Deep into the Bush

Trip Start Jan 03, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Friday, August 6, 2004

Day 53: Heading East
August 6
14 hrs, 12.3 kms

Next morning I figure I might just start walking back towards the main highway, and enjoy a bit of the rural scenery along the way. It's pretty hot though, so after passing a couple little villages, I wave down a car to take me to the highway. Here off the beaten path, like in Mauritania, the rule is, if you have a car, you have a taxi... you just pick people up as you drive along and charge them a small fee.

Back on the highway, I catch a minibus heading east to the city of Thies. Thies has a different sort of layout from the other cities, it's centered around a large plaza, with streets going out in every direction with so many trees lining them, that it doesn't even feel like you're in the city--more like some quiet suburb. I imagine the French inspired the layout for this city.

I do finally find a market, but it's siesta time, so not much going on here...

City by the lake

I continue on east, to the city of Kaolack, one of Senegal's largest cities. Here it seems public transportion consists of young guys on scooters--and the passengers just hops on the back. The bush taxi station is at the edge of town, so I decide to give this form of transportation a try.

The fellow takes me to a hotel, which is a bit pricey for me. As I leave, a fellow approaches me and tells me I can get a cheap bed at the nearby Catholic mission. Not too sure about this guy, but I figure this is my best choice. Sure enough, here I find a bed for a reasonable 8 Euros.

Next I head out to explore the center of town. I find Kaolack to be a dirty, chaotic city with a massive market area next to a large lake. Market is shutting down for the day, and the walking through the aisles you are knee deep in trash. There is an nice, modern fish market right by the lake, sponsored by the Japanese, it says.

After dark, I still feel I'm in the mood to discover a bit more, and I head down a dingy street looking for something to eat. I find a scruffy little bar that says they sell shwarmas, so I'll give it a try. I'm surprised to find... the place is run by an old French guy!

A I sit there eating my shwarma, I wonder... what would motivate a French guy to live in a middle of nowhere city like Kaolack, running a scrappy little bar? A desire for adventure? A leftover colonist who just never wanted to go back to his native country? Did he marry a Senegalese and settle down here? Whatever it is, I'll bet it's a good story!

Next morning, I explore the market once again, now that it's in full swing. Gazing over the teeming sea of people, I'm surprised to a white boy, all by himself in the crowd! is he lost? I get a closer look. No, he's white but not caucasian white... he's an albino...

Day 54: Reaching the Lush Tropical Region
August 7
14 hrs, 5.4 kms

From Kaolack I continue on east, where the scenery continues to change, getting greener and greener. Rather than just scattered trees and brown earth, now there's vegetation, and rain based farming with men pushing horse drawn plows.

But while the land gets more suitable for human habitation, the roads get worse and worse. The potholes are so bad that often drivers just go off the road and drive in the dirt instead.

Finally we reach the town of Tambacounda, the last major town before Mali--so this is as far east as I'm going to go on this trip. Definitely a different feel here--never really feels like a city, just very wide dirt roads with large plots of land with a house and trees... reminding me of villages in Mexico. I walk all across town, through another sleepy market, then decide to continue on my way.

The plan next is to go head southwest to the southern city of Ziguinchor, and then loop back up to Dakar, but there are not bush taxis going there. I'm told I should take a taxi to Kolda, and get another bush taxi from there.

Heading south, the landscape gets more and more lush. I'm finally going to get a taste of tropical Africa. The only problem is, the taxi driver tells me there aren't any hotels in Kolda! Hearing the sounds of insects in the dense bush--definitely don't want to sleep outdoors here! And to complicate matters, the taxi is getting empty, and the driver seems to be losing interest in going all the way to Kolda. We stop in a pitch dark village in the middle of nowhere as I wait and wait... and I think through my shrinking list of options...

Finally we get going again, and reach Kolda, where I almost immediately spot a sign that says hotel... It's quite a nice place, with bungalows shaped like traditional huts... a little more expensive than I like, but considering the alternatives, I'm not complaining.

Right next to it is a lively nightclub, which I decide to check out. Here, it seems guys all dance together in a circle and girls dance together... I figure it won't hurt to make a fool of myself and join the fun...
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