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April 25th 2011
Published: April 25th 2011
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Monday April 25th, 2011

Dakar, Senegal

Latitude 14 degrees 40 minutes’ north- Longitude 17 degrees 25 minutes' west

Situated on the westernmost point of Africa, Dakar is a port with a strategic location. First settled by the Portuguese in the 1400s, it was the capital of French West Africa until granted freedom by France in the 1950s. Since then the economy has struggled, but this is the first place in West Africa that I have seen heavy construction equipment lined up on the dock. There is either a construction project going on somewhere or Caterpillar has a factory here. You can tell we are on the edge of the Sahara Desert; everything that has been sitting at the dock for awhile is covered with a layer of dust. The staff onboard covered all the walkways coming into the ship and the floors of the elevators with plastic to try and keep as much as possible of the dirt from being tracked onto the carpets inside.
We caught a shuttle bus for a short ride into the downtown market area. Today was a holiday, so the usual hectic traffic of the capital was missing. That was a nice change after the crazy traffic in Togo and Ghana, but the street vendors and hucksters in the central market were still their usual persistent selves. It has been the same scene in all of these last few ports. Streets are lined with hundreds of vendors selling every conceivable commodity. When they see a busload of tourists arrive they converge like buzzards. All we really want to do is just be able to browse unmolested, but that really doesn’t go with the territory. When we got back to the ship there was an area along the dock that was less crowded and Jane was able to take her time. You can see in the picture she is putting her bargaining face on and the caption should read: “Oh, no, no, no, I am not paying that much”. She was able to buy some nice earrings and necklaces made from local beads and semi-precious stones for a very good price. Most of the wares they have for tourists are wooden figurines, masks and large handmade items. It would be easy to buy lots of this stuff, but not that easy to get it home. Unique local handmade jewelry is an easy to pack and inexpensive way for her to bring home souvenirs of our journey.
A fuel barge is laid up on our port side and once we have topped off our tanks we will set sail for the Madeira Islands off the Northwest coast of Africa. Famous for their signature wines and fancy resorts, they should be a welcome change from the difficult struggle to survive we have witnessed firsthand in these last few Western Africa countries.

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