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SENEGAL   4/4-11/4 1996   DIARY  



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 From Gambia we drive a little tour through the unspoiled Southern Senegal.

4-9. We arrive at the port in Banjul, Gambia, and on the bus back to the hotel, our native guide promises to organize a meeting with a guy, who has a car. Dinner at a Jordanian restaurant, and then meet with our upcoming guide: Jerobe. We talk for a long time about what to see and where.

Everyone says that lush South Senegal is not safe to visit; there are civil war-like conditions, and last week; 2 Frenchmen were kidnapped. We have the Gambia pretty much, and Northern Senegal is more dry and desolate than the Gambia. So we go down through Sothern Senegal.

Jerobe gets a handful of money so he can buy supplies and exchange. He pays everything on the tour, and makes sure we get some unforgettable days. His car is a relatively new Peugeot station wagon. Although he is a Gambian, he is more enthusiastic about Southern Senegal. Here were more beautiful and the people more friendly. He spoke easy-to-understand English, and liked to tell and everything we passed and saw, as well as about the country in particular.

We visit villages where white people are guaranteed not to come: there are no roads to them, only small foot trails. We are told we are the first white in two villages. The children cry, when they see us! Some of the adults have seen white people in bigger villages.

 One village we are in, is so unspoilt that the absolute most modern we see is the chief's wife's enamelled water dish. The men never work in these communities, the women 2-3 hours in the herb garden in the mornings. Here it is fertile, and you certainly do not yearn for material goods. Everyone looks healthy and well-nourished, and this is probably the place in the world, I have seen where the quality of life is highest.

All the little "primitive" villages we visit, are set under huge kapok trees. The vegetation continues all the way into the village and there is no pollution or other destruction of nature to see. In some places, we get a look into the little huts. They are 2-3 meters in diameter, the walls of clay, the roof from straw. Inside there is a bed of branches and twigs and a untanned animal hide, one jar of rice and one with water, and a large clay pot to cook the food in. That is all they owe, unless they have a new piece of cloth for special occasions.

We pass military checkpoints, visit major cities with markets and get to Africa's westernmost point. It is reminiscent of Løkken, only warmer and completely empty. A 90 meter deep well supplies the nearby village with water. The well is only 1½ meters in diameter and without any shielding or edge.

We see a local zoo with the local animals. The chameleons are fed with fresh fish. It attracts flies in their wire cage. A slaughterhouse in the middle of a field (perfectly clean: the vultures make sure nothing is left). Oyster sellers, they collect the oysters in the mangrove, smoke them, and sell it to passersby. Our driver buys a bag, but we kindly but definitely refrain from eating with it.

Local markets include everything from food to antique wood masks. In a larger city, we see a UFF store where they sell the clothes that we donate to them. In the same city, there is a large market with working wood carving workshops. We are the only tourists, so we naturally awaken some attention.
Outside the city is a peanut factory, with huge mountains of nuts outside. 20-30 meters high, covering maybe 10 football fields.

We make some long walks in the primeval forest, where everything is lush, except the lower ½ meter. It feels a bit strange to be dropped off, maybe 50 kilometres from the nearest habitation, in the middle of a dense primeval forest, and to be told, our driver picks us up further down the dirt road, in an hour or two.

A place where we have to cross a river is done by the military. The bridge is collapsed and replaced by 2 very powerful motor boats with a large floating platform between them. It is a great difficulty for the soldiers to manoeuvre from wide to sides. 3 platforms, and we could have driven directly. We have to cross by foot on the sunken bridge, and then wait for the opposite bank. We are offered seating in the extremely sparse shade and refreshments.

We spend the night in a small French-run guesthouse. A little piece of France where everything goes through Le Patrone, who orders his wife to let the little black maid do the work. Everything from watering the potted plants before sunrise, cleaning the rooms, making and serving the food and doing the dishes late at night. Unfortunately, the French cannot speak English, so the maid must also translate.

We enjoy the sunset by the sea. Like everywhere else in West Africa, the sun does not go down; it just disappears away in a red haze. Waking up for unknown reason in the middle of the night. It's not just black; it is dark black. It is literally totally impossible to see a hand for themselves.

10. The next morning we continue down through Senegal, ending at a small fishing village at Geinea Biseau. Here we see how their classic boats are formed by hollowing out a tree trunk. The tree trunk is cut down to 1½-3 centimetres thick, with a few cross axes, but they are not afraid to put a 15 HP outboard on the rear.

We turn around and start the long journey home. We take it easy, and when visiting villages, markets and a zoo along the way.

The tour continues in Gambia





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