Bush camping

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

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Thursday, November 3, 2005

Bush Camp, 11/03

Miles Travelled: 16440

We are travelling inland now, toward the Senegal-Mali border. The roads are pretty good, but it's a long journey. We are "bush camping", meaning that we pick a spot where nobody's watching, and drive off road far enough to not be seen, find a (relatively) flat place, and set up camp. There are 23 people plus 2 guides on the trip, so the truck is very full. The travelers are from the US, Britain, and Australia, and the 2 guides are British. Interestingly, neither of the guides has been here before either, and they don't speak French, so this is a new experience for all of us.

We have been divided into "teams", each with rotating sets of chores every day. These include setting up tables & chairs, cooking for the group, washing dishes, security to make sure that no outsiders steal anything from the truck, and cleaning up the truck every night. The humidity has lessened somewhat, but it is still plenty hot during the day and the long drives really sap your energy.

Along the way, we passed through many towns small and large, where activity seems to revolve around the markets. These are energetic and chaotic places where everything from raw meat to yo-yos are for sale. We have to restock food and water pretty much every other day, so we spend quite a bit of the time shopping in the markets.

UPDATE: a more detailed view of Bush camping by Anna:

Bush Camp 11.5.05

5:45 am. I can't hold it any longer, so I unzip our little dome tent and head out to find the Dunny (that's what the Auzzies call the "hole") behind some or tree or bush in the distance, then I head back to the camp. I am on cook group today so I start to pull out crates of bulk food, dishes and other kitchen items from the truck. I prepare a large pot of oatmeal and my teammates join and cut bread and then toast it over the kerosene camp stove. Since I am on cook team, Nathan gets to pack up our "home" on his own (rolling up the sleeping sacks, pads, and roll up the tent.)

We have about 6 teams of three people and we rotate jobs every day. The jobs are cook (which takes planning several days a head of time so that you can shop when we are near grocery stores which are rare or go to the local street markets), Wash up (cleaning up after cook group), Chairs (unloading the chairs from the truck and setting them up), security (when we stop the truck during the day in cities we watch it to make sure nothing happens. Mostly to keep locals from taking stuff off or coming on if the door is open), Unloading the bags, setting up the cook tables and stove, and finally truck clean.

7:00 am everyone has had some breakfast, packed up their tent, put away the chairs and tables and loaded the luggage. We all pile on the packed truck and hop over water bottles and daypacks to find a seat in the truck that is loaded to capacity. We have a long day drive and push to get on to the road early. We bounce along for several hours till we reach a random checkpoint. Which consists of a couple of empty oil drums and logs placed in the middle of the road and there are a couple of guys that are sitting in chairs under a shade branch (or a straw lean to). This time they just let us through by rolling a drum out of the way. Other times they had to check the tour company's papers and stare at us for a while before letting us through. There are times when I think they are trying to get bribes but our guides pretend not to know French and thus don't know what the checkpoint people are trying to tell us so after frustration they let us through.

A few hours later after dogging potholes we come to a town with a large open-air market and the cook groups for the previous days head out to find some fruit and veggies. Watermelon is in season and I have quickly been dubbed as the watermelon polish-off-er and always willing to chop it up.

After we make it out of the town we stop on the side of the main road (looks like an old driveway in the US) find a tree and start to set up for a quick lunch. Often lunch is bread rolls bought off the street and then Laughing cow cheese or canned tuna zipped up with can corn or lentils. It's pretty hot in the sun and all of us herd like cattle under the few shade trees. We each wash our own dishes in 3 little bowls (soap, disinfectant then rinse water), flap our dishes (which consists of waving the plates in the air till they dry) then, pack up the rest of the food and we are back off again after stopping for about 45 minutes

In the afternoon we pass little villages and locals stare at us or just wave. Often the little kids will try to run alongside waving and often asking for Cadeau (gift in French). I would not consider them beggars it's just that other white people have been along in the past and gave little gifts, pens or change and now when kids see us they just ask. Some times they can get aggressive and in fact one teenager tried to grab the sunglasses off the head of one of the girls on the trip, but for the most part it is little kids under age 8 or so that are smiling and waving. For the most part our group has been good about not handing out stuff except our empty water bottles, which will turn into their primary drinking bottle for as long as it will last. The tour company encourages us to give donations to a school if we so desire v/s the kids on the street.

5:30 pm It's getting close to sunset and we need to get off the main road and find a place to bush camp. We drive off the road and try to find a hill to hide behind or get far enough off the road so that we can't be seen. We find a place and set up tents in a tight semi circle around the truck (just in case we need to make a quick get-a-way the rules are to run into the truck and leave the tents (sleeping bags etc) behind. Our guide said he has never had to do this, but it is just a precaution. This is our 4th day of bush camp in a row and I am starting to get grumpy. It's been 4 days without running water or a real toilet. I take a wet-wipe bath and disgusted at how dirty just my face is (my kitchen floor was cleaner after a party).

After dinner one person notices an orange glow in the distant horizon and it is quickly determined it is a bush fire off in the distance. It is too far away to worry about now, but since everyone is getting ready to go to bed our guide suggests that we have a stag all night to keep an eye on it. Nathan and I take the shift from midnight to 1 am it gave us a good opportunity to look up at the stars and hear the sounds of nature. We saw several shooting stars and tried to make out the bird and wolf sounds. We make it through the night without an approaching fire.
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