Friday, July 30, 2010

Thies & Rufisque

I spent most of the week in Thies enjoying the warm weather and scenery.  Its pretty laid back and definitely a lot calmer than Dakar.  The trees and bushes are cool too.

 The area around Thies is pretty flat with some dry riverbeds, lots of bushes, and some huge Baobab trees.  It was interesting to walk around in the bush outside of town because the bushes were tall enough to hide the nearby buildings and you could quickly become disorientated with no distinct landmarks with which to navigate.

 Thies is the first big town outside of Dakar and the crossroads of two major roads in Senegal.  There is a small airport outside of town, several businesses and international offices, some factories, and a large military training area.  Food was pretty good and we found a lot of expats eating at "Big Faim," which has huge burgers (bigger than a softball) packed with two hamburger patties and your fries too.

Even though Thies is only 70km from Dakar the trip takes around two hours due to all the congestion in Rufisque, where the autoroute from Dakar condenses into a small two lane road under construction and full of trucks hauling stuff into and out of the city.  Often the large trucks will break down in the middle of the road, backing up traffic for hours.
People swarm the vehicles stuck in traffic selling everything from mangos to parrots.  Others have called it "Wal-Mart on Wheels" as you can buy underwear, lamps, rugs, phone cards, soccer balls, and so on.  If you show interest in an item the vendors will follow you for the whole hour or so it takes for you to creep down the road.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Joal Fadiout

Today we visited Joal-Fadiout, a small historic town 114 km south of Dakar.  It was about a 2.5-hour drive each way along pretty good roads.  The worst traffic we encountered was leaving and returning Dakar, where the roads compress and street vendors mob the cars.  Besides that, the roads were mostly open- the only traffic being taxis and trucks loaded with earth or rock.  Joal is easy to find- you just follow the road from Dakar south until it ends.

At the end of the road there is a parking lot and a footbridge that leads to the island village.  As soon as we got out of the car an official representative of the tourist association greeted us and explained how the tourism corporation worked.  For 10,000 CFAs we could hire a guide for a 90-minute tour that included a pirogue tour of the mangroves and a small island, the cemetery, and the main island.   They also offered guides who spoke several different languages.

Our first stop was by pirogue to a small island a 100 meters from the main island where the locals used to keep their grain in small thatched huts in the water.  The idea was to protect the grain from the rodents by putting in on a hut on stilts.  Whenever they needed their food, they would pole out to the island in their pirogue.  Since the water was so shallow around the main island, the pirogues were propelled by pushing through the water using a three-meter long pole (ala Venice).  The guide also talked about their efforts to regrow the Mangroves as many had been destroyed for firewood.

Next we poled out to the cemetery, which is famous for being one of the very few cemeteries in Africa where Christians and Muslims are buried side by side.  Unlike the rest of Senegal, which is 96% Muslim, Joal Fadiout is 90% Christian and the main island is dominated by a huge catholic church.  The cemetery is as well dominated by white crosses but still has Muslims plots among the Christians.  The cemetery is dug into a hill of shells and people are still buried there today.

Our final stop of the day was the main island where we were greeted by the sight of pigs running around and mixed in among the goats and other animals.  These were the only pigs I had seen in Senegal and the guide made sure to point out every pig he saw.  It seemed our guide was related to every one of the 8000 inhabitants of the island and he took us to every gift shop there.  We did stop at the Catholic Church and walked past a few small mosques.  The guide said the religious leaders encourage peace by inviting each other to their religious festivals so the Muslims would come to the Christmas mass and the Christians would go to Ramadan.  The most unusual part of the island for me was that the streets were made of seashells.  Every inch of the island was covered with shells, not sand.  Centuries ago the island was formed by generations of people throwing their shells in a pile, just like the cemetery.  Kinda like living on a cool landfill.

Friday, July 23, 2010

N'gor Island

After lunch my friend and I took off in the Landcruiser for Les Almadies and N'Gor Island.  In order to get to the island you have to take a pirogue, a long wooden canoe that can seat about 50 and powered with a 25 hp outboard motor.  The trip takes about five minutes and costs 500 CFAs (about $1).  You pay at the window, take your receipt to the life vest shack for your personal flotation device, and then sit on the benches and wait for the next pirogue.  The boats run every 15-20 minutes and drop you off at one of two beaches (the pirogue alternates beaches).  Upon landing you drop off your life vest and you will be greeted by the island welcoming committee, who will take you on a tour of the small village for a small fee.

