It is a Peace Corps Gambia tradition that every training group go on a lengthy hike known as ‘marathon march’ towards the end of their training. Our group was no exception. It was fun, and the day of the hike was a success. The day after….was not. The hike was a 9 hour hike in the middle of nowhere Africa – with no lunch. We woke up at 6:30, got some bread, peanut butter and jam, and then found out we weren’t getting lunch so pc staff were there handing us hot boiled eggs while we were in the van saying ‘take it, you’re not going to be eating for a really really long time’. Interesting way to start the day. So we hiked all day through women’s gardens, salt flats, tall grasses, tall trees, and mangroves! Once we got to the mangroves we had to sift through muddy water until we reached a stream where we had to swim about 400 m, fully clothed and some (like my wonderful husband) with full packs on their heads. While we were in the mangrove forest, someone commented that this is how they train Marines – and I noted that I didn’t sign up for the Marine Corps! The swim was really refreshing after walking miles in the Africa heat – it’s starting to get hotter during the day now. Not terrible, but more like Texas in May than in April. We walked a total of 24 k (about 15 miles) and arrived at a nice eco-lode with baboons, an awesome pool, and floating cabins on the water. It was a nice finish but kind of a tease because we ate dinner, and then Peace Corps came and picked us up and took us back to training village. According to older volunteers, the marathon march ‘back in the day’ entailed Peace Corps dropping people off in boats and telling them to find their way back. ha – so I guess we shouldn’t complain?
The day after was pretty awful. We were served lunch, and dinner the days previous to going on marathon march by a guy named Omar that the peace corps likes to have cater. And everyone ate it up because Omar cooks some semi-western dishes and we are all very hungry for food that doesn’t have rice involved with it! Well, the morning of marathon march we had 7 people sick but some still went on the hike. The day after marathon march, 6 more people got sick with food poisoning and had to go to the med unit. That was half our training group; it was scary! Luckily, Ben and I were spared this time!