Daws.ca
Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Senegal

this little guy kept the caged one company

We met our friend Kierstin, who V travelled to Kenya with in 2002, at the border between The Gambia and Senegal. She’s been living in Northern Senegal working as a peace corps volunteer for two years. It was super nice to see her and travelling in Senegal was super relaxing as she knew the system and one of the local languages which made it a bit easier to travel around. We noticed that there was less hassling, either because our French was so bad that people gave up when they realized we didn’t understand much of what they were saying or because we had Kierstin with us who speaks one of the local languages, Pular, that we think people were shocked to see that a white girl could speak a local language! :P  Getting the translations of the conversations was often interesting with most conversations revolving around why Kierstin was not married yet, how they would really like a white wife and which point Kierstin would explain that they wouldn’t be happy with a white wife cause she would most likely not want to do all the cooking, cleaning, and child raising and that most western women would not be too accepting of the whole polygamy thing. Some of the locals assumed that Kierstin and I were Tony’s two wives! If only Tony were that lucky! Haha :)

From the border we caught public transport to the town of Toubakouta, which is where we would catch the boat to our camp, Keur Bamboung, which is located in our favourite spot in Senegal, the Sine Saloum Delta. Getting off the bus, we walked down a tree-lined dirt road while patas monkeys played in the trees/road, through a village, and then took a small boat along with two other tourists, several locals and a goat (who sadly ended up being the next day's lunch) for about an hour through the mangroves. We arrived at a tiny village on the edge of the river which was celebrating a muslim baptism so there was lots of dancing and music and all the villagers and their guests were very dressed up. Typically once a baby is born, the mother and baby spend 7 days alone bonding and after 7 days they have the naming ceremony/baptism, which we were grateful to have stumbled upon as it was interesting to see the celebration and the colourful outfits as we walked past the village for about 20minutes before arriving to our camp. It felt very remote. So many colourful birds, our favourite of which had to be the Abyssinian Roller, a turquoise bird with orangey-brown wings and a long black tail…we thought they were beautiful, and Tony became a little obsessed with catching the perfect picture of this bird in flight -- he would keep dissapearing into the brush :P (but we have beautiful pictures of this bird because of that!)… Our hut, which was made entirely of grass and mud and used solar panels for electricity, was overlooking the mangroves and surrounding rivers. It was beautiful and serene.  We went on a walk through the savannah and saw a warthog in the distance and a couple of snakes along with some monkeys and many different species of birds. Enjoyed the view through the heat of the day and then went kayaking through the mangroves before dinner which we loved! Kierstin and I doubled up in one and Tony had his own… Kierstin and I had a few issues steering the kayak against the current and at one point ended up crashing into the oysters covering the mangroves roots!

We took a car up to Mbour. The roads weren’t great so most of the time our driver drove on the dirt shoulder instead as it was a smoother ride rather than trying to avoid the many potholes. Some locals were out “fixing” the road by putting dirt in the potholes and then charging all the cars a small fee for using that part of the road. In Mbour we spent a lovely few days at a hotel on the beach. After the long hot sweaty drive here Kierstin and I went for a swim in the ocean while Tony took a nap in the air conditioned room. There was a 14 year old boy who I guess was trying to flirt with us? It was a very odd way of flirting! We were standing in the water chatting and he kept trying to get our attention by splashing us and swimming front crawl with flailing arms towards us… we would move out of his way and he would stand up look around, readjust his direction and come straight for us again! Flirtation must be done very differently in Senegal haha!  Other than that the beach was very relaxing.  Watching the sunset, sitting under the palm trees with a cold drink, lizards scurrying around and the kids playing soccer to the sound of drumming in the background finished off the evening nicely.

From Mbour we did a couple of day trips.  We Spent a day at Kierstin’s friend Adam’s village, Louly Ngogm. Was a very relaxing day. The kids from Adam’s village hung out in his hut with us and to entertain themselves they took our empty plastic bottles and made music by stomping their feet and banging the bottles, it surprisingly sounded very good! These kids looked like they were between the ages of 3 and 8, it was impressive! Went for a walk to the nearby baobabs around Adam’s village, and had a good laugh trying to climb some of them, they are massive! Basically look like uprooted trees that have been turned on their heads! Adam and Kierstin also taught me how to carry water on my head, I think Adam was perfectly happy letting me do some of his chores for him! I was super excited and the villagers thought it was funny watching me try, very ungracefully! Although I have to say that I was very proud as I only spilt a little bit! :)  Mind you I was using my hands, unlike the local women who can carry crazy objects on their heads, from firewood to water, with no hands and then proceed to chase each other around jokingly like this!!! It is a very efficient way of carrying things…we saw many women when travelling carrying a duffle bag on their head, a baby on their back, another bag in one hand and the other hand was then free to be used for whatever or to hold their other child’s hand. They are talented!  The next morning we did a safari around the Reserve de Bandia where we got to see tons of typical African animals. The first giraffe we almost drove right past cause we were in a small car and the giraffe was so tall and standing in the shade of some trees quite near the road so as we were looking for animals we didn’t notice we were looking between the giraffe’s legs, initially dismissed as trees, and almost missed it completely!  In the reserve we saw giraffes and their babies, buffalo, ostriches and their tiny tiny babies, impala, horse antelope, warthogs, vervet monkeys, foxes, tortoises, and more birds. Had a lovely lunch by the big watering hole here where we got to try two different juices, Jus de Bissap, made from the red hibiscus flower, and Jus de Pain de Saige, ie. Baobab fruit juice… both were very interesting and very good.

Travelled south from Mbour to the twin villages of Joal and Fadiout, where Kierstin’s friend Adrienne is working. Fadiout is a century-old island composed entirely of oyster and clamshells. We took a boat ride to the granaries of Fadiout, small little huts on stilts in the water where the locals put their crops/grains, in the rainy season the ocean level rises and covers the houses, the salt from the water acts as a natural preservative keeping the crops fresh for 5-7years. We took a walk through the muslim-catholic-animist cemetery, also made up entirely of shells. You can see the clear divide between the muslim and catholic sections of the cemetery, but the people living in the towns of Joal and Fadiout are very accepting of each other's religions and they live together peacefully. Our guide showed us an interesting tree, which he called the “bleeding tree”… by breaking off a branch of the tree a white liquid comes out which can be applied to wounds, healing them in 2 days. Fadiout was gorgeous, lots of narrow streets and a beautiful craft market (where V had to try hard to control herself so she didn’t buy every wooden carving, only bought 1 in the end, very impressive!) and a big 127 year old church with a mural at the back of it depicting the magroves and the area surrounding it with 7 birds representing the 7 neighbourhoods in Fadiout. On our walk back into Joal we ran into Adrienne’s friend, a local artist named Paco, who does very psychedelic type paintings. He had a great personality and loved posing for pictures with his artwork which he made us take lots of!

We took a public transport to Kaolack, otherwise known as dirty town, which smelt like rotting fish in some areas, but even so had a beauty of its own :P Had our last dinner with Kierstin and some very yummy ice cream. The next morning we said our goodbyes as Kierstin helped us arrange transport to the Gambian border. It was lovely seeing her after so many years and we are very happy we could experience our time in Senegal with her! Thank you Kierstin!

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