Trip Start Sep 13, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

On a hot morning I found myself squished in the boot of a station wagon alongside Ghalied travelling south towards Dakar. Somewhat apprehensive of arriving at Dakar after hearing various war stories of other travels heading North from this hard city. Specifically the arrival at the taxi depot we heard, was incredibly hectic with people being swamped by porters, taxi drivers, sellers, guides and everyone and anyone who had an interest in soliciting tourists.

Not only that but you had to negotiate the scams which generally start off with a guy calling out in the street "Don't you remember me?" or by starting off with "You're not racist like the others" and then once you enter into conversation with tout you get the beginning of an emotionally formulated scam.

However we decided to stay at a small town just north called Yoff and during the day we could take the bus into Dakar. This meant we left the confined space of the back seat at a motorway intersection before getting to Dakar and ate water melon while stretching our legs. Still even here, we had 4 guys who at once proposed taxi rides.

Our hotel we had chosen was situated on the water front just behind a fish market with women selling strange looking fish of various sizes sourced from the various fishing boats pulling up onto the beach. Managed to catch a local soccer game and are managed to find a local eatery where we had dinner. For 1 euro you often sit in front of a guy with a wok full of oil and he'll cook you up a meat and onions with chips which you pile into a baguette with mayonnaise. Very unhealthy and oily but very tasty.

Actually the only real reason why I came to Dakar was to go to Ile de Gorée which is an island about 20 minute by boat from the port in Dakar. This island is a getaway from the hustle and bustle of Dakar and is rich in history and was previously an important slave trading market.

So early the next morning I was sitting in the waiting room for the ferry when Gaspard, a friend I had met in St Louis walked in and had decided to go visiting this island on the same day. We joined forces and after a very tranquil ferry trip we walked around the island looking at the colonial buildings and soaking up the atmosphere. Managed to go into the Museum of Women and then had an excellent lunch before walking around the House of Slave where we got a guided tour?

According to the guide between 15 and 20 million slaves were sold from this island. However various guide books will tell you that this number was theoretically impossible and the number might have reached 1 million. Whatever the figure, it's not very important. The reality is Portuguese, Dutch, English and French use to come to the slave house situated on the water front and buy human beings like animals. The house is a small fortress and is built around a courtyard. Effectively prison cells everywhere on the ground floor where they would split captured families with various rooms for the men and others for the women.

The slaves would sit 15-20 into cells measuring 3x3 meters for months until they were sold. In general the stronger and younger a slave is the more money they were worth. As a result if a slave weighed less then 60 kg then they would be put into a special room where they were force fed beans to fatten them up. Because they couldn't afford to care for any slave that fell sick, they would instead just walk the slave out of the stock door they showed us which led to a wooden jetty and along to the end where they would push them into the sea. These people were then eaten by the sharks who were ever waiting. The same stock door and wooden jetty were often the last glimpse of Africa for the these Africans before a 15-20 days boat trip in horrific conditions before they would find themselves more often then not in North or South America with their identities replaced by a number.
You really can't visit a place like this without walking out somewhat stunned by the horrific emotions that are conjured up.

The rest of the day was taken up with visiting some of the older colonial buildings and drinking beer while watching the sun go down.

Having completed my only objective here in Dakar, I was ready to leave which I did the next on the boat, direction Casamance.
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