Africa Adventures 2 : Gambia and Senegal, or how to learn the meaning of VISA need

I’ve told you the story of how we ended up in Gambia and Senegal, and the Gambian part of the trip here. Of course since we flew to Gambia, we had to spend a couple of days in Senegal as well. Unfortunately we didn’t investigate too good the visa requirements for it, but you already read that in the previous post.
Now let’s start remembering Senegal adventure.

1.01.2014

After the “crazy” New Year’s Eve party we had on the beach, first day of the year started a bit slowly. We managed to leave Banjul around 1 PM, after searching for a working ATM (it seems not only the banks take the first day of the year off, but the ATMs as well), get a ghele-ghele just for us, direction Ziguinchor. We cross the border, this time with no issues, and the first impressions of Senegal starts to appear: people don’t seem as nice as in Gambia, they talk less, rarely smile, the roads are better, and the cars seems much better as well. Still, same untouched vegetation, heat and dust.

DSC02393Once in Ziguinchor, we need to find another car to take us to Cap Skirring, Casamance, and we find the best 7place (local name) we used in our entire trip. I mean the car was in a very good shape, but we quickly realize it’s or was a mortuary car, with black curtains and a weird smell. Oh well, we had worst. We adventure a bit in Ziguinchor town, trying to find an open ATM, as we had no West African CFA francs. Quick tip: if you visit Ziguinchor during the afternoon/evening, make sure to use a lot of mosquito repellant, as they killed us while we were waiting our line in the ATM.

The roads were good, we could barely feel the drive to Cap Skirring, and we get where W. and P. are during evening, all happy happy joy for the reunion ( it’s been 24h), after some minutes of getting lost in Skirring. Something to remember: when W. says right-left-right, you do exactly that without questioning!

Unfortunately we couldn’t find rooms at the accommodation W. and P. are staying, but we quickly find something next door, right on the beach, with the promise that next morning we’ll have rooms available with them. Basic rooms, nothing to complain, we leave our luggage, take a shower, and leave in search for food.

We find the best restaurant till then, you can already feel the influence of Europe in Cap Skirring: a French-owned restaurant, a bit expensive (comparing to what we paid in Gambia), but we did eat coc au vin, bananas flambé, drink whiskey and rose. A nice way to start the year :). After dinner we left for a walk on the beach, play with some crabs, and scare ourselves in complete darkness and unknown, and we called it a night.

2.01.2014

DSC02302We wake up pretty rested, but with low energy after the last couple of days. We have a great breakfast (2000CFA) at our accommodation, with a nice view to the seaside, then we move our things to where W. and P. were staying, and surprise, we get a house with 2 rooms right on the beach, with a great barbecue and outside foyer, which will be very useful for the next couple of days 🙂  And even better, it’s cheaper than the room from last night, saving us breakfast cost.

DSC02343Since some of us are more tired than others, we split into 2 groups: 2 couples remain on the beach, while the other 2 rent scooters and go exploring the area. After a couple of hours on the beach, with a crazy agitated ocean that made it impossible to swim, and with a couple of cows sunbathing meters from us 🙂 , we get hungry and decide to walk around and find a nice place on the beach to eat. We end up walking around 2 hours in a crazy heat, refused by 3 restaurants because it was too late for lunch, and by 2 hotel restaurants because we were not staying there ( really nice resorts right on the beach I might add, but filled with French people) , so we eventually give up and buy some sandwiches on the road. They were pretty good, but quite expensive 2500CFA, more than we paid for an entire full breakfast. During our walk on the beach, around 4 PM, we saw the fishermen coming back from fishing, and women preparing the fish for sell: the smell was pretty bad, but it was interesting to see hundreds of fish “sunbathing” with salt 🙂 We bought some overpriced African statues, as some of us didn’t want to bargain, and we headed back to our sunny house on the beach.

