Jan 2 2010

Senegal – diary 2009-12-20 to 2009-12-27

2009-12-20 to 2009-12-23

After having a very little bit of sleep Kirk and I managed to get out of bed, pack up the tent and eat breakfast in the campsite restaurant. We had quite a distance to travel today and we needed to get on the road. Between Senegal and Gambia, the distances are not that grand so we knew that we would be able to get through to Cap Skiring in the Casamance before sunset. We said our goodbyes and waved a fond farewell to The Gambia. We really enjoyed the short stay. We headed for the border and proceeded through the pretty painless immigration procedures. We were back in Senegal, although the Southern part felt like a whole new country compared to that of the Northern parts. The vegetation is dense and lush. We did notice the presence of military personal dotted around the countryside but did not feel threatened in any way. There has been Guerrilla war in these areas in the past but the current situation is peaceful and the officials are trying to boost tourism in the area. All I can say is that the Casamance is heaven. The locals are the friendliest bunch we have met and because it is not that populated we feel that we really are discovering new unfound land. We drove through Ziguinchor which again showed signs of French colonisation. The buildings were spectacular and I am sure that during their heyday they would have been painted beautifully and surrounded by manicured gardens. The unfortunate thing is that the local people do not have the money to maintain these buildings now and so they go to ruin. We stopped by to get an extension on the vehicle permit but found that the customs officials did not work on a Sunday so proceeded to Cap Skiring to spend the 10 days that we had left on the vehicle papers.

Cap Skiring and its surrounding villages are beautiful. The beaches consist of large stretches of sand, calm waters and blue skies. We settled in at a place called Ouja Hotel just north of Cap Skiring. This place was one of the first campements to be built in Boucotte but people have started to cotton on to the magnificence of this place and big compounds of thatched mansions are being built just behind the dunes. This however does not detract from the beauty because from the beach you can see only palm trees and endless stretches of sandy beach. We made camp amongst the palm and coconut trees and had the most incredible view over the ocean. As we were setting up camp a French lady came running up to us from the shore and tried explaining that her husband had been washed out and couldn’t get back to the beach. We of course didn’t understand one bit of her French but understood that there was a problem. Kirk ran towards the sea but couldn’t see anything as the glare from the sun was so bright. He waded out and saw the Frenchman just beyond backline. There was quite a strong backwash and the Frenchman was exhausted from swimming against the current. Kirk and Seza (the host from the campement who had also heard the commotion and joined Kirk in the plight to help) helped to bring the exhausted swimmer back to the beach. It was quite an adrenaline rush but a humbling moment when we saw the appreciation on the French ladies face. A good deed is done! We continued to set up camp and enjoyed a meal at the restaurant that evening overlooking the mighty Atlantic Ocean and witnessed yet another beautiful sunset.

The rest of our days in Boucotte have been filled with sunbathing, swimmimg, reading, the occasional attempt to catch a fish and Kirk fiddling around with his new solar panel. It truly is paradise and there is a definite calming feel to this magnificent place. This could definitely be another holiday destination that we would come back to in a heartbeat. I suppose I am going to be saying that quite frequently as we discover Africa’s’ best kept secretes and I imagine they will improve in beauty the further south we head.

 2009-12-24

We headed back to Ziguinchor this morning because we needed to renew the car papers. The drive was scenic and the bird life was spectacular. The custom officials were very pleasant which I assume was because they were preparing for Christmas day and family time. We managed to extend the document until the 14th January 2010 which gave us plenty of time to stay in Senegal should we not want to leave this paradise. We then went in search of a supermarket and our Christmas lunch. The supermarket was small but stocked the essentials. We bought a chicken and some vegetables and drove back to our paradise beach. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and enjoying the beach and sun.

 2009-12-25

Merry Christmas! It was certainly strange not to be surrounded by friends or family this morning. Phone calls were received from family and loved ones and Christmas wishes were made which made us feel like we were part of some celebtartion back in South Africa. It felt like an ordinary day for us and no different to the rest of the days spent in Boucotte. Kirk did some maintenance on the car and rotated the front and back wheels whilst I enjoyed my book and caught some rays. We decided to cook the chicken for late lunch and opted for a flat chicken on the braai rather than a roasted one in the pot. I made a 2 bean salad and a potato salad which we enjoyed much later that evening along with some wine, beer and palm wine that the local guys brought to share. We enjoyed another beautiful sunset listening to Bob Marley and bade Christmas day farewell.

