Published: April 21st 2011April 7th 2011
Could there be any better way to welcome or farewell people to or from your country than bad roads and endless amounts of rubbish. If it weren’t for the African Renaissance Monument and success in picking up a Guinea-Bissau Visa. I would have classed this as a wasted experience. I bypassed the north of Senegal and spent a few days in Dakar and wasn’t really impressed enough to hang around.
Entering from the north border is like entering a rubbish tip. Possibly all rubbish from the country gets dumped along the main road. The roads are bad and annoying begging was reintroduced into my trip.
To understand what really pisses me off about Africa just come to the Rosso border crossing Mauritania side. This poorly organised crossing has guards who act like king shit at a tall gate. They check ID’s of legitimate people and then let random people into the immigration area without checking them. These random people are there to just bullshit everyone. Once you enter, there are no clear signs as to where to go and so these annoying pricks try and sell you fake boat tickets. Some are trying to sell you tickets so you
can put your baggage on board. All this is within the first 10 steps of walking into the official border area.
Immigration is at a filthy looking wall with small windows cut out - wide enough to fit your head in. There are three windows to process the exit stamp and for some illogical reason they do not use one or both of the windows at the front. No, no that makes too much sense. Instead they have it at the third window, which for some reason was designed down a narrow alleyway enough to squeeze your body in. Add to that about 4 different guys yelling out advice to “My Friend!” It can be very stressful experience. I understand that they are doing it because they are desperate for some quick money but how can this be accepted and not encourage improvement?
The border is divided by the Senegal River so they have a main ferry, which I missed out on, just, because of the annoying bastards, so I took a pirogue, which is a small wooden boat that will leak soon enough. The river was the first sign of inland water I had for over a
week and it was misty. But with the green vegetation that sprung up so rapidly from the desert landscape it was a picturesque experience.
When I boarded the boat, I immediately thought of the Mozambique boat that cut out in the middle of the river when it took me 4 hours to get money out of an ATM 6 months ago. (Read Cause this is Africa blog) but there was not a problem this time after we got started. To start these boats was typical. Most use a small piece of rope. Loop it around the motor and try and start. Usually it takes about 4-5 goes and it gets going.
We arrive and I am greeted by Senegal’s version of annoying pricks. But they were more hospitable. It does happen I noticed. These bastards are much nicer when you are entering the country. When you leave they don’t give a shit and are more desperate.
I waited about 20 minutes to stamp my passport so I didn’t say “merci.” After a pee in a dirty toilet I hopped onto a mototaxi. Which is one of the best forms of transport. I then entered the ‘garage’ (bus
stop) and it was just absolutely incredible the state of these buses.
Perhaps it was a good thing I had a break in Europe for a month. Because I probably have seen worse this trip but got acclimatised to it. Now I can see the rust, the holes in the cars. Like the one in Nouakchott a few days earlier, which the body had dropped to almost, ground level. These buses were similar and looked like they were ready for the tip. But maybe they are already in the tip since the whole country is full of rubbish.
But that was the first hour and a bit. The trip got progressively better the closer to Dakar. I had the back seat, which was the made up seats in the trunk of a station wagon. This meant I was scrunched up for the best part of 6 hours. Feeling sorry for myself. (I was already travelling for 5 hours by this point.) I was joined in the back by a blind man - A real putting things into perspective moment. I introduced myself to him and he tried to talk to me but with no French it ended pretty
I arrived into Dakar on the day of Independence Day and the evening’s main event is the wrestling at the main stadium. Had I known before, I would have been there. It was on TV though and very popular. It a very physical style of wrestling where the first person to be put the opponent down wins. It’s as if they are going to punch each other sometimes the way they stand and suss the opponent out.
The bout is at the Olympic stadium so outdoors under lights. Sand pitch and they wear traditional gear of rope type and other thin materials, which help identify the wrestlers physic. They are some big solid guys. In fact it is a big difference build wise the men of West Africa to the rest of the continent. This is not a joke but it’s no wonder they were sort after in the slave trade. The next day drumbeats were going through the streets so it was a bit festive.
After processing my VISA, a $93 shock! I realised that I can get through most of the things in Dakar in one day. Accommodation is expensive here ($30 the cheapest)
so that’s what I did. I figured I could spend better days somewhere else. First stop was the highlight of my Dakar trip. The Mosquee de la Divinite and The African Renaissance Monument. Pretty close to each other the mosque is hands down the most picturesque location for a mosque I have seen in my life. It is at the bottom of a cliff and on the beach. With the morning sun on it, it is even better. I got the taxi driver to stop the fare there and I walked to the Renaissance Monument.
The monument is 50m bronze statue that’s higher than the Statue of Liberty. My first thought was “WTF is this shit?” It’s that over the top Soviet/Socialist style monument that is supposed to bring pride and strength to the African community and inspiration among the poor people. Whilst the people who authorised it get paid a handsome fee and probably don’t give a shit about African renaissance. Okay it could have employed a lot of people to make it and the surrounding area but couldn’t the money be put to better use?
