Senegal in (inadequate) summary

We just spent what is planned to be our last night in Senegal. We realize that we’ve been a bit negligent with blog posts but hopefully you’ve all been too preoccupied with the holidays to have noticed. In order to make up for the impression of Senegal you may have based on only stories of harried border crossings and ferries run aground, we present you with the highlights of our time here in list form:

  • The main roads in Senegal have generally ranged from good to excellent. This is especially true the roads from the north border down past Dakar and until our ferry to Foundiougne. Starting from Foundiougne to Kaolack to Tambacounda we’ve hit patches of dirt road (that looked like it was being prepared for paving), areas where giant potholes appear with slalom-able frequency, and a few stretches of pothole fields where weaving left and right across both lanes or standing on the pegs and sucking it up were the only ways to go. That said, most of the country has been navigable at 60mph+ (100km/h+) and outside Dakar traffic has been pretty light.
  • We spent Christmas Eve at ZebraBar, south of Saint-Louis, Senegal. It was a lovely dinner with a bunch of other overland travelers from Italy, Spain, and Switzerland. We relaxed and traded stories and traveling tips.
  • Christmas day was spent hanging out, chasing birds that walked like tiny dinosaurs, kayaking, and running on an empty beach accessible only by boat. That night was spent with Jackie experiencing flu-like symptoms and 101.5°F (38.6°C) fever.
  • We got on the road to Dakar in the morning with Jackie feeling better, full tanks of gas, and almost no cash. With only about $20 on us, we decided to skip the toll road into Dakar. This meant that we sat in two hours of traffic getting into the city, but we got to see the street vendors, people hopping on and off on minibuses, and life on the outskirts of town. (We took the toll road out of the city. It was cheap and really nice.)
  • In Dakar we followed excellent recommendations given to us by our Senegalese friend, Aminata. We walked out to the Westernmost tip of all of Africa and then took a short taxi ride to our lunch spot for the day and one of Aminata’s best recommendations. We ate at La Cabane du Pecheur situated on the water across from Ngor Island. Those of you who know Aron know that he doesn’t eat seafood, but the meal was so fresh and well prepared that he broke down and just enjoyed the excellent food.
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  • After lunch came a trip to Gorée Island which was one of the smaller ports of departure for the slave boats that headed towards the Americas. While waiting for the boat we met Kane and Abdel, a Dakar local and his cousin who moved to the US at the age of seven and is now a college football player and CS student at Ohio State. Abdel heard our American accents and responded with his own American accented question asking where we were from. We talked to two of them on the boat and then Kane conducted our tour of the island. We also met up with him for dinner last night in Tambacounda where we were staying and where he is living and working as a doctor.
  • We bought a small, hand carved wooden chair, the “petit chaise”. We usually have different styles and we both liked this chair. It cost about $30 and we got to see where the guys on the street were hand carving them. Our intent was to ship it home. We tracked down the DHL office and brought our “chaise” there only to find out that it would cost $250 to ship it home. The “petit chaise” is now in Aron’s motorcycle case for another 2,000 miles or so of traveling through Africa and will be one of our carry on “bags” for the flight home.
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  • After Dakar we met up with Aminata, her sister, husband, and friends at her family’s beach house outside Saly, Senegal. They all left after we had lunch together, but we stayed and spent the day swimming in the ocean, doing an oil change on the bikes and resting. We were really happy to be outside Saly in “our” private villa. (Note: Saly, which is a pretty small town, has its French Consulate due to the huge numbers of French expats there. We probably saw more white French people in Saly than we did in Paris last summer.)
  • We did a two hour mini safari in the Bandia Animal Reserve, where they bring animals from other parts of Africa, but we got to see antelopes, water buffalo, giraffes, rhinos, and zebras.
  • Then we headed for Foundiougne, where our ferry across the Saloum River got stuck in the sand (blogged previously), where we spent New Years Eve, and where Jackie got taken out by food poisoning for about 30 hours. With an unplanned recovery day behind us, we got to Tambacounda last night.

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