We finally managed to shake our guide after about an hour (my friend bought him off with some cigarettes) and i was able to find the famous surf spots on the left and right of the island.  on the left side of the island is "Mommie and Poppie" named after two large rocks and on the right side of the island is the break immortalized by the surf classic "Endless Summer."

"Endless Summer" is a surf epic from the 1960s where two California surfers take off on an around the world surf adventure, trying to follow the summer and surf year round.  The first place they land in Africa is in Senegal and they stay at the hotel that faces N'Gor Island and surf the right side in the film.  They introduced surfing to Senegal and today the breaks are full of little kids who surf much better than me.  There are several surf schools and N'Gor Island even has a surf camp (but it was closed when we visited) and the kids live mostly on donated surfboards left behind by tourists as they leave.  The sport shop in Dakar City shopping center has about a dozen new boards for sale at prices comparable to the states- about $700 per board- which is 1/2 of what an average Senegalese makes in a year.

There were about a 1/2 dozen kids at each break, but the numbers began to swell as time passed.  Most of the sets were thigh to waist high, but you had to know the breaks- especially at Mommie and Poppie, where you had to make a hard right turn or you were in the rocks.  I think I need to hire a surf guide to take me around the area and show me the rocks in the water.  I don’t need any more urchin incidents.

The return trip on the boat is free.  All you need to do is grab a life vest from the pile after the passengers disembark and you are back on the peninsula in five minutes.  At a buck a trip its worth visiting the island every week- but i should try to find some surfers or a guide with a boat so i wont be jammed in with everyone else while holding by board.
Hotel from the Endless Summer

Thursday, July 22, 2010

St Louis Day 2

On our second day in St Louis, my friend and I toured a museum that exposed the history of St Louis, back to prehistoric times as well as the colonial period when St Louis was the capital of Senegal.  It was interesting to see all the historical artifacts and some of the local art on display. 

After the museum we returned to the beach in the middle of the fishing village on the adjacent peninsula.  Our fisherman friend from yesterday was there as well and greeted us warmly.  There was no surf again even thought the sea was agitated from the strong onshore winds.  After exchanging pleasantries and general conversation I asked our fisherman friend to show me his pirogue (local fishing canoe) and explain to us how they fished in the area.  Our newly minted guide excitedly led us down the beach and explained the different boats, fishing techniques, local species and many other aspects of his life as a fisherman in St Louis. 

Our guide said he grew up on the peninsula and witnessed a huge decline in the local catch.  Where 20 years ago the fisherman stayed relatively close to shore and caught as much fish as they wanted, now days they had to go far to sea to find the fish.  What made it worse, according to our guide, were the three large international fishing boats working the waters within sight of the beach.  Also in the past the fisherman were able to follow the fish as the migrated to the north during the summer into Mauritania, but now Mauritania strictly enforces a fishing license requirement, which the fisherman guide said was very expensive.  He also compared it the recent killing of a fisherman in Senegal who was caught fishing in an aquatic reserve, expressing muted outrage that the fisherman was murdered instead of simply arrested.
Fish processing area- some tubs still had really old fish

Many boats were on the beach and our guide said most of the village wasn’t able to fish until the fish migrated south again in the fall.  He then took us to the fish processing plant by the lighthouse under construction (now needed since the boats had to travel so far from shore to find fish).  Adjacent to a large covered area that served as boat storage and the fish market was a huge outdoor area covered with large tubs and chopping table where the fish were washed, gutted, scaled and finned, then left in salt water baths for up to 15 days for preservation.  The locals would keep the sardines and catfish for their own consumption but would sell all the shark and more valuable fish, which were then shipped to Dakar and other points.  As the majority of boats weren’t working, the fish processing area just stank in the sun, waiting for the return of the fish. 

Walking back along the beach we passed 5 young boys playing with a smaller pirogue, trying to launch it into the water.  The guide explained that the boys were in training to become fishermen or were in a trade school right now, even though only being around 8 years old.  He then expressed some regret that his three sons were not going to be able to be fishermen, but he was encouraged that they were trying to get an education to become something else because he did not see a good future for fishing.  Our guide then led us off the beach into the village and among the several religious schools.  The little kids sat in circles of eight in their brightly colored clothes with their instructors and sang songs and repeated the words of their teachers.  Each group had children of roughly the same age and they seemed to be bubbly and giggly, full of joy. 