It is up an old small volcanic hill and provides nice
views of the city. Near the top there are flags of all the African countries. All the flags have withered to half a flag. Some, like Libya is a 1/10th of what it should be (luckily its an all green flag.) I thought “Yeah! Real Renaissance!” To be fair it is a work in progress (I assume).
The statue is really interesting. The guy is Muslim, indicated by the headwear (over 90% of population is Muslim) but only has a cloth covering his private parts, which enables his rippling muscles to show. His arm is around a fit, shapely young lady with nipple stag. It is windy up there. You can tell that by the flowing hair behind her and the nipple stag. Also an indication is her teasing any voyeurs out there with her flimsy dress attempting to do a Marilyn Monroe.
Don’t read this and question my mental state… Don’t. Question the guys who approved this project. “No we need more cleavage. Oh and Roger… more nip too. We really need the fisherman out there to see it.”
She is wearing no wedding band either, which made me think. ‘What do Muslim men give their
bride?’ If it is a ring than the kid which is aloft on the rippling mans left shoulder is either not theirs or is a bastard child. That child is pointing towards a new direction for African’s… Out to the Atlantic. About the direction of the Canary Islands.
I’m sorry I hate these statues. I can see the computer-generated image now when it got approved. Surrounded by plant life all colourful… This is Dakar Africa - It’s dry as a bone here. 35 degrees in spring. Bougainvillea is the popular choice for colour. I’m sure they didn’t compensate for the wind. A lot of the plant life like the bougainvillea are twigs revealing the dry off brown soil.
Eventually it will be a place to rally, concerts and TV broadcasts like if Senegal make the World Cup again. It has its positive uses but I think these places do more harm than good. And if I have read into this completely wrong than they shouldn’t have charged 10 euro to enter the inside of monument, which I’m sure would give the real meaning of the site.
Mid afternoon I caught a ferry across to Ile de Goree.
The island played a role in the Atlantic slave trade to the Americas, although only minor. Only a 20 minute ferry ride from Dakar it is the most touristic sight since Marrakesh. The island only 900m long 350m wide was not inhabited until Europeans came along. Now it has a population living there strictly for tourism. The first 5 minutes you are asked by people if they can show you around. But I chose to go around myself.
I find in places like this putting the ipod in your ears is a great way for these people to lose heart and move onto the next tourist. Unable to speak French at last has its bonus’ too. The island was okay but lacks the character of say Ilha Mozambique.
My $30 room back in Dakar had a TV in it and I swear I saw a chocolate paste commercial whose jiggle goes. “Fuck a whore! (Music) Fuck a Whore!” And this little kid is all happy saying, “Fuck a whore! Fuck a Whore!” One thing already about West Africa, prostitution is not as rampant to south and east Africa and fewer pimps. Although I haven’t gone out.
is however really bad for adding double for baggage on transport. I indicated that the guy was racist without saying the word, which made waiting around for an hour and a half to leave for Gambia fun. The vehicle for the day was a delivery truck that was classed as undriveable in Europe 35 years ago. This ride was a tough one. It’s amazing how travelling from A –B in Africa dominates a trip. Add to that VISA processing and it’s as if you aren’t doing anything. But when you get that moment of break it feels worth it. And even the day in Dakar was one of those in the end.
However this was another one of ‘those’ Africa days. I would be sunny side the whole way in a vehicle with a rusty body, no back for my seat. The side I was on had no windows and the door could only be opened from the outside. I had kids kicking, elbowing and leaning on me, picking their nose and whipping it on my pants. It all was very much appreciated in a hot environment.
On a positive at least the kid didn’t shit on me.
The kid did it before we started and was changed on my seat. One of the other kids stopped the bus so he could shit on the side street. That was all with the mum to the left of me. No western mum should complain about their workload when you see these mums do battle with 3 kids and her to two seats. And unlike southern or eastern Africa they don’t get help from the other passengers. Just advice on how she should be a parent.
Like when she was going to have the kid tied to her back the whole trip. One guy told her that she is not going to be doing that. Than one of the annoying ladies selling shit through the window said basically “What are you doing? You aren’t going to have your kid sleep on that rusty floor. It’s got holes in it!”
The roads were horrendous and at times we had to go way off the road to find a smoother bump. But the most disgusting sight was the rubbish just after Kaolack where it was an incredible amount of filth. It was a lake of rubbish right up to the
road. Including where the police do registration checks. I kept thinking gee that Renaissance Statue really went to good use!!
It took 7 hours to get to the Gambian border where I heard I was lucky to cross. 3 days earlier a truck tipped over and landed in the river and no nation wants to claim responsibility for it. These trucks sometimes carry double the appropriate limit. When I filled in the forms at Gambia I said I was a salesman and he writes down ‘Accountant’ as my job. In Mauritania they put down ‘chauffer’ I was like, ‘Well okay if that gets me in. I’m a chauffer!’
I suppose I could have spent a bit more time around this area but I figured other parts of West Africa was worth my time but I am scheduled back into Senegal the following week to the disputed area of Casamance in Senegal’s south.
There are more photos below