain for wood carvings, jewelry, and batiks. And if you’re a 30-something couple at the tail end of your extended honeymoon and looking to start a family when you get home, you go to the Katchikally Crocodile Pond, where wishes for fertility and power have been made and granted for more than 500 years.
We opt for the latter two, trudging into the thick heat to get the most out of our last few hours in country. If you were with us in Thailand, you remember the lingam of love we touched in Wat Po, joining other penile pilgrims from around Asia.
We have also been granted baby blessings by our palm reader in India (“you will have one boy and one girl”) and by the chief of Kparigu, in Northern Ghana (“these guinea fowl eggs are for you to eat so that the blood of your first manchild will be strong”). So we’re doing all right. But just to make sure, Tay packs the various African fertility dolls she has collected along the way for a quick bath in Katchikally’s enchanted waters. I only hope we aren’t overdoing it, visions of charmed quintuplets threatening my peace of mind.
Though Katchikilly, one of the only natural, wild crocodile ponds in the world, has been used and honored since the 1600s, it became even more famous when President Yahya Jammeh bathed here before his 1994 coup d’etat. Declaring that the waters and its 100 or so toothy reptilian inhabitants were the source of his newfound political power, one of his first actions was to put crocodiles on Gambian bills and coins.
So we make our way through the narrow and confusing maze of pitted neighborhood streets, past an open sewage canal, searching for nonexistent signs to the pond, which we finally find, and which provides an appropriately strange, bewitching, and scenic end to such a powerful week in The Gambia.