Then we passed larger huts where older boys stood in the shade around motors and learned to how become mechanics or other skills.  Our guide said that other students are sent away to learn other skills or for further education.  There were some larger schools on the neighboring island, including a large music school, the fisherman said the locals from the fishing village didn’t feel comfortable there and would go elsewhere for school or business.  The island seemed dedicated for tourism or the military as there are several large hotels and a couple military garrisons (there were several gendarmeries on the island but I didn’t see any in the village).  The island is smaller and the streets are mostly empty, but the fishing village was the exact opposite with over 15,000 residents crammed into little huts and exploding with life on a narrow peninsula that separated the Senegal River from the Atlantic Ocean.

Everywhere we went on the island and peninsula we were surrounded by goats.  There must have been two goats for every person, and it seemed like St Louis was a vacation village or resort for them as they were sleeping on the beach, wandering around the huts, in herds everywhere.  Some boys would occasionally drive groups of goats along the beach or along the narrow paths among the huts, but for the most part the goats just hung out and enjoyed the warm sun and ocean breezes.  Our guide said the goats were given as presents for marriage or other celebrations and were important as well to them for meat (but not milk or cheese- our guide thought the milk would not be safe).  None of the goats had any markings to show if they belonged to anyone and the guide explained that they would use or butcher the goats as needed and if there were any disputes (if your neighbor complains you ate their goat) the problem would be taken to the village elders who would decide the issue and their word would be accepted and all would be settled and life would go on.  Even though on the island a different form of government was established with a mayors office and official government buildings. 

As we came to the end of the tour we visited a lot where older men were working on the banks of the Senegal River finishing two new 30' long boats.  There were painting the boats in bright red, green, blue, and white colors with stylish graphics and words and phrases in Wolof and Arabic.  When we tried to take pictures of their art the men started yelling and put their hands out for payment, but the guide calmed them and we quickly left the area.  The guide pointed out that the wood from old boats was recycled and used in the construction of their huts and fences because they had a tradition if anyone was to die on a boat the boat would never be used again.  He said there were many deaths and had previously shown us a large cemetery behind the fish factory.  The guide added that since they had to travel so far now to find fish that if something were to happen they would drown as it was too far to swim to shore. 
St Louis Island streets

At the end of our nearly two hour tour we gladly paid our guide 7000 CFAs (approx $14 US) and thanked him for showing us a side of St Louis we would never had seen otherwise.  Our guide said that this money would allow him to feed his family for almost three days (he considered about 30 people as his immediate family and they all chipped in to support one another and work together on their boat, fix the nets, process the fish, etc...).  He said he only had one wife, but three children of his own.
more streets of St Louis

Monday, July 19, 2010

Going to St Louis

Today I finally got out if Dakar to see some more of the country. It felt good to break away from all the buildings and crowds and the countryside is beautiful. There hadn't been a lot of rain but most of the scenery was green.

The worst traffic was just outside of Dakar where we were reduced to a lane of traffic going in opposite directions (from 3 lanes). Road construction slowed us even more, giving the street vendors ample opportunity to sell there wares. If you showed interest in an item they would walk along your car for kilometers. Almost anything you wanted could be bought along the road.

Once we broke free from the rolling walmart the road opened us and was smooth and in excellent condition. In every little village along the road there were several fruit or other kind of stands. Lots of mangos were on sale today, as well as freshly butchered meat hanging in the little roadside huts.

When we finally got to St Louis (4 hour drive) we found the bridge to the islands was restricted to one way traffic. After a twenty minute wait we made our way over the rickety, patchwork iron bridge into supposedly one of the nicest and most historic places in Senegal.

Lonely planet had a great review of the location with lots of pictures of clean streets and restored colonial buildings. What we found was nothing as described. It must have been several years since the last review because the islands were crammed full of rough brick huts and overflowing with people and trash.

I think the most disappointing part was discovering that there was no surf. The beach was also sprinkled with little purple jellyfish with long stingers. A local fisherman said the only time the waves were big was in the winter from December to March- then he asked for 2000 CFAs "to help feed his 3 kids.". Maybe I'll come back then...

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Location:Quai Henni Jay,Saint-Louis,Sénégal

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Goree Island

Yesterday I toured Goree Island off the coast of Dakar. The island is infamous as being the embarkation point for slave ships bound for the new world. Access by ferry cost 5000 CFAs (about $10) and takes about 20 minutes to get to the island. There were lots of tourists on the boat as well as shop owners and potential guides. Several ladies tapped me on the shoulder during our short voyage to invite me to visit her boutique and promised i would get a good deal.

