Senegal - December 2010

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Africa » Senegal » Saint-Louis Region » Saint-Louis
December 15th 2010
Published: January 18th 2011
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Into Senegal, we quickly noticed that there is more money here, though it is still poor Africa, there are more sturdy concrete homes and shops. The people are lovely – both adults and mass groups of children alike waved hectically as we drove past. There are so many children! The Senegalese people as a race are extremely impressive. The women are, by majority, tall, slim, beautiful and with perfect dark skin, high cheekbones and dazzling white smiles. The men are very similar, strikingly handsome and ‘smooth looking’, the smiles can’t help but make you smile back. They’re an impressive people.

We made it out to Zebrabar, an oasis of a place right on the riverside, though we now took refuge from direct sunlight in the back of the truck as Martin had turned a nice shade of beetroot. Nice timing too, since the occupants of the ‘beach’ had to hack at random large branches that tried to get them as we drove into Zebrabar. But Zebrabar is great, the campsite is all sand, palm trees and right on the river side. Martin and I upgraded to a cute little bungalow (why not ;-) ) we were stoked to be there for three nights and it was the perfect place to unwind.

During our last night in Mauritania we managed to accumulate quite a big pile of empty squashed beer cans. ‘Shit Can’ was born. Basically the premise of the game is the same as Jenga – to stack the largest pile of cans possible – as ‘Shit Can God Fathers’ Martin, Ian and Ryan quickly instigated a multitude of cunning and well-considered rules – including such gems as ‘a yellow card for a pussy move’ and the ‘tower of power’. No doubt this wonderful game will be picked up by a large game manufacturer in the near future – look out for it in a store near you. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, although may die when we can only buy beer in bottles!

The first full day at Zebrabar was awesome, got through all our washing (ok, yup, boring) and then Bunny headed out on a pirogue with some of the others. It was nice to be out on the water as our Senegalese fisherman drove us around the river, his boy apprentice bailing water out the bottom the whole way. T.I.A. We passed ‘Isle of Birds’ though we’re not sure if that’s an official name or just a description for the island which was covered in a large variety of said birds. Then we drove back along the river on the opposite side from Zebrabar and saw what must have been millions of crabs scurrying all over the beaches. We finally stopped and spent a while watching them and playing with them – taking a step towards a large group and watching them all scuttle off as a horde. Then we walked across this part of the land to the other side and reached the beach. Was a great beach, long stretches of white sand stretching away in either direction and fairly big waves - though it was a little overcast that day, so we didn’t go for a swim. Back to the camp and spent the rest of the day and into the evening sitting around drinking by the riverside, Kristi managing to consume a little too much vodka over the course of the evening.

While Bunny had been on the boat trip Martin and Ian took a canoe and paddled across the bay to access the beautiful white sand beach on the other side. Unfortunately their canoe leaked something chronic so they had to stop on sand bars along the way to pour out all the water! There was also an issue with about 5billion ants who had stowed away in the seats... not ideal. Still it was worth it to spend an hour or so body surfing and just playing in the waves; Brian had come along too, in a much more sea-worthy kayak! In the afternoon Martin and Ian chopped up enough firewood to re-stock the entire truck, it’s nice to do a bit of exercise every now and then!

The following day we headed into the town of Saint Louis, 19km away. The children along the roads were once again out in force waving and screaming at us. Saint Louis was our favourite place so far, a cool colonial town that you can just imagine in it’s prime, now in a mild state of decay, but with loads of character! Andi and Hasty headed off to arrange extensions to our truck visa, as we were only given 48 hours at the border. We walked over the bridge onto the island of Langue de Barbarie – marvelling at the sheer number of pirogues (colourful fishing boats) lining the river and the shores of the river piled high with an eclectic mix of more boats, rubbish heaps, wandering goats and various livestock. The goats seemed to love eating the rubbish... mmmmmm! We headed into the markets but it was only 9am so they were still opening up. Found the butchery and the fishery which were very grim but morbidly interesting. They were concrete cells inside warehouses, with animal carcasses and about a zillion flies; with random animal heads lying about all over the place.

From here we wandered down the street and Martin found fresh baguettes still hot from the oven; which were truly awesome. Ryan, Lindi and Tim quickly followed suit. We started heading back to the bridge, and found one of the most adorable children. The children here are insanely beautiful in general, but this little dude was about 2 years old and when he saw us he pointed and then started absolutely giggling his head off, so much so that he was bent over double and his older sister was looking at him with complete bemusement. I said ‘Bonjour’ to him and he answered immediately with ‘bonjour’ and another hysterical fit of giggles, he had us all laughing, it was just such pure, unadulterated joy - it was awesome!! Tim and I tried to take photos of him but he’d wait until we focused on him, then move sideways laughing his head off, we got several shots of half of him. He made my day :-) we walked back to the river to get a Sheepy shot, and Martin was head butted by a disagreeable cow!! Boo.

We headed back over the river to the island ‘Ile de N’dar’ and wandered some more, before grabbing lunch at Chez Agnes. We had the Senegalese plates – when in Rome and all that! It was a great dish of wild rice, sautéed onions with spices and beef. Pretty yum! We headed back to the truck but Andi was there to tell us that the guy at the office where we were trying to obtain our truck visa extension hadn’t shown up to work yet. Mmmm 1.30pm, nice time to think about turning up to work! ;-) So off we went for a wander with Ian, Kirsten, Brian, Michael and Tim, wandering right down to the beach at the southern end of the island which most of Saint Louis rests upon. It was mosque o’clock and there is still a fair number of Muslims here so it was quite interesting to see them all lining their streets with their prayer mats. I loved the streets, lined with the colourful and stylish French colonial houses dating back to colonial times, complete with shutters and balconies. The sun was streaming down, as we wandered along the streets full of local character, towards the beach, watched by curious children who wanted to shake our hands. The kids are so charming, but you can’t escape the differences in culture, they would happily poo in the water and then splash around pretty much right there... yurk. Before long it was time to head back out to Zebrabar for the evening, but it was an awesome day and I think the best place we’ve visited so far on this trip.

Martin and Ryan had bought some fishing gear at the market... and using crabs as bait they managed to catch... more crabs. Fail.

The following day we started towards the border town of Kadira to cross into Mali, and started a series of up to 7 nights bushcamps en-route depending on the road conditions we found ahead.

In the end we had 2 bushcamp nights in Senegal before reaching the border into Mali, both were cool but in the middle of nowhere... long drives and camping where ever we ended up! Although one camp seemed to be in the middle of a goat grazing area as there were 100s of them, plus some dodgy looking ponds which must have been a malaria hotspot! That evening a couple of locals showed up (this happens ALL the time of course), the difference this time was that they had brought a couple of goats, a baby and its mum. While we all played with the baby (a few days old max) the guys told us we could have mum for dinner, they literally had knife out and were about to slit the poor beastie’s throat on the spot before we hurriedly explained we already had dinner on the go! Poor baby goat would have been scarred for life... sux to be a goat!

We stopped in the large town of Tambacounda for a longish shopping break, Bunny found an internet cafe and Martin found a bar where the locals kept trying to give him shots of their very potent smelling local whiskey... at 10am... ahhhh No thanks! Tambacounda was at least 38-39 degrees and with no wind at all the whole place was roasting, we had yummy kebab sandwiches and bought some awesome pastries from a local patisserie. Beer, to Martin’s relief, is a lot cheaper again now!

Although Senegal was a bit of a ‘bonus’ country, in the sense that it wasn’t on the original itinerary, we fell in love with the people, the countryside and the vibrant musical culture.

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