Published: November 21st 2008November 8th 2008
I am writing this blog early Friday night and have no plans to go out tonight. Most of my weekend nights have been on the very quiet side and me not being bothered by this in the least bit. I think I needed a break from the social life of going out in Chicago.
Ok, it has been a probably about 12 days since my last update and time to finish writing about my time in Senegal. I left the remote island of Karabane and made the short trip to the villiage of Cap Skirring, which is the most touristy part of Casamance. I was worried I would find this place too touristy for my tastes as I heard there was a Club Med there right in the villiage.
I took a taxi about a mile from the villiage to the the beach area with most of the simple guesthouses. I found a place on the beach with a simple room and air conditioning. It was 20 bucks a night and I felt like it was a great deal for the location and A/C. I had spent a number of hot nights with me yet to experience a/c in Senegal after over 2 weeks. I can't express what it felt like to go to bed cold that first night.
I quickly found out by exploring the beach and villiage that the place was not going to be too touristy for me. There were about 8 cows on the beach when I arrived and they outnumbered the people within 400 yards each way of me on the beach. The beach got a bit more crowded on weekends but I could relax on the beach with the water being plenty calm to swim. The beach went for miles with white fine sand making it about as close to paradise as you'll find in Africa. I did more running and walking down the beach, as I am not one who likes to spend time on the beach laying in the sun. The shade is a much better option to me.
In the villiage there was no shortage of people who spoke English and wanted to speak with me. The hard part was remembering names and where we had met the previous encounter. I was happy to make friends who spoke English after a few weeks of struggling with French most of the time. After a few days I had a core of friends that I would visit at their restaurants or guys who would take me around the villiage. Almost everyone in the villiage were friendly and most important genuine in wanting to get to know me and not sell me something. I can't express how refreshing this was after feeling harrased often my first few weeks in Senegal with people who came up to talk seeing me only as a white guy who will buy my crafts.
I was welcomed into 3 different homes during my 9 days there to share tea with them or have a meal. They were the most basic of places with 2 of them having no electricity and all 3 having shared bathrooms outside. They were basically a shack that was 10 feet by 10 feet and hot in the evening. The rent for their places ranged from 15 to 25 US dollars a month(it bugs me that these French keyboards have no dollars signs!). I was very appreciative of them showing me part of their everyday life and not being embarrased of their very basic living quarters. I am sure that I will go home appreciating the comforts of home and wondering if all of it is necessary.
Drinking tea is a big part of their culture and there is quite a detailed process to making the actual tea. The tea is boiled then poured at out of the small teapot into a cup. At that time it is then poured back and forth between the 2 cups about 10 times. Finally after what seems to be about 25 minutes you get to drink the stuff out of a small glass. They load it up with so much sugar and I think that is one of the reasons I like it so much. I am practically off sweets here in Africa and can't wait to discover a country with good sweets. According to my guidebook, I may have to wait until I get to Ghana.
I did get out of Cap Skirring one day as I rented a bike and rode to a few different remote villiages and visited the very basic musuem located in the forest. It felt fantastic to actually get on a bike and not have to rely on public transportation and being able to explore the area on my own at my own pace. I only went about 9 miles to the furthest villiage but dirt roads were not the best and it was hot and humid. The highlight was riding along the beach all the way back during low tide as I took a few breaks to cool off in the ocean.
I ate fish and rice for practically for almost all of my lunches and dinners during my time here. In fact, during my whole time in Sengal it has been very little meat as the fish is so fresh and I am constantly getting new types to try. The fish usually comes with a simple vegetable sauce made often with only onions. I am enjoying the food much more than I had expected after my first memories of traveling in Africa. I have really begun to appreicate that all my meals are freshly made daily without all the chemicals and preservatives we often find in our processed food in the States.
I had a few nights out in the Cap for my first real nightlife in Senegal. I even made it to my first disco in Senegal. The best part was the 2 drum performances I saw with female dancers performing traditional dancing. I am not sure exactly how to explain what I saw but the drumming and dancing were both amazing. The disco and the dancing there was nothing like the performances I saw previously. The people mostly moved slowly shake back and forth with even me and my white moves not looking too out of place.
It was truly an enjoyable and rewarding 9 days in the Cap that I did not expect from the "touristy" part of Casamance. It is now easy to see why everyone says Casamance is the best part of Senegal and one of the best places in all of West Africa. It is such a peaceful place and the people are some of the friendliest I have met in all of my travels. They left quite an impression on me as I spend my last afternoon in Cap Skirring walking around and saying goodbye to the many friends I had made in just 9 dasys. It was very much a struggle to force myself to leave Cap Skirring even after spending 9 days there. I would have loved to have spend Christmas and New Years there.