We were met on the island by a swarm of 40 to 50 guides, a few dressed in official uniforms but most were not. My friend and I declined the many offers of assistance and set off around the island on our own. Since we got away from the guides and we were one of the first boats of the day we were able to walk around in freedom and peace. Many of the shopkeepers were still sleeping or setting up and we got to see how the current residents of the island lived. We saw lots of kids in school and others playing a soccer match in front of the government buildings. I enjoyed the colors and the narrow streets between the houses. Island life seemed pretty relaxed until the tourists invade, then its all-out combat.

The dilapidated fortress on the far end of the island was pretty impressive. The big guns are still in place but now people are living in or set up shop in the battlements. The facility would have been awesome when it was new. I thought it was interesting that in the modern fort on the island the guns were pointed out to sea, but on the old fortress, from the days of the slave trade, the guns were pointed at the land. Both fortresses were constructed by foreigners to protect their trade.

Most of the shops on the island sold either jewelry (we saw some kids in a hut stringing beads on necklaces and bracelets) or art. The art ranged from carvings to large painted canvases. My favorite was the found object art, where the artist incorporated some random items into a piece of art. We didn’t buy anything, but most people on the return trip to the mainland had either a sack of jewelry or a painting of some kind.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Yesterday I went over to a friends house for a mini cultural experience: their maid made thieboudienne, a delicious traditional Senegalese dish featuring a big fish, rice, shrimp, smaller fish balls, lots of fresh veggies (eggplant, cabbage, carrots, mandioc, potatoes, etc...), and incorporated in a tomato and peanut sauce.
The fish is called "Capitaine," a giant African threadfin- it tasted great (the whole meal did). The fish wasn’t flaky and did not have a fishy flavor.
It took her 6 hours to make it all and we sat around a giant bowl to eat it and drank it with bissap juice. We ate traditional style by sitting around the giant common bowl and scooped up the food with our hands. We also shared a baguette and had some brownies for dessert (not a traditional Senegalese dessert).  Best meal I have had so far in Senegal!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Spine pulling

I went to the doctors office first thing this morning after spending a miserable day on the couch yesterday. Luckily I have access to a good clinic with English speaking doctors. I was also fortunate to be seen right away by a doctor who said she like pulling out urchin spines.

I had tried all the home remedies over the weekend but the only that really helped with the pain was some Tylenol, elevating the foot, and ice. Ice helped keep the swelling and pain down.

After 90 minutes with a sterilized needle and tweezers the dock finally got them all out. She said in some cases multiple spines were in the same hole. Most were over a 1/2 cm long and had gone straight into my foot. She kept saying "this is not a joke."

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Secret Spot

I finally made it to the Casino supermarket in Les Almadies and discovered that the one liter bottle of bleach that Ali the guide arranged for me for 3000 CFAs actually only cost 450 CFAs. It made me kind of bitter. Almost everyone i have talked to has only wanted to steal from me. Where to do I find the good locals? People i can trust?

I got a couple sacks of groceries for 5250 CFAs, including some fresh bread and pain du chocolate. I checked the tribal surf shop, but it was closed again- i have been there 3 times and it has never been open. I ended up at the "secret spot," one break north of the last place i surfed and it was full of kids as well, but more expats- probably because it was Saturday. Again the break was close to the shore, but i got a couple waist high waves. It was pretty chaotic, until one expat yelled at me for cutting in the lineup, when it had been a free-for-all all day long. People were paddling around and snaking each other, three or more going for the same wave. I followed his instructions and got the next wave, but it carried me into some shallows and i stepped on an urchin when i bailed- about 20 thick needles jammed straight into the bottom of my left foot, so my day was over. It was gonna be my last wave anyways but what a sour way to go.

As i cut into my foot with my swiss army knife while i sat on the tailgate of my landcruiser in the parking lot some little local kid wandered up. He grabbed the tweasers and tried to grab the needles as i pried them up with the knife blade, but we could hardly get anything below the surface out. Every now and then some other local would wander up and try to sell me something- one guy even had a box of little yellow birds, but after about 30 mins i gave up on my foot. I changed and tried to leave but all of a sudden my little friend wanted something- maybe payment for jamming the needles deeper in my foot as i sawed on it with a pocketknife. I dont really know because he used some words i didnt recognize, so i just left.