The other 2 couples rode their scooters to the most Southern point of Senegal, right next to Guinea-Bissau border, to a beach called Maya. The location is amazing, highly recommended for a visit rather than Cap Skirring resort, with nice small houses, lots of flowers, some pools, and a great beach. After a couple of hours on the beach, they went to the last village of Senegal before the border, ate at a local restaurant pretty cheap and very good food, but with a look that would have rather said “run” than “stop and eat here” 🙂 With their stomachs filled, they went on a mini adventure with the scooters via a dirty sandy road until the scooters no longer work, so they abandon them, and walk until they reach another deserted beach, with an amazing scenery. One more bath in the crazy ocean (rather a fight with the waves than a swim), they came back to Cap Skirring, not before stopping of course for some shopping for clothes, and fresh fish for our dinner 🙂

With such a great outside area right on the beach, during the evening we decide to have a barbeque with the fish bought, some lime, and bread, delicious! The night ends with some watermelon and lots of rum-cola, and we’re off to sleep.

3.01.2014

DSC02320This morning we split again into 2 groups, even more people deciding to stay on the beach. The lazy group doesn’t have any great stories to tell, rather that they sunbathed, swam, and had lunch at a great French restaurant, which we found by mistake on a hidden road : good wine, scallops, crab and a great chocolate dessert, all at European prices, in the middle of nowhere. 🙂 We also found a nice bar right on the beach, literally few meters from our house, no idea how we missed it in the first day, with great fresh juices and pancakes, and even better music.

The adventurous group on the other hand had a pretty nice day: they went on the other remaining road from Cap Skirring, back to Ziguinchor area, specifically to the Casamance river, where there were some touristic pirogues leaving for a river-trip. Since my friends will never choose the easy-way, touristic thing, they ended up finding a fisherman to take them with a small old canoe. When they asked about the price, the man said: don’t worry about it, we’ll see at the end, so what else to do rather than enjoy the trip? After 2-3 hours of going on the river, stopping at a small island, going through the mangroves, and hearing great stories from the fisherman, they decided to pay him double than what we asked. They also wanted to get to “Basse Casamance National Park” but unfortunately it was closed, as it seems there are still some active mines within the park from the war with Guinea Bissau, and it is dangerous. They end up doing a little bit of off-road again, through some small villages, seeing lots of curious kids, not surprising with a couple of “white people” on scooters in the middle of nowhere, but what surprised them the most was the number of unfinished hospitals and maternity, with signs as being financed by European organizations.

I don’t think I need to explain how the night ended, having a barbeque and foyer area outside 🙂

4.01.2014 – 5.01.2014

DSC02422We wake up really early, at 5 AM, because we decided last night (maybe the rum speaking) to leave Cap Skirring as there is not much to do, and go to Dakar area. We initially wanted to take a ferry, but unfortunately there were no more seats available, so we had to rely again on buses, more specifically 7place Mercedes from 1950s :). Even worst, we can’t go through Gambia, as it seems the 2 countries are fighting in the last 2 days, so we have to cross entire Senegal via Tambacounda, avoiding Gambia. Sounded like a long ride, but we never imagined it will be that long…
Again, in Ziguinchor bus station, negotiating rides: you can either take the public transport, 7000CFA per person, but leaves only when it is full, or take a bus just for us, but it will be 160.000CFA in total. Nevertheless, they all told us we will be in Dakar by 10PM latest. We decide on taking the bus just for us, and boy was it a good decision!

DSC02418Around 10 PM, we were mid-way to Dakar, and we stopped to eat for the first time that day, in a restaurant next to the road, pretty nice. The driver tells us we might need to stop at a certain point for him to sleep, as it was understandable, we was driving for more than 12 hours. Around 3 AM we stopped for him to sleep: he just parked the car in a gas station, put his feet up the wheel and started snoring. He woke all of us up, from our very comfortable sleeping positions 🙂 ). We actually found a pillow and a sheet at the back of the car, and we were taking turns sleeping on the floor of the car. Around 7 AM we leave again, and we arrive in Dakar at 9 AM … exactly 27 hours since we left Cap Skirring. I could say I wouldn’t do it again, but to be honest now I only remember the fun moments in those 27 hours, the fact that no one started crying or screaming, and we even made fun of every bad detail on the way. Might be because of the people I was with, so pretty lucky to have such friends who don’t freak out in extreme situations. You will see in the pictures how the car looked like…

