Sunday, 27 December 2015

Dakar and Lac Rose, Senegal

After spending days searching the net and speaking to other travelers for any information on whether there was a campsite in Dakar. We came to the conclusion there was nothing. We had thought about camping in a hotel car park and spoke to a couple that were currently doing that. After hearing they were spending 20000CFA (£22) a night, we weren't willing to do that! We then looked at Airbnb as an option, but needed somewhere that had secure parking for our homes on wheels. But that would still be a more costly option than we are now used to. So in the end we decided we would head for Lac Rose and catch a taxi into the city to apply for our visas. 

Driving through the streets of Senegal is fascinating! After looking past the rubbish that lines the streets, you start to see the real beauty that this country is. Everyone waves and as we wave back, we get big smiles in return that leaves you with a real sense of happiness. The presence of everyday Senegalese art is everywhere on the streets. The taxis are covered in decorative writing and images; the buildings have colourful paintings (particularly the hairdressers and barbershops). The women are absolutely stunning and wear gorgeous colourful traditional outfits that show off their tall, model like bodies beautifully. They take great pride in their appearance, which is amazing to see! Cat and I keep saying we want a dress similar to what they wear in the beautiful colourful fabrics.

Well we arrived to the Lac Rose and eventually found our campsite (Le Calao Du Lac Rose) after a few sneaky buggers told us their campsite was around the corner and that ours was closed. But we were meeting Dave and Natalie there, so we knew it was open. They certainly do like to try their luck! The campsite was beautiful with a pool and nice facilities!

As we were nursing some serious hangovers from the night before, we were not much fun to be around. Poor Dave and Natalie had to put up with us very sleepy bunch of people. But we had a great time chatting the night away, while enjoying some red wine and whiskey they had bought for us, and sitting under the bright moon which had a perfectly formed circle of cloud or fog around it which non of us could explain. Unfortunately we had to call it an early night as we needed to be up early to get our Mali visa in Dakar. So we said our goodbyes and wished Dave and Natalie a safe journey home. And with no surprise, we passed out as soon as we got into our tents.
The alarm went off at 6am the next morning ready for our taxi to collect us at 7. We got our things together and made our way to the camp enterance where we waited and waited and waited.... Still at 7:30 the taxi had still not shown up. Eventually the owner called the taxi driver for us and he said he would be at the campsite in 10min. Well this only meant one thing... we had to go and disturb Dave and Natalie! So the boys tip toed up to their tent and shook it like crazy! Bet they were wishing they never came to this campsite after all. Nothing like an early morning wake up call when you're on your last day of holiday. Lol!

We got into the taxi, which like all the others, was dilapidated and in serious need of repair. But we drove for ages until we reached the Mali embassy arriving at about 9:15am. Not bad going since the driver had no idea where to go and had to stop and ask people on our way there. The Mali visa was done within seconds (I suppose with Mali's political situation, it was crazy to expect a queue!). All that was needed was to fill out the application form, hand over 2 passport sizes photos, 1 copy of our passport and pay 25000CFA (£28) each. We were instructed to come back at 3o'clock. Perfect!

We strolled up the coastal road and found ourselves at a very large luxury shopping mall. Very strange after being accustomed to stalls on the side of the road, falling to pieces and offering out of date foods. The place was empty and almost deserted. But we strolled up and down looking at all the western shops like Zara and Mango in amazement! We found a grocery store so stocked up on things we couldn't find on the streets. Then it was time for our morning coffee, so we sat down in the food court (on a couch, I might add!!!!) and enjoyed a cup of vanilla latte while watching people start to make their way into the food court. It was strange to see mostly westerners eating and visiting the shopping centre. I suppose this is where the rich and the famous come to enjoy a peaceful meal and a bit of shopping on the waters edge.
We started making our way back to the embassy but decided a spot of lunch was needed so stopped next to the sea to make our sandwiches. We were sat in the baking sun, so we decided to move on in search of some shade! The only place we could find was in the University grounds, so we sat quietly while watching the scholars around us intently studying and revising for what looked like some intense exams. 
Well we went in to the embassy at about 2:30 and we were pleased to see our visas where ready. Such an easy process, so now to wait for our taxi to take us back to the campsite. While we waited a guy came over with a cart that said NescafĂ© on it, so we bought a cup of coffee from him at 100CFA (£0.11) each. To be more precise, it had 2 and half teaspoons of coffee and 4 teaspoons of sugar in a little cup you would normally get at the dentists to wash your mouth out. It surprisingly was very tasty!

We decided we would spend the next couple of days at the campsite and enjoy our Christmas here. There was one particularly strange Frenchmen who very weirdly would come over and throw water on Cat and myself when were least expecting it. Not particularly bothered by Charles and Robs presence. But we soon got over it, realising he was harmless and just a bit of a flirt. We ended up paying volley ball with him and the owners son every evening at 6. It was actually great fun and got quite competitive when Mr Frenchman wasn't cheating... Lol! 