I looked up some treatment for the sea urchins, ended up pissing on my foot, then trying to cook it in hot water for an hour or so. I guess i'll just take it easy tomorrow and see the doc on monday unless it gets worse.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 4: Market and Surfing

Not every day goes as easy as one would like.  Today was a long day; i got up early to move into my new apartment- all my furniture was delivered before 9am and then the items i shipped airfreight arrived at 10am so i spent the morning unpacking and getting situated.
 View from my Apartment

Around lunch i started to get hungry so i decided to go to the local supermarket to buy some bleach, bread, and vegetables- but i couldn’t find the huge Casino supermarket downtown.  After walking for 30 mins and ignoring all the people who wanted me as their friend to buy something from them, a man named Ali asked if i was a guest at the hotel where he worked.  It was a different approach and i figured if he thought i was a guest at the hotel he wouldn’t try to take advantage of me.  He mentioned his African garb was required as a worker at the hotel and i complimented him on his appearance as it was nice and he offered to help me find the market. 

Instead of taking me to the Casino supermarket he took me to a huge outdoor market downtown.  Ali, my guide, said it was one of the largest ones around and was more than a square kilometer in size.  He asked what i wanted to buy and we set off in search of bleach.  After visiting 4 or 5 stalls on the main road, we headed of into the darker and narrower allies, until we were walking behind the stalls and buildings.  Even these little places didn’t have bleach.  I was getting worried as this was getting more precarious and Ali was talking mostly Wolof to the people in the shops so I couldn’t understand what was going on. 

Eventually Ali guided me back onto the main road of the market in front of a large textile factory, which according to Ali, belonged to his father.  Ali led me into the building and it was packed with people, fabric, and sewing machines.  On each floor of the five-floor building were rooms full of young men and their sewing machines.  They sewed all kinds of local clothing and more western attire as well.  They made bags, blankets, towels- everything you could think of.  I don’t think it was sweatshop, but in Africa it was hot and everyone was sweating (but keeping their work clean).  In the middle of the tour one of the shopkeepers from the open-air market showed up with a bottle of bleach and said it cost 4000 CFAs (about $8 for a 1 little bottle).  I countered by saying that i had seen it in the stores for 2000 CFAs, but Ali said he would settle it at 3000 CFAs- a compromise.  I went along with it as the guy had to run to the nearby Casino supermarket and track us down to get it to me (that must have been their conversation in Wolof, Ali would steer me away to his shop and his buddy would run to the store and they would meet up at the factory- I must have SUCKER written all over me).

Ali then began his sales pitch to get me to buy several of his shirts at a great price he would negotiate for me.  He wouldn't tell me how much the shirts cost until i found one that i liked and then he stated they cost 15,000 CFAs ($30) each, and i should buy several.  We negotiated some and i stuck firm at 5000 CFAs, which he finally accepted.  He kept pressuring me to get more, but i reassured him that i would be back since he had showed me his great factory and i would be living here for a year.  He probably didnt believe i would be back because most of the people around here (i found out later in the day) get the same shirts for about 2000 CFAs.

Later that afternoon i fought my way through traffic to Les Almadies to go surfing for the first time in Africa.  I stopped at the first break that had people on it and struggled to catch some waves, but it was dominated by lightweight kids on bodyboards who managed to float above the coral to get on the wave.  Eventually i shifted over to a spot right in front of the bar on the beach to where a couple surfers were catching some overhead waves.  I quickly discovered that you had to take are hard right as soon as the wave broke because you were 50 feet from the rocks.  And that was just the visible danger- i caught one wave and bailed I thought a safe distance from the rocks but was pushed into some rocks just under the surface and found some sea urchins who embedded a couple quills in my hand. I still surfed until dark.

I hope i figure this place out soon.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Power Outage & shopping

Power is out, my first outage in Africa! Unfortunately the backup generator hasn't kicked in yet- must be broke or out of fuel. Neighbors were telling me to expect lots of power outages in the rainy season (July-Sept), but it really hasn't rained yet.

Today some friends took me around the city to show me the cheapest places to buy groceries and other items. We visited a hardware store, the royal market, a nice boucherie, and a fish store next door. The real surprise was walking into the air conditioned shopping center (Dakar center) which has coffee shops, a nice store to buy a suit, a sports store with everything Nike, and a European style supermarket where you can buy your Salmon and French cheeses as well as 32" flat screen tvs. Prices for the local items weren't that bad for local items. For example local yogurt cost about $0.50 each but the imported yogurt was $1.25 each. Not much different from grocery prices in Hawaii. The salmon for 172,500 CFAs was too much though, but they had it!

