Back to Senegal!

Trip Start Mar 05, 2006
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Trip End Mar 12, 2006


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Thursday, March 9, 2006

Keeping with the first part of yesterday's plan, the goal is to make it to Kaolack, Senegal by nightfall. Up at eight, breakfasted, packed, ready to pay the hotel bill with trusty Visa...but there's a catch. A 10% surcharge for credit card payments plus currency conversion from Dalasi to Pounds (it's a British establishment) to Dollars plus Visa's 2% foreign currency surcharge. So maybe not with the Visa. Time to max out our ATM withdrawals for the day.

Bills paid, we headed for Albert Market in Banjul and suddenly, Yes, this is where we want to be. I love markets. We wandered around looking at clothes, electronics, fruits and vegetables, raw meat, fish, all the cool stuff you find in third world markets. Saw one other pair of tourists, with a guide. No one wanders this area by the themselves, apparently. Several people have asked if we're with the Peace Corps. There aren't tourists here, and there certainly aren't backpackers-which is what we look like, if perhaps on an expanded budget. They don't know what to make of us.



We had to shrug off a couple touts who wanted to us the market. We didn't have anything smaller than 100D ($4) and it was more fun to wander on our own and get lost on our own. After forty-five minutes, it was time to move on (it took another twenty to find our way out of the labyrinth) Donna had wanted to check out the Happy Bar for lunch, apparently the second best bar in Africa, so we slowly followed our map there, getting ever so slightly lost several times, and absorbing Banjul. It's a typical third-world town, not a city, with quiet, dusty, backstreets. We passed a group of men doing laundry and had noticed that the men sewed at the market. Interesting gender reversal from the western world.



The Happy Bar was closed, whether temporarily or permanently was not clear. We weren't really hungry anyway and the walk through the side streets had been well worth it, so we headed for the ferry terminal. Our ferry luck was holding and the ferry was there when we arrived, this round with more time to spare. The ferry ride was made more interesting, if not necessarily comfortable, by more flirtation and an exchange of contact information (you're very trapped on a ferry and you can only say no so long) with a Nigerian businessman with a friend in Regina. I'm moving in two and a half months anyway, and again, I'd get a kick out of it if he actually wrote to me.

In Barra, we were easily directed to a bulging minibus headed for the border. Donna figures it was built for 14. It had 25, but it was quick, cheap, and not too terribly hot. At the border, we changed money again and took a horse cart back to Karang-we've used every other type of transport so far this trip.



Shortly, we caught a Peugot for Kaolack and greatly enjoyed being back on Senegal's good roads. It was a dusty, dry hour and a half ride through increasingly dehydrated landscapes, but not too cramped. At times, we left the road to go cruising across salt flats. The river is salt at least as far upstream as Kaolack. Very fun with significantly fewer pot holes. One of the highlights - for me at least - of our trip so far. There were also several police stops on the way. Several times we were waved through, and twice we were stopped. How you tell which the military wants, is beyond me. At the stops, they poked at bags, went through a few, asked questions. What they expected to find, I don't know, though we suppose it keeps unemployment rates down. They didn't bother us or root through our bags. Don't bug the tourists, they support the economy.

Coming into town, we passed a dump with goats wandering all over it and the worst smell! Kaolack is desolate and poor. It is the most impoverished place we've been so far, and we haven't seen much of the town yet. It is in the desert on the Saloum river. I don't know what, if anything, you can grow here. It is not the oasis town you might imagine.



We arrived at 4 (goal accomplished!) and bargained against the taxi driver wanting 2000 CFA to take us to our hotel. We made it all the way from Karang for 4600! The hotel was nice, if lacking running water at the moment. Being in the desert, we think shortages are common here. Riding overland through the desert, the dirt was ingrained in every pore of our skin and after putting it off in hopes of the water coming back, we finally cleaned off in the pool. Not as good as soap and water, but a start.

We were the first ones to dinner at 8 (everyone eats so late here!) but greatly enjoyed another meal of big hunks of meat with sauce over rice with an appetizer of fluffy white French bread. The best food I've had travelling in a long while. Who would have thought I'd find it in Senegal?

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