Starting West African camping

Trip Start Sep 28, 2005
Trip End Jun 24, 2006

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Saturday, October 29, 2005

Miles traveled: 15978

Bonjour from West Africa!

We are in Dakar, Senegal, on the very westernmost tip of the African continent. This is Nathan's 5th time and Anna's 3rd time to sub-Saharan Africa, with its many cultures, peoples, scenery, and of course, bugs and potholed roads. We're in French-speaking West Africa, but neither of us speak French, so there's a lot of pointing and miming while trying to communicate. At least we can read the letters on the signs, which is more than can be said about trying to read Arabic.

Dakar is a relatively modern capital city of about 2 million people. We have enjoyed an air-conditioned room in a hotel near the center of town. Over the past couple days, we wandered around and visited the museum, which has an impressive collection of all sorts of masks used by various tribes in West Africa. The masks not only represent animals, gods, etc., but also are used for specific events such as weddings, funerals, etc.

Yesterday we visited Goree Island, which is just off the coast of Dakar. This is famous for being a center of the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Being the westernmost point on the continent, it was used for 300 years, with 39 slave houses sending almost 15 million slaves to the Caribbean and the U.S. We visited a former slave house and saw the cells and conditions that the captives were placed in. There is also a famous "Door of No Return", through which the slaves were led out to waiting ships to transport them across the Atlantic. Almost 35% of the slaves died on the voyage. The whole place was very sobering, realizing the atrocities and inhumanity of the process.

This morning we met up with our guide and travelling companions for the next leg of our trip. There are 19 travellers and 2 guides, and we'll be travelling overland for 5 weeks in a big truck, camping along the way. (This is bush camping, basically the truck, tents, and that's it. No showers, no restrooms, just nature. Occasionally we may stop at a campground that has facilities, but otherwise it's going to be roughing it.) We'll be fully participating, with rotating duties including cooking, fetching firewood, guarding the campsite, buying food at the markets, etc. We haven't done anything quite this "out there" before, so there is some anxiety about what to expect along the way and trying to stay healthy, but hopefully everything will turn out all right and we'll have some good stories in 5 weeks.

Next update probably won't be until we reach Bamako in Mali, in about a week or so.

Au revoir!
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