Africa cities

Terry Lister publishes fourth book on Africa – The Royal Gazette

Globetrotter Terry Lister at home in Bermuda (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Eight years ago, former government minister Terry Lister retired from politics and real estate.

Since then, the 68-year-old has spent much of his free time traveling the world solo.

“When I graduated from university at 22, I had been to four countries – Bermuda, England, Canada and the United States,” he said. “When I retired I was 48.”

Since then, he has added the stamps of 50 other countries to his passport, including 22 African ones.

Next week he is releasing his fourth book about his travels in Africa, Gambia: the smiling coast. The book is his second short book and closely follows another speed read, Trips to Senegal, released in June. The books are intended to attract new readers for his earlier and longer works, Immersion in West Africa (2019), and A new day dawns (2021).

Terry Lister at a waterfall near Labe, Guinea Conakry (Photograph provided)

He decided to focus on Africa because he saw a lack of information when it came to traveling there.

“I wanted to give a fair and balanced view,” he said. “I get a little annoyed when reviewers pick up on minor corruption and write it off as the whole place is corrupt.”

Mr. Lister ignores countries at war or known to be very dangerous. And he always talks to locals about safe areas for visitors. He’s also testing the waters a bit, sometimes heading into a potentially tricky area mid-morning.

“I’m evaluating if I have to come back in the evening,” he said. “Most of the time I come back and walk around and I’m perfectly fine. The only place I had to retreat to was a neighborhood in Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana. It was so scary during the day. It was just awful. I thought I didn’t think I needed to be here.

Before traveling to the African continent, there were many misconceptions about religion. When he arrived, he was surprised by the prevalence of Islam. The Gambia, for example, is 94% Islamic.

“There are mosques everywhere,” he said. “The largest mosque is on the outskirts of the capital Banjul and is called King Fahad Mosque. King Fahad was a Saudi ruler and he provided most of the money to build it. Many great mosques were built with donations of Arab money.

Islam in the region dates back to the 11th century.

The King Fahad Mosque, the largest in The Gambia (Photograph provided)

He said many people in the West also think that Africans live in grass huts. But during his travels, he found that many countries there, even those classified as less developed, are often advanced in areas such as renewable energy.

He said it was common in countries like Namibia and Mauritania to see small single-storey buildings or solar-powered streetlights.

Kenya is on track for a full transition to clean energy use by 2030.

Renewables in Kenya currently account for 73% of installed power generation capacity.

“You have to shake your head when you come back here to Bermuda,” he said. “I was Minister of Telecoms in 2009. Energy fell on me. I was determined to move forward. I did my best to work with the guys who were selling solar panels to get us into renewable energy.

The Gambia first appeared on his radar years ago when he heard a character from the old British TV show Desmond’s say he was from this country.

“It didn’t make me jump on the plane and leave,” he said. “Instead, in 2017 when it was time to go to Africa, the show encouraged me to put The Gambia on the list of places to go.”

The Gambia has 1,857,181 people crammed into 4,127 square miles. But Mr Lister said only cities like the capital Banjul are heavily populated.

“Twenty to 30 minutes from town and it’s just open ground with fewer people,” he said.

Tourism in The Gambia focuses on the capital Banjul and the beaches along the coast.

“The beaches are very nice and there are shacks where people will bring you drinks,” Lister said.

The Wassu Stone Circle, Gambia (Photograph provided)

But he is more interested in the history and culture of a place. One of his favorite sites in The Gambia was the stone circles of Wassu.

The stones of this UNESCO World Heritage Site were erected between 3 BC and 1600 AD. Some of them are estimated to be 2,000 years older than Stonehenge in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England.

“It was a much better visit than going to Stonehenge, which I had done three months earlier,” he said. “The main difference was that there was a resident guide who spent 30 years researching the site and was able to share a lot with me. At Stonehenge I don’t recall anyone talking much. There is a number of stone circles in The Gambia, but this one is the most instructive of them.

Since beginning his solo travels in 2014, Lister has crafted his own way of doing things.

In the beginning, he always had a solid list of five or six places he wanted to visit in one day.

“If I was walking down a street and saw a crowd gathering, I would stop for 30 seconds to see what they were looking at and then move on,” he said.

But very soon he began to feel that he was missing the real life of the places he had seen.

“Now I plan to do four things,” he said. “Two will be small and the other two could take around an hour.”

This leaves him time to let himself be guided by life.

“Now if I see a crowd, I can join them,” he said.

Gambia: the Coast of Smiles will be available on on August 29 for $2. It can be pre-ordered now.

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