How to Insult a Nation in 6 Days
Trip Start Mar 07, 2013
11Trip End Apr 19, 2013
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- a bus journey from hell, the bright lights of Dakar, Senegalese surfing and beers on the beach. What will befall our four intrepid explorers this week; captured by militia? eaten by cannibal tribes? ....unfortunately for both readers and writer, no, but true to form both Kev and I the self proclaimed Africa experts of the group managed to insult 3 towns in 6 days!
Kartong, The Gambia
-We arrived in this small town in southern Gambia and discovered Lemonfish, an art gallery that doubles as a little hotel, run by Hannie, a rather eccentric but wonderfully friendly Dutch lady. This was the oasis we'd been looking for, and after a much needed shower we spread ourselves across the countless chairs and sofas and tumbled into our books for the next two days only broken by beach walking and food
Casamance Region, Southern Senegal
We drove to the border town of Seleti and here we proudly played the role of baffled foreigner in the masquerade of Senegalese buerocracy! In Senegal cars can drive across the border and people can walk across the border but cars can't drive across the border with people in them! So we were held hostage in Gambia by an illegal moneylender while our luggage and taxi trundled off into Senegal.
Casamance, though part of Senegal, is fighting for its autonomy. The civil war stopped in 2004 but militia still ambush cars very occasionally, as a result the very straight road was covered in chicanes made from tree trunks with heavily armed soldiers and machine gun nests in the bushes.
Ziguinchor was our first port of call, either the long journey to get there or the fact that it smelled like the u-bend of a cholera toilet left us unimpressed but we crashed there for the night
Onto Cap Skiring, a coastal resort for the French centred around a Club Med and even boasting its own airport with direct flights to Paris. Another two nights here spent swimming and expert sand castle building by Anna and I, much to the amusement of the locals who were convinced our spectacular 'chateau' with turrets and moat was a mosque! I mean really!
When we tired of the beach (it's a hard life here) we set off for Oussouyue the home of Casamance VTT an outdoor sports centre. We set off on mountain bikes and went cross country until we reached our kayaks and then spent the next 3 hours exploring the rivers with some occasional swimming. Paddling through the dense forest left me convinced that if we didn't discover a Pygmy tribe we'd at least meet Dr Livingstone! Up early again the next day for our cycling trip, 2 hours of off road cycling through paddy fields and bush with plenty of sandy tracks to punish our unfit legs and vault Lauren spectacularly off her bike. When we got to our destination, Pointe St George, we were wined and dined on fresh shrimp and fish (we were expecting ham sandwiches!), now it was time for the pinnacle of the trip, manatee spotting! We saw loads of dolphins but were mildly unimpressed in comparison to our childlike enthusiasm to spot the elusive manatee, a group of French tourists had seen none the hour before but as is often the way with the French, we won and they lost
Then it was onto the pirogues for a river trip which dropped us off with our bikes downstream and we cycled through the forest. At this point I should mention our guide Charles, a multi linguist from Côte d'Ivoire who offered us a running commentary in English, French, Spanish and Jula. I was hoping his expert knowledge could enlighten us on the birdlife of Casamance which we were spotting, you know migration patterns, mating habits, variation in plumage, differentiation by birdsong, the basics! So to prove my enthusiasm I thrust my hand toward a vulture sitting in a tree and said "Charles what is that?" He glanced over at the creature in question, "that's a bird" ..... "Oh I see" said I, my dreams of appearing on Mastermind with 'Senegalese avian life' as my speciality topic vanishing in an instant.
It was on the return journey when Anna had a puncture that I got a call from nature. Looking for a good spot to establish my personal irrigation project, I spied a bloody great big tree, nothing special, with a forked trunk about 4 feet up. So I stepped behind it, looking out for snakes, and looked back through the fork in the tree. Just before I could answer nature, a women at a well started screaming, I saw her through the fork in the trunk, but took no notice even though she did seem to be a screaming at me
So our time in Oussouyue was coming to an end but not before we went out for dinner at 6 o'clock when a whistle blew and the whole town stood to attention while the flag was lowered, all except Kev who marched on before turning and shouting "what?" as the locals glared as these white people defaced their flag.
So now we've insulted Senegal we feel it's time to move on to our next adventure in Guinea-Bissau, a small country to the south which speaks Portuguese and Creole and we don't. Hooray!
So it's goodbye from all of us and weirdly we'll see you next week!