Senegal

j_baobab

The foreign office website warned against travel in Mauritania and I was told by a laughing Dutch guy in Seville that we’d be killed in the Western Sahara. But actually the country we were slightly nervous about was Senegal. We knew of at least two cyclists who’d been robbed in Senegal, one of whom was also stabbed.

And we had a lot demands from the Senegalise, but an outstretched hand was as menacing as the demands got. Sometimes, infact most days, we handed over a couple of biscuits to kids in rags with small buckets. I don’t know the score but it seems to be the way that some kids get their food. They’re not pushy, not aggressive, they just look hungry. Maybe we’re doing the wrong thing, certainly at best we’re providing a brief pause to their ongoing problem. Again in Africa we see poor distribution of wealth as huge 4x4s blast past us on the road, while on the verges the goat and cow herds lead their animals to pasture. Not all the animals make it and rotting livestock litters the verges, sometimes out of sight. The crosswind gives the game away though, that familiar stench that messed with our senses in Morocco. In the north, we saw the vultures keeping busy, the occasional skeletons in the grass their calling cards.

We came into Senegal near Saint Louis, an explosion of colour and sound after the desert shades of Mauritania. Our route took us to Zebrabar, a campsite far removed from the village it stands next to. Not for the first time I felt the embarassment of privilege, the insulation that the padding in my wallet provides. Zebrabar is a little oasis by a beautiful sandy banked river where the tourists can get away from the country they came to see. And despite my embarassment, we stayed an extra night.

Zebrabar is next to a national park where the birds parade their ostentatious plumage or make bizarre noises out of huge multi-coloured bills. Small lizards run up and down tree trunks and hundreds of crabs dig holes on the beach. It was easy to be lazy in the African heat with so much to divert the senses from pedalling a bike.

Travelling south, the landscape is predictably dry, the hot winds coming down from the Sahara and clear skies offering no resistance to the baking sun. The baobab trees are everywhere and, despite this, my eyes are still drawn to their strangeness. The baobab may be ugly but their fruit is beautiful. You can buy it frozen in little bags and it tastes like heaven. I had to buy another just to be sure.

The villages along the roadside are either simple straw huts or breeze block buildings, in compounds with reed fencing. To the ecologically minded these huts look at one with their environment, but then us western eco types often love what we don’t have to live in. Chickens forage in the dust and goats forage in the rubbish. In the south near the river, the villages have rich folliage and food growing space. People selling bits of surplus at the side of the road.

Every village we passed, we’d hear the calls of ‘Toubab’, which I understand means white person. Every time we stopped, we seemed to be surrounded within seconds and eventually we took to taking breaks between villages, seeking a bit of isolation where we could grab some refreshments undisturbed and indulge ourselves in the silence. We came here to see a bit of Africa but sometimes you need to see a bit of nothing inparticular. It’s helps keep your head and your mood where they need to be.

We ended each day in a large town looking for the cheapest hotel or auberge. Senegal is more expensive than Mauritania, which in turn was more expensive than Morocco. All of which surprised us. Still, they were all cheaper than the UK.

After the hills of Spain, the eternal coastline of Morocco and Western Sahara and the bus ride through Mauritania, Senegal was a mini cycle tour of its own, a week long ride through sub-Saharan Africa with a taste and flavour of what’s to come in the Gambia.

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15 thoughts on “Senegal

  1. Your trusty chariot deserves an appreciative pat for transporting you such a long distance… take good care until you can finally swing low and set down easy.

    • Ding, dong, merrily on high…
      Santa’s doing somersaults across the sky,
      While I’m just chillaxing at the WFP cafe
      And wish for both of you, a jolly xmas day!
      xx

  2. Hi guys.
    I feel exhausted just reading your blogs but what an achievement and you have nearly reached your goal , i reckon ears will be burnt while copious amounts of coffee are being consumed in the WFP next year (poor us).
    SASOONS GREETINGS and all that old nonsense and wishing you both a jollymuss new year.
    Just to let you know i shall be bringing a taste of home down to see you in Gambia ie, my most good self ! I shall be awaiting your recommendations plus a red carpet and a Nubian princess !
    Arriving Banjul Jan 23 and headed to a beach somewhere.
    Big hugs until then.
    Aidy ,the pump room people ponderer ..

  3. Janyis your old faithful car is going as good as your tandem. Beautiful photos and words. Fair winds for the new year in Gambia.
    Helen G.

  4. HI guys. Drop me a line and tell me whereabouts you are in Gambia.
    I will be in Gunjur at Namasu Eco Lodge as of the 23rd, will be there at least a week and would love too see you both.

    Happy new year. Aidy X X

    • Hi Aidy, sorry for the delayed response. We’re in Medina Salaam in the south of the country working on the bike project. Probably heading back to UK mid Jan. I’ll let you know if that changes. Main tourist spot is Kololi in the north. Nemasu eco lodge is near us on the coast. Not the cheapest but relaxed and friendly. Happy New Year.

      • Hi guys, Your right it is not the cheapest ! Could you suggest any cheaper decent Acommadation in that area. I will be in Gambia for a month and going to the big reggae festival end of January. Need to be frugal with the dosh !

      • The only other place we’ve stayed in was just outside (3km) Banjul on the main highway, but right on the beach. It’s called Radio Syd (or Sid). 600 dalasi a night (about £11 inc breakfast. Run by a really nice Swedish couple. Highly recommended but maybe out of your way. There’s another eco lodge called Footsteps down the road from here but don’t know anything about it. We were also recommended a guesthouse at Cape Point in the north by a British guy, but don’t know the name. Hope you get something sorted. Cheers, Chris

      • Hi Chris. Thanks for the quick response and and the info, can you also advise malaria, big problem and can i buy the tablets cheaper there ?

      • You can buy the tablets here although they advise starting taking them before you arrive. We haven’t had many mossie issues here but there were more in the north.

    • Sorry Aidy, just seen the whole of your message. The lodge is about half a mile from where we are! Not sure if we’ll still be here though. I’ll let you know.

  5. Glad to read you made it to the Gambia. Many thanks C & J for the thrills and spills of sharing (albeit in comfort and safety) your amazing journey through Spain and North Africa. Along the way you posted great pictures… but your prose painted masterpieces.
    All the best for 2014.

    • Thanks Redd, and thanks for keeping us company on the way down through Africa. Much appreciated. Happy New Year to you and all the other lovely people at the cafe xx

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