2009-12-26

Our time had come to say goodbye to Boucotte and Cap Skiring and make our way to the Mali border. We packed up and said our goodbyes to our friends at Oudja Hotel and made our way back to Ziguinchor where we got more cash and stocked up on a few more goodies for the ‘store cupboard’. We had bought some home made peanut brittle when we visited the Ziguinchor supermarket on Christmas evening and had made short work of it so decided that we should get some more as a Christmas treat. The road to our next stop Tambacunda was horrendous! If we described it as potholed that would make the road sound easy to navigate. There were dongas across the road that were deep and could cause serious damage to any vehicle if they were to hit it at high speed. Sometimes we opted to drive next to the road because the tracks that other people had made were far better than the tarred roads. The scenery made up for the horrific state of the road and again the bird watching was astonishing.  We passed a few ‘bush fires’ along the way and the intensity of the heat was incredible. We have seen many Kites and birds of prey, particularly Vultures whilst being in Southern Senegal and to see them swooping into the road to feed off the insects that were forced out of the fire path was a spectacular sight. We made slow process and eventually reached Tamba at nightfall. By that stage we were completely exhausted from the heat and the drive so found refuge in a lovely hotel for the night. We did blow the daily budget on accommodation alone but figured that because we had spent only a third of our budget over the last few days that we could splash out and enjoy the comfort of an air-conditioned hotel room. We went to a local restaurant for dinner where we enjoyed chicken, chips and salad. The hotel had an internet connection so we checked e-mails and tried to get some sleep.

2009-12-27

We have been spoilt with out memory foam mattress in our tent so we are finding it quite difficult to get a good night sleep on any other bed. We also had to contend with many mosquitoes that were blood thirsty as the hotel did not provide mosquito nets. None the less we enjoyed the comforts of air conditioner an en-suit bathroom and limitless coffee for breakfast. We didn’t have much distance to cover until the border and we had been told that the road was significantly better than the road we had travelled on yesterday…It was! We located the hidden police station in the town of Kidira and got ‘signed out’ of Senegal. We continued to the ‘frontier’ police who again ‘signed us out’. The last stop at customs was long but that was due to there only being one office who was dealing with people entering and exiting Senegal. Whilst waiting in the queue we met Joe and Christine, a Canadian/South African couple who had originally been backpacking and travelling through Africa on public transport but decided to purchase a car in Mauritania and continue the journey south in their own vehicle. We made plans to meet up with them later on in the day at some waterfalls just out of Kayes. We were eventually stamped out of Senegal and made our way to our 5th African country.

[book id=’13’ /]


Jan 2 2010

Senegal – diary 2009-12-09 to 2009-12-15

2009-12-09

We awoke to glorious sunshine and blue skies. It made a change from the weather we had experienced for the last 5 days. It was so refreshing to have greenery around us and blue waters! We set up camp properly in the morning, the awning went up, the table set up with its red check table cloth and the comfy chairs were bought out from the roof box. We were set to stay at Zebrabar for the next 3 days. Supplies were low and so we decided to head into Saint Louis for restocking of groceries and beverages. The town centre was great! Founded in 1659, Saint Louis was the first French settlement in Africa. By 1790 it was a busy port and centre for the trade of goods and slaves and was home to a radically diverse population of 10 000. Since independence the buildings have deteriorated but the history and architecture still holds a huge French influence. We drove directly to the beach and immediately were sucked into the hustle and bustle of the fishing activities that were happening on the beach. We met a local called Babako and he offered to take us on a tour through the fishing market. It was most certainly an eye opener. The beach is unfortunately filthy; not only with rubbish but also with the remains of dead fish and human excrement. Babako found light of the situation and told us to watch out for the landmines. The traditional fishing boats are called pirogues. They are made out of wood and painted in beautiful colours and patterns. They haul in hundreds of kilograms of sardines which are either iced and sent off to Mali and Mauritania or salted and dried for export to countries further afield. The process is quite impressive as they still use traditional methods without the use of factories. The tour continued to the river side where the pirogues anchor just off shore and fisherman wearing rain macs and gumboots traipse through the water carrying baskets of the sardines just caught. These fish are packed directly into trucks, which are filled with crushed ice. One of the trucks was transporting the sardines directly to Bamako, Mali. They certainly do work very hard. As the tour was coming to an end Babako started talking about the price of rice and how it was very expensive to buy and feed your family. We thought this was him providing us with information as tour guides do but we soon found out that he was hinting at us to buy him some rice. We learnt very quickly that in Senegal, nothing is for nothing. We parted ways with Babako and gave him a generous tip…hopefully he has bought some rice with it! We met up with Noel and Reka again and went in search of lunch. We walked around the streets of Saint Louis. I really enjoyed looking at the infrastructure and noticing how some houses have been restored back to their glory whilst others are dilapidated and falling apart. We found a buvette that was happy to serve us lunch. We ordered a whole chicken and chips to share between the 4 of us and were told it would take 25 minutes…she didn’t even have the chicken to start with….2 hours later we ere tucking into our ‘lunch’.