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Location:Les almadies

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Street Scam

Day 2 in Senegal- Taken advantage of

This evening i decided to go for a walk down by the beach to see if i could find a good break for surfing and found a decent break about a 1/4 mile from my friends house.  The waves were about knee high and there was a bodyboarder and a kneeboarder taking turns.  The rides weren't that long but it was doable.  I talked to a guy that worked at a bar in front of the break and he said there was a swell coming in and the break worked best at high tide (around 10 am tomorrow). 

I walked down the beach another 1/4 mile and just over a small hill from the last break was a larger sandy beach with about waist high sets breaking about 50 meters from some rocks.  with a different tide and larger sets it could be a long, fast hollow wave.  Nobody was on it, so maybe there was some other hidden danger i couldn't see. 

As i approached the beach a guy was walking past me and stopped me by asking what i thought of the waves.  Since surfing is my favorite topic and it gave me a chance to practice my french i decided to see what he had to say.  He agreed with the previous prediction of a coming swell and said he could show me a better break up the road.  As we walked i asked him questions about surfing since he said he surfed too but he had no ideas about the famous breaks by Ngor.  Since his english was pretty good (he was correcting my french in english) i asked him what he did for a living.  When he responded that he was a tour guide i knew that he was going to try to scam me.  But i decided to play along just to see what it was like to be scammed and because i he was easy to talk to and i could practice my french.  Back in the states people were paying $80 an hour for a french tutor, so this would be a bargain!
We walked up the the next rise along the beach and even though it provided a better viewpoint of the coast, there werent any better waves.  After talking about the monument and the other cool things you could see from that point, about 30 minutes after i met the guy he pulls a necklace out of his pocket and tells me he wants to give me a present.  I should have walked away again, but i wanted to see how this would play out.

After he had put it around my neck after my mild protests, i started to thank him for his time and walk away but he stopped me.  He said he was giving me this present because his wife just gave birth to his first son, named Mustafa, and he was going to have a big party for all his relatives and he wanted me to give him a gift.  I decided to give him 1000 CFAs and when i pulled the note out of my pocket he saw i had another bill in my pocket too.  He took the 1000 CFA note and rubbed it on my forehead, then his own and declared it was a way to bless me or pray for me.  He insisted it was his culture to bring good luck or blessings to have rub money on my forehead and his.  He then asked to see the other note so he could pray for it too.  I told him no and walked away, but he ran right after me and became more and more insistant in his need to bless my money and that i was offending him and his culture by not letting him see my money.  After him following me and becoming more aggressive and as we were out of sight from the road and others i decided to give in and see if he would do what i thought he would.  I handed him the 2000 CFA note and he rubbed it on my forehead, then his own, then put it in his pocket.  Exactly what i thought he would do. 

I asked for my money back but he said he needed it to buy couscous for all his family coming to the party.  As it was getting dark i walked away quickly back to the road and he finally left me alone. 
I knew what was going to happen based on what others had told me, but i wanted to try it out for myself and experience it firsthand.  I figured i only had 3000 CFAs to risk and it was a good french lesson as well as street scams.  Besides this event, which i willingly walked into, Dakar has been a great place so far.  The people are friendly, the food is good, and it looks like good waves are on the way.

Driving in Dakar

Yesterday, 12 hours after i got off the plane from the states, I was driving through downtown Dakar during rush hour. Traffic was even heavier than usual due to a demonstration due to the killing of a fisherman by the coast guard for fishing in a forbidden area which blocked the cornice and forced all regular traffic into the narrow streets downtown and residential neighborhoods.

Driving a large Toyota LandCruiser amongst all the little cars and scooters was fun. It was almost like bumper cars but they had to respect and avoid the large metal brush guards and huge SUV. The taxis gave way to us most of the time and we were able to ford the flooded and cratered streets in the industrial zone. We never made it above 60 km/h, even on the autoroute, but made it to Les Almadies in about 45 mins. Near the airport i passed a herd of cattle walking down the road amongst the cars. The 40 or so horned cattle didnt mind our SUV or the rapidcars rushing by feet away from their sharp horns. I guess its part of their daily drive.

plane ride to Africa

It cost $200 to put my surfboards on a plane to Africa with South African Airways. United was ok, but SAA service is great.nice wider seats with blankets and pillows, decent dinner, free headsets and video monitors in each seat. Way nicer than my last trip to Hawaii or Germany. They even provided compression socks and a toothbrush!

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Location:Somewhere over the Atlantic