We ended up staying with Martin and Ursula for 3 weeks at Zebrabar, we really had a great time there, but it was time to move on, but not until we filled in their fantastic visitors book.
The night before we left, a group of American’s turned up to stay in the bungalows, after chatting to them, the 4 young women and a guy (all about 20-24 years old), told us that they are volunteers for the US Peace Corps. I have to admit that neither of us knew anything about this organization (I thought it was to do with the UN), well it turns out that each individual is assessed back in the US, given very basic training in health and hygiene, and then are located in a remote village (in this case in Senegal) and put up with a family, they then are expected to integrate with the community, (without knowing a word of the local language), and pass on the knowledge about clean water, sewage disposal, food hygiene and other health issues to change behaviour for the future, to the locals without sounding too authoritarian. Remember these girls are in a strange country, not getting paid, and are expected to stay in that village for 22 months! Respect to them eh, I’m not sure I could have done that in my early 20’s.
So after a leisurely breakfast, we said our goodbyes at Zebrabar, and headed South towards Dakar. We had already decided to visit Lac Rose, a area of water famous for its high salt content, we had seen pictures of the Pink Lake, and it looked lovely, so we followed Margret our friendly lady inside our Garmin Sat Nav. You had to go further South than Lac Rose to a town on the outskirts of Dakar called Rufisque (this is a suburb of Dakar), this seemed strange for two reasons, first the Atlantic Ocean was now on our left for the first time (as we were at the far end of the Dakar Peninsula), and secondly the traffic was horrendous!!! The sat nav (both Garmin maps and Tracks for Africa) showed us turning right into a dirt track in the middle of town that went through what looked like a bustling market crossed with a bus station, so we drove straight past that and waited until we found an easier route around or the Garmin corrected itself. NO CHANCE!
So we ended up back tracking, and this time turning into the heaving mass of people. We got through only to find the bloody piste was closed with a huge hole in the middle of the track. The road was getting very narrow by this point and turning round definitely was not an option (we are 8.6m long). A woman in a hi-vis vest stopped us and ask us where we were going, we told her Lac Rose, and she said its not possible, so we asked how (in our rubbish French) we can get there then, and she just said carry on then! This happened at 3 points along this very narrow residential piste, first saying we must stop and cannot continue, then saying oh go on then, carry on. I wasn’t very confident of getting out of this place any time soon, but eventually we managed to cross the new road into Dakar, and even a sign to Lac Rose.
When we got to the tiny Village at Lac Rose, we ended up stopping and asking a group of young local men where the campsite was as we were again struggling, and after a brief chat (one guy spoke a little English), in which we had to convince them that we not Norwegian, but British (Jac thinks it was my slightly longer blond hair that did it), one of them climbed over Jac and sat between us in the cab. I have to say with out him we would have struggled to find it as the GPS coordinates that we had were wrong. We gave the guy 2,000CFA (about £2.00) for his troubles (oh and the long walk back to his mates), and he left a happy man.
Le Calao du Lac campsite is another lovely site, with a fantastic swimming pool, once again we were the only people camping. The food here was very good with amazing steak brochettes.
At this point I have to mention the bird life in Senegal, it is so diverse, and we have seen birds, such as many sorts of herons, birds of prey (Kites, vultures), finches, parrots, hoopoo’s kingfishers, etc. And although Im no great wildlife photographer, I’m going to show a few that we have taken since being here.
Right, sorry about that!
So we were near the romantically named Lac Rose, so we thought we would have a walk from the campsite down to the lake to check it out for ourselves and get a photo like the ones that we had seen on the postcards etc.
Mmmmm, its not quite like that. You see, there’s money to be made from the salt, so it resembles a outside factory, more that a tourist site!
The salt is dug up from the lake bed, by hand and placed into one of the hundreds of tiny boats, then brought ashore to be dried. It seems that a whole community has sprung up around this small scale industry. I just can’t imagine working in those conditions day after day.
We are about three quarters of the way through the holy month of Ramadam now, and I for one really can’t imagine not drinking any fluid of any kind from sunrise to sunset in this heat and humidity. We have seen lorry drivers, crashed out on the side of the road, in the shade of a tree, looking like they cannot carry on until they can have a drink. Shops have had to close as theres no one to buy any food or drink, and the cost to the economy of these countries must be huge, as no one seems to work for most of they day because they aren’t allowed to drink water or eat anything.
We spent four nights at Lac Rose, and really enjoyed our time here. Whilst here, the owner got out his old photos of when the Paris Dakar Rally used to stop at Lac Rose, it was massive! This part of Africa must really miss that event, and the tourists that followed it.