After stocking up with some beverages we headed back to St Louis. Kirk and Noel made a campfire and Reka and I cooked some dinner (lunch was not that substantial). The guitars and harmonica came out and we enjoyed a sing song and of course many games of UNO.

2009-12-10

We really wanted to have a braai (BBQ) in the evening so we needed to find some meat to cook…not always easy when there are no supermarkets around and the livestock that the locals have is really for their subsistence lifestyle. The weather was again beautiful…blue skies and not a breath of wind. According to Thomas (another overlander we had met in Marrakech, Daklah and again at Zebrabar who is building a house 10km outside Saint Louis) this weather is unusual for this time of year. It is normally much cooler. We were not complaining. I took the opportunity to get some photos of the estuary and the surrounding areas and enjoyed experimenting with the different settings of the camera. The colours in Senegal do make it so easy to take a photograph. Kirk pottered around for most of the day until we realised it was time to source the food we were going to eat. We all took a slow walk inot the neighbouring village and asked around for a ‘boucherie’ (butcher) but none seemed to exist so we eventually resorted to asking the locals how much a live chicken would be. We eventually found a chicken to suit our budget but were faced with the slaying of this poor creature. Kirk was keen to learn i.e. watch how it was done so that he would be able to do it in the future. I was totally grossed out by it all and could not partake in the preparation process but instead decided to document it by taking photographs. We enlisted the help of one of the cooks at Zebrabar. He cut the chickens head off and threw a bucket on top of it to stop the blood from going everywhere. I was not watching at this stage but only heard the chicken flapping around underneath the bucket. I turned around and saw that Kirk was holding the chicken’s head in his hand. Of course I had to get a photo of Kirk’s ‘first chicken’. Next we had to gut and pluck the bird. Kirk happily took control of the gutting whilst Reka had had some experience plucking chickens and managed the process very well. The feathers come off fairly effortlessly once the chicken had sat in hot water for a minute. We marinated the poor chook and prepared the rest of the meal. I love to say that it was the best chicken we had ever eaten but sadly we were quite disappointed. The skin tasted lovely but the meat was so tough. We should have known that it needed at least one day of marinating to allow for the lactic acid to settle. The spuds and veggie skewers on the other hand went down a treat. The experience was priceless although it has grossed me out a bit and I would prefer someone else to do the dirty work for me.  

2009-12-11

We spent another day at Zebrabar. Kirk had been helping Thomas with various jobs; one of tem being the erecting of his Hoby Cat sail; and as a thank-you took Kirk sailing for a couple of hours. Reka and I took the double kayak out onto the water and enjoyed some exercise as well as the scenery. The morning passed quickly…days seem to go nowhere in Africa. The weather again was beautiful but very hot. We found refuge under the awning and enjoyed a few cold beers. That afternoon all 4 of us went back onto the water. We all kayaked across the esturary to the opposing bank. We walked through the mangroves and were rewarded with the most beautiful stretch of beach. The sand was white and spotlessly clean. The shore break was enormous but this did not stop Noel and Reka from testing the waters. Despite the warnings from the crashing waves they were both dumped. Reka’s dumping was particularly impressive and she emerged from the sea with sand in every possible place you could imagine. We made our way back to Zebrabar and prepared for yet another braai that evening. This time we had managed to get some steaks from the kitchen. It was our last night at Zebrabar and we would be parting ways with Noel and Reka so it was imperative that we rapped up our UNO Tournament. I had been leading for most of the tournament with Kirk catching up every now and then, maybe taking the lead for a few games. Noel was new to the game and was slow to start. He was in last position for the first few days but strategic playing resulted in him overtaking Reka and becoming a competitor for second place. The competition was good and Kirk emerged the UNO champion with me a close second, Noel third and lastly Reka.

