It’s three days since my visit to the doctor. Gordon has finally kicked off the illness save for the occasional cough. I am still firmly in its grasp. But today we dock in Dakar Senegal for the day and neither of us is going to miss it.
It appears that half the population of Dakar is gathered in the streets outside the port and they all want a piece of us, or a piece of our wallet. The competition is fierce as they all vie for your attention. Most are trying to sell you something you have no desire to own, others want to be your guide around the city, and the rest are just begging. They flock around you like a swarm of angry bees. As soon as you brush one away another dozen take his place. They pull at your clothing, and grab your arm refusing to be shaken off. It is unpleasant and nerve racking. Most of the poorer countries we have visited suffer from this problem, but nothing has been on the scale we encounter today.
The merchants we can deal with. The beggars are much harder to ignore. They are everywhere and sadly many of them are missing limbs. Our guide is unable to tell us why that is. It is distressing to see them and impossible to help them all. But we have been told that this is a predominantly Muslim country and Muslims believe that if you give money to one beggar, that is your charitable act for the day and you can then tell the other beggars that you have already given money and they will leave you alone. A very convenient way of dealing with the problem but we cannot test it out because they have to understand us and none of them speaks English.
Almost everyone who sets out on their own returns rapidly to the ship. No one can deal with this onslaught. But we again have a guide and driver who steer us through the crowds of people without much trouble.
We are going to see the famous “Pink Lake”. Algae turns the lake to a beautiful pink color which sounds charming and we try and dress in colors that look good against the pink. Gay men rarely have the chance to dress for a lake and we make the most of it. But to get there we have to drive for ninety minutes along more of West Africa’s roads. Just like the other countries we visited, Senegal has bad roads and terrible traffic. However previously, the traffic drove either on the right of the road or the left. In Senegal it appears to be entirely optional. Each vehicle decides on a route which it thinks avoids the worst of the potholes, a smooth ride taking priority over everything. Traffic comes at us from all directions. We find it alarming, our driver just shrugs as he swerves to avoid another head on collision.
We are amazed to see a garbage truck. But it doesn’t stop. It just drives slowly through the town while the locals run behind it trying to throw on their garbage. But very few seem to bother, and those that do seem to have very little garbage. It seems a futile exercise The further away from Dakar we get, the fewer the cars. They are replaced with the horse and cart
The lake is also famous for being the second saltiest lake on earth after the Dead Sea. It is an entrepreneurs’ paradise. Anyone on payment of a tax can enter the lake and collect the salt from the bottom of the lake, and hundreds of people do just that. They either work with a boator without one.The salt water is so bad for their skin that they must cover themselves with butter before spending the day in the lake. Presumably margarine would do, but butter is so much better! And of course the unsalted version is best.
Each person collects as much salt as they can carry and then takes it ashore and creates their own private stockpile in the form of a mound at the edge of the lake. They mark the mound with a pole with their name on it and wait for a buyer.
It is hard to understand how all these workers make a living but judging by the number of mounds the system presumably works. It is even harder to believe that someone hasn’t realised that they too can sell salt, but without the work. All they would have to do is take a little from everyone elses’ pile, just enough not to be noticed, and within a very short time they would have the biggest pile by far. But, our guide explains, these people are muslims and don’t believe in stealing.
On the journey back from the lake we are surprised to hear that President Obama has been coming to Dakar recently. Apparently he comes quietly on his own or with his wife, and asks that no mention of his visits be made in the papers. Clearly worried about the results of the upcoming election it appears that he has been quietly working on an alternate career. But if he really doesn’t want the American public to be aware of his plans, you would think he would be a little more discreet about what he is doing here
I love the name “Salon de Coif Obama” . The clever use of French suggests a high class clientele, but he may be overdoing the stars and stripes theme.
This was one of the five major slave trading points and there is a museum with some of the original cells where the slaves were held before being transported. It is one of the places we both have been anxious to visit. As we get off the ferry our guide goes to an office to buy tickets for the museum. The museum is just a couple of hundred yards away. When we get there it is closed. It is Monday and the sign clearly states it is closed on Monday. We can’t believe that the ticket office is open and selling tickets, while the museum is closed. But our guide is completely unperturbed. And why shouldn’t he be. It’s not his money he has just handed over.
However the trip is not wasted. We have read little about the island but it turns out to be the most beautiful spot, more fitted to the Mediterranean or the Caribbean. When the Portuguese first came to Senegal, they ignored the mainland because it was just a huge desert, but the island had a far more temperate climate so they claimed it as their own and turned it into a colonial paradise. The island has long been neglected but with the beginnings of tourism coming to Senegal, its value is being recognised and the dilapidated houses are slowly being restored. There is even a tiny beach. We see a huge line of children waiting patiently at the back of the beach. When they are all assembled and accounted for the teacher blows his whistle and screams of delight go up as the children rush for the sea discarding any bits of clothing on the way that they don’t want to get wet. Have a look – fun,fun,fun
This is our last stop on the mainland of West Africa, and we have no wish to return. But we agree with those early settlers. This tiny island is delightful.
Not only is this our last mainland stop, but it is also the end of this blog. Our cruise still has a week to go, but we now sail to Europe and I have already written about most of the ports.
But before I leave you, I should mention that many of you have been missing the passenger of the week. I tried hard to keep that going but despite searching the ship from bow to stern, I haven’t found anyone worthy of that title
with one exception.
I have been trying to get a photo of this gorgeous lady who I felt should be passenger of the month. I have followed her around for the entire cruise trying to sneak a snap, but with no success. So tonight I tried a different approach. I went up to her and told her she was without doubt the most glamorous woman on board and I would love to take her photo. She was shy and retiring and refused to pose for me, but I managed to get a couple of unguarded photos of her when she was unaware that the camera was on her
Those in the back who are suggesting that I have never stopped before when there was nothing of interest to write about, can leave the room.
To those of you who have been so kind as to read what I have written and have taken the time to make comments, I offer my thanks. You make it all worthwhile.
We will be back in California on June 20th and will catch up with you all then.
So its good night from him
And its good night from me.