Friday, April 1, 2011

On the road to Senegal


In purely geographical terms the distance between Nouakchott, Mauritania and Saint Louis, Senegal is a mere 200km - in west African terms that's 12 hours. Welcome to west Africa. Through a combination of bush taxis, pirogues, endless waits on barely roadworthy buses and one double tyre blowout at about 120 km an hour, we do ultimately make our way to Senegal. I'd expected most of the delays to occur at the infamous border crossing of Rosso but we're ushered through quickly (and no exit taxes!), piled onto a pirogue to cross the river which separates Mauritania and Senegal. Entering Senegal from Mauritania is like going from mono to stereo, from black and white to colour and it's evident from the moment your land on Senegalese soil. There's a breeziness about the Senegalese which is intoxicating - shit even their money changers have it as well as good rates.
There are 5 of us making our way to Saint Louis; myself, two Italians and two Poles and we sit and wait for 3 hours for a bus to fill and make our way towards Saint Louis. The drive - just over 100km now - takes three and a half hours as it's mostly on a dirt track which runs parallel to the road which is under construction, not a rarity in these parts I'm sure. Saint Louis is a beautiful city though, its centre resting on an island in the midst of the Senegal river. Saint Louis was the first French settlement in Africa and there are some stunningly decrepit colonial buildings around every corner.
Arriving in Senegal also means that we can look forward to eating once more as Senegal is noted for its cuisine. There's thiéboudienne - rice cooked in tomato sauce and served with chunks of fish stuffed with garlic, carrots and herbs - or mafé - rice served with meat sauce with a peanut base. The appetite lost in Mauritania has been rediscovered. There's a wonderful traditional food market down by the river but there's a collective aversion to photography and so the cameras remain in our pockets for the duration of our visit there. I have found though that pointing your camera in almost any direction results in a pThere's also a remarkable amount of street art adorning many of the buildings in the old quarter adding to the character of the old place. And now that we're in Senegal there's music everywhere. Senegal, where have you been?

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