We decided we would walk around the Lac Rose in hope to see the pink hue the water shines when the sun is high. Unfortunately that morning Rob and myself had a bit of an argument. Robs grumpiness grinds on me sometimes and I guess I then make it worse by rubbing it in. So he decided he would stay in camp and sulk, while the the three of us explored the river side. I really wish he had come with, because we had an amazing morning. 
Lac Rose was the one place I was truly looking forward to seeing. Everyone knows I'm a girl that loves pink, so this would be right up my street! Lac Rose is a shallow lagoon where the water is 10 times saltier than the ocean, and the high concentration of minerals causes the lake to shimmer in a pink light when the sun is high. We watched tourists swimming in the lake, getting out and then being bathed by Senegalese men to wash the salt off. We came across stalls that housed beautiful African art. All sorts of things, like paintings, wood carved African animals and sculptures, decorated cow horns, and fabrics. The sellers were much less forceful that the Moroccans and we were able to walk into their stalls and have a chat and learn more about them without being forced to buy something. 
We stopped and enjoyed a cold beer while trying to decide whether the water had a pink tinge to it or whether it was our mind playing tricks on us. As we couldn't decide we moved onto the next bar where we chatted to the barman and had a few laughs. He thought Charles had two wives, as the three of us sat there. In Senegal it is accustomed for the men to have up to 4 wives if they can afford them. When we explained that Charles and I were in fact brother and sister, he laughed and agreed that would not be a good thing. Cat explained how where we come from only 1 is allowed! 
We made our way onto the jetty where we sat and took in the scenery! It was absolutely gorgeous! The water now definitely was a shade of pink. We watched how the men worked while bobbing in the salt water and churning the salt up for the salt refineries that lined the shores. 
Rob was missing out and I felt awful that he was. So we found out what they were cooking for Christmas and would go back to camp to find out what our campsite was cooking and discuss it with him.
Once back at the campsite, Rob was still not in any better mood. But he soon came round and said to him we would make our way back to let the restaurant know if we were eating there or not, and to see a little of what Lac Rose was all about. We decided we would eat at our campsite as it was slightly cheaper and they were cooking beef steaks!

We wondered back, but as it was late now couldn't stop and look at all the stalls so rushed to the restaurant to let them know we would not have Christmas dinner there. So we enjoy another cold one, where Rob could see the colour of the lake. On our way back we watched the Osprey's flying low and what look like, nesting on the side of the lake. We had a few people come over to us trying to sell their goods. Rob and I ended up falling in love with some pictures made of sand, so we started bargaining. He started at 50000CFA (£55), well at this we started walking away! That was a crazy price for one! After throwing some figures back and forth we ended up buying 4 for 5000CFA (£5.50).... Much better price and he threw in a bag of salt to say thanks. After buying something we were then hounded by others (particularly one woman who was very persistence, almost throwing her jewellery at us) so we swiftly made our way back to the campsite.

Christmas came around and we had an amazing day feeling quite Christmassy in a place that doesn't celebrate it. We spent the day calling our families and friends while sat by the pool side. It's a strange thing to explain, but speaking to the people that you love the most is very special when you are on the other side of the world. While at home, you are consumed by work, bills, and routine, and therefore very rearly make time for the things and people that matter the most! It was a great day and we got to eat like kings!

We left the Lac Rose and are headed south. But first we needed to stop off at the Village for Tortoises (turtles as the guide kept saying). This is a conservation sight for tortoises who get released back into the wild after their rehabilitation. Some come to the sanctuary after being treated badly by their owners by feeding them bad foods, and therefore causing them to deform, or being burned or hurt in the wild. They are becoming endangered, so they are doing their best to help prevent this. The guide was telling us that the Senegalese people don't understand the importance of the survival of these animals and how their waste which is just thrown to the ground is causing such chaos to the wildlife around them. Getting the right help and backing was proving difficult.
We started off with the older tortoises who were absolutely massive, compared to the little baby ones we saw later on that would fit snugly in the palm of your hand. 
We learnt so much about these reptiles like how to differentiate the sex of them, by the shape of their shells. The male's shell being curved inwards underneath and the back of the shell having more of a tail, while the female's shell ended sooner, leaving a gap. They really live the good life if they are in a good environment, with their general activities being eating, drinking, pooing and fornicating (as the guide said), and can live up to 150years old. Brilliant peaceful animals.

Unfortunately We have all come down with a very nasty bug, which means we are 'shitting through the eye of a needle', as Rob would say. Lol! Yes, it's coming out both ends, but hopefully we will get over it quickly! Charles, Rob and I had it yesterday and Cat today. I suppose it's the price we pay for living such an awesome life here in Africa!

1 comment:

  1. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Hope you all get to feeling better. Safe travels and we'll see you again, hopefully I can wake you next time.