After leaving Lac Rose, we again had to negotiate the crazy diversions back towards Dakar, but this time we went a slightly different way, and although again there were a couple of road blocks, we found it much easier.
Once back in Rufisque, we went looking for a bank with a ATM to withdraw some more CFA’s. Jac spotted one on the other side of the road (we again were in very heavy traffic), so she jumped out and crossed the traffic to the Bank, while I drove down the road to turn round and come back and pick her up, it took me about 20mins before I was back on that side of the road and outside the bank. Jac was still in a queue for the ATM! Luckily I was in a slightly wider part of the busy road and used it as a sort of lay-by to wait…. and wait….and wait. I had noticed that there was a senior policeman, bombing up and down between the traffic on his Yamaha TMax, Super Scooter, (700cc I think), blowing his whistle, and shouting orders to his lower ranks. Then he spotted me….. He jumped off of his scooter, shouting and throwing his arms into the air, obviously asking what the hell I thought I was doing parked here, and on “his” road. I calmly spoke to him in English and pointed to the Bank, he said ok, asked me to move back about two foot, and then jumped back on his scooter, blowing his whistle at anyone that would listen to him.
Jac queued for about an hour, only to find that the ATM would only dispense a max of 20,000CFA per card (about £21.00) she wasn’t happy.
We are now on a very narrow peninsula close to the border with Gambia. The last 40km is on piste, and it appears that this will be tarmac road soon, and they are currently upgrading it, and diverting traffic to some more sandy areas in places.
The piste is very picturesque and takes you through some small villages, and there are many ancient Baobab trees along the way.
We also had the odd “natural Roadblock” along the way
Camp Djidjac is a lovely simple campsite, with a decent amount of shade to park in (the downside is the solar panel doesn’t generate any electricity to recharge the batteries).
We have not seen rain for 100 days now (not since we were in France), and we know we are approaching the wet season here in Senegal (the far South has already had quite a bit of rain), but two nights ago, we had a massive storm here for about 3-4 hours, and wow did it rain! And as it hadn’t rained here for about 9 months, all the dust and crap fell from the trees onto our truck. The next morning there was about 15mm of mud on the roof, not pleasant.
The other down side of the first rain here is the snakes. We were told the morning after the rain that there are likely to be Black Mamba’s about now, so to be careful, like I need telling! A couple of hours later, the owner told us that they had just seen a Cobra in the corner of the garden (about 20 metres from Colonel K), so we are being vigilant, especially when walking back from the bar at night. There are also the explosion of bugs that the rains bring, everything from even more mosquitoes, to hundreds of large lacewing type flies to some bizarre bugs, like the red velvety type bugs that is below.
The beach here is truly beautiful, with a fairly smooth sea, and obviously completely empty of humans, apart from a few villagers, and obviously its used to wash the horse’s and donkey’s down. According to Jac, this guy was well fit, mind you all the blokes seem to do wrestling here, so their all super muscular.
And of course every beach has to have its own shipwreck.
Dispite the intense heat and humidity here, we decided it would be a good idea to cycle to the end of the peninsular (a 25km round trip), and as we are British, we had to have our toast and marmalade with tea before we set off. So we didn’t get going until about 9.30am (the temp was well into the 30s c, mind you it doesn’t drop below 28c at night), but we set off down the very red coloured piste through a few villages, past the mangroves until we had the Atlantic Ocean almost all around us.
After negotiating all the kids in the village at the end of the piste, (it was extremely busy with people), and explaining that we don’t have any cadeaux to give them, we decided to try doing the return journey along the beach, as the tide seemed to be receding. It was a good choice, and the sand proved to be firm enough to cycle on.
On a much sadder note, we are hearing a few horror stories about travelling through Nigeria at the moment, a French Couple were attacked and robbed in the South of the country, the husband was shot and attacked with a machete, and died from his wounds, and the wife lived despite her also being attacked with a machete. This incident has nothing to do with Boko Haram or terrorism, it was a brutal attack on two overlander travellers whilst parked up for the night. With this in mind we are looking into options to travel past Nigeria and Cameroon (we met an Italian today that was attacked in Cameroon). Going North around Nigeria isn’t an option at the moment, so we are looking into loading the truck onto a Roll on Roll off ship, perhaps in Ghana, and hopefully unloading it in Walvis Bay, Namibia, or Durban, South Africa and continue our travels from that end of the Continent. We would then fly from Accra to where ever the truck end up.
We always said our plans need to be flexible, so we will keep on trying to sort this out.
In the next day or so we will be heading off East to Mali.
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