2009-12-12

We packed up camp, said our goodbyes to the people we had met at Zebrabar and returned to Saint Louis to return the beer bottles and crates. We had driven over the steel bridge designed and made by Eifel 350 years ago. The bridge was meant to be used to cross a river in France but instead they shipped it to Saint Louis and used it to join the mainland to Langue de Barbarie Peninsular. It appears that they were in the process of doing some major refurbishments on the bridge as they were celebrating its 350th year. The traffic was busier than usual and whilst stuck in it we noticed some flyers advertising a huge fiesta that evening. We had to stay one more night to experience the music and celebrations of the Senegalese people in Saint Louis. We found a campsite on the Langue de Barbarie Peninsular, parked up and made our way to the town centre again. We caught our first taxi into town and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. There were virtually no shock absorbers and it resembled much of that of a bone shaker. It was a real experience. We were shown to a lovely old French colonial structure for lunch. We had the ‘plat de jour’ which was the delicious Thieboudienne – the fish and rice dish. The helpings were monstrous. When we were leaving the restaurant we met 2 local guys called Bab and Mustafa. Now, who would have thought our Afrikaans would ever come in handy in West Africa? Bab had lived in Holland for a while and could speak Flemish and Woolof. We could communicate with him quite easily in Afrikaans and we managed to understand each other. We were taken to a local bar called the Baobab where we enjoyed a few beers. Bab and Mustafa offered to do a fish BBq for us along the Langue de Barbarie Peninsular at Mustafa’s campement. Mustafa and Bab were both musicians and they were going to entertain us with their vocals and jenba drum abilities. We made our way to the peninsular and enjoyed the evening listening to the traditional sounds of the Senegalese men. After we had eaten we all returned to the mainland where it was all happening. There were various stages dotted around town each occupied by musicians playing music in their style. We enjoyed the atmosphere and really appreciated being a part of the 30 year celebration

2009-12-13

We really did say our goodbyes to Reka and Noel this morning and headed south in the direction of Dakar. I was not 100% certain if I needed a visa to visit The Gambia so we thought it best to visit the embassy just to check. The drive was fairly pleasant with very little to see and hardly any police checks. We were within 20 kilometres of Dakar where we got stuck in a traffic jam. This traffic was believe it or not the traffic going into Dakar. We were having none of it and decided, after practically sitting stationary for an hour, to turn around and head for the far more pleasant Petite Cote. We arrived at a town called Toubab Dialao and decided to splash out for a night and to occupy a room in Sobo Bade that had a sea view and en-suit bathroom. The en-suit was a treat on its own and it was so nice to be able to have a shower and walk to the bedroom without having to wash your feet again. After making ourselves at home we took a stroll along the beach and sussed out perspective restaurants to eat at. The locals were delightful and showed a genuine interest in where we were from. The World Cup was yet again the topic discussion. We made our way back to our fancy room, showered and went to dinner at the hotel down the road. We again enjoyed the local Senegalese cuisine and devoured the Yassa Poulet and Yassa Crevettes. Yassa is a sauce made from onions, mustard, vinegar, pepper, lemons and stock cube. It truly is delicious! We made our way back to Sobo Bade and enjoyed a good nights rest in our luxury accommodation.

2009-12-14

Kirk has been having wonderful time videoing a group of musicians from Guinea Bissau who go by the name African Melodie. Their musical instruments are made from calabashes and leather. The sounds they made were fantastic. We have promised to send them a DVD of themselves once we find a suitable internet connection that will be able to download the software to transfer the data onto a DVD.

We had intentions of driving into The Gambia today but because of the musical group we only managed to get away from Sobo Bade after 12pm. We drove further down the coast until we arrived at a place called Mbour. Mbour is a busy town that provides the traveller with everything they need. We found a supermarket that seemed to stock everything but it wa closed until 4 pm. We thought it a good idea to scout out the surrounding area for a place to stay so that we could get an early start the next morning and head to the border. The previous village was called Saly and promised good beaches, many resort style hotels and nightclubs. We were not too interested in this so decided to head to its neighbouring village called Saly-Niakhniakhalie. It was far better and suited us perfectly. We stayed at Ferne de Saly which was a rustic place right on the beach. The camping area was situated on the farm area where we had baboons and monkeys as our neighbours. We spent the afternoon swimming in the sea, sitting on the beach and bartering with the local ladies who were desperately trying to sell us a sarong. We did manage to get a cardeau from the lady and Kirk and I are now both proud owners of beaded necklaces. Dinner was had at a local restaurant called Chez Paulo where we enjoyed another plate of Yassa Poulet…it really is delicious!

 2009-12-15

 We left Ferne de Saly and visited the very expensive supermarket where we stocked up on tinned goods, beer and some meat. We made our way to The Gambia border post and proceeded to go through the process of Police and customs. The custom officials were very inquisitive and got us to open up everything in the back of the vehicle. They even got us to open up the tent! With no money paid we made our way through to country number 4 – The Gambia.

Pics to follow when we get a better connection…