We got to Dakar, and started to walk around in search of an open restaurant/coffee place, and Wi-Fi most importantly, as we needed accommodation. We found Ali Baba restaurant opened, with some great humus and tabbouleh, and even better: free Wi-Fi. P. manages to find accommodation right next to the restaurant, rooms not that bad, with shared bathrooms, 15.000CFA per night per room, not that bad. Being really tired, we take the rooms, and go straight to sleep, some of us, while 2 couples start exploring the area already.

DSC02427We woke up around 4 PM, and start exploring the city as well: a crazy mixture between new and dirt, pretty boring. We go through hotels Ibis and Novotel to get to the ocean-front, a really nice view, and we end up having a drink at one of the terraces, the guys Gazelle of course, and the girls Syrah rose. The other couples are on Ille de Goree , a UNESCO site, which seems to be gorgeous, so we decide to go there tomorrow evening, after visiting the Pink Lake.

With that in mind, we go straight to bed, we still can’t recover from the crazy drive from Cap Skirring.

6.01.2014

DSC02443After a good coffee at Ali Baba, we start our journey to the Pink Lake , supposedly one of the only 2 in the world. It was supposed to be a short journey from Place de Independence with Bus no 6 , but eventually took 3 hours, because of the no-show of that bus, and also because of the crazy traffic in that direction. And surprise: we get there and the lake is not pink at all, quite blue I could say. It seem the sun is not strong enough for it to become pink, which is weird as it’s really sunny and very hot! But the area is really nice, with a nice hotel-restaurant-swimming pool area, where we had lunch. 2 couples spent the rest of the day in that area, they even adventured to the ocean side, where they found sand dunes and camels, and it was really nice, better than the “pink” lake 🙂

DSC02462We, on the other hand, hurried to come back to Dakar, and catch the ferry to Ille de Goree , which was actually the prettiest place we visited in the entire Senegal. With narrow streets, great view, music and a great dinner right on the beach, we ended the day perfectly. We left the island with the last ferry, and me the others in the city for a last drink and planning before bed at a bar right next our accommodation and Ali Baba restaurant.

After analyzing what we can do in the couple of days left until we leave, and realizing we don’t really like Senegal, we decide to go back to Gambia early in the morning and don’t waste any more time here.

7.01.2014

Another crazy early wake up hour, at 6AM we are all downstairs buying breakfast from a very nice place we unfortunately found right in the last minute of our stay : La Galette . Another bus station, other negotiations, another driver, again our own car, and we depart for Gambia Border/Banjul. Worth mentioning that any bus from Dakar takes you only to the border, then you need to take a cab to the ferry, which will cross you the river to Banjul, that of course if it works 🙂

But for the rest of the adventure of how exactly we crossed the border, and if the ferry really worked, see my other post here.

 

All in all, I am happy I saw a little bit of Senegal. I can’t say I was impressed, and I definitely cannot say I would go back again, but I am lucky to have seen the country once. Worth saying that there were other areas that we didn’t get to see: Saloum Delta National Park and Fathala wildlife reserve, which I think are worth visiting. If I were to pick between Senegal and Gambia, I would always pick Gambia, mainly because of the people, in our experience, they were more welcoming and smiling more and more approachable. If you are searching for a wildlife and lots of animal type of holiday, don’t go to these countries, animals are rare. But it was a great culture shock, reminding us how lucky we are to be born in Europe. And spoiled 🙂

For more pictures , see Facebook folder here.

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One thought on “Africa Adventures 2 : Gambia and Senegal, or how to learn the meaning of VISA need

  1. Pingback: Africa Adventures 1 : Gambia and Senegal, or how to realize you are a spoiled brat | tripaholika

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