Friday, 1 January 2016

New year in Senegal

After a long day of driving and getting lost, we finally arrived at Djidjack campsite ( on the the coast line close to Palmarin. The coordinates on the website were all wrong and took us into the heart of some very secluded villages. We pulled up outside one of the villages to check we had entered in the coordinates correctly and discuss plan B if need be.
Well, that was wishful thinking. As we stopped the cars, the whole village flocked towards us shouting for presents (cadeau in French). They obviously had never had a couple of cars like ours and people of our skin colour ever visit their villages. The cars were parked side by side, but there was no hope trying to chat about where to go next, as the kids and adults where literally surrounding each car, screaming, laughing, talking and pretty much climbing on top of each other to get a look at us and what was inside the cars. 
Rob had a pack of Mentos fruit sweets on the dash board, which was definitely what they were eyeing out. Rob picked up the packed and I was shocked. These are his prized possession and he refuses to share them with anyone if he can help it. This was his second last packed left and he was treasuring them. So I was shocked to see he was even entertaining the idea of giving these away. As he lifted them off the dash board, a hand swooped in as fast as lightening and snatched it away, leaving him with half the packet left in his hand. Rob and myself starred at each other in shock, as we thought 'what the hell just happened there!?'. The kids were now fighting over these sweets and there were Mentos flying all over the place. Of course Rob just handed the rest into the chaos and they lapped it up, eventually asking for more!! CADEAU, CADEAU, CADEAU.... the continuous demanding for more was unreal!
We decided to head back where we had come from and ask a hotel we had passed down the road if they could direct us. So slowly we edged the cars in reverse, eventually making the crowd disperse. Such a fun experience actually, however I think Rob would say otherwise as he couldn't get over how rude these kids were... Not even a thanks. And now he only has one packet left! Lol

We arrived into the campsite and were pleased to see Gill and Marlene in the campsite, they've almost become our travel parents by the way we keep bumping into them. We had heard so many nice things about this campsite, but were a little disappointed. The bungalows look really nice, but the camping seems such an after thought with the rubbish being dumped next to where you sleep. The next day, we enjoyed a good breakfast before wondering onto the beach and were greeted by a very awesome flat, blue ocean with an enormous shipwreck off the shoreline. It looked like it had been there for some time and the rust would eventually be its maker. We wondered along the beach front admiring the different shells and taking in the sights. A fantastic relaxing afternoon.

We decided we would not visit The Gambia as we had heard about its awful corrupt border and the corruption of the police force inside. Demanding money and making life hell for its tourists. There has not been one person we have met or read about recently that has said they enjoyed it. Most having been fined ridiculous amounts for one thing or another and having to fight against the police for your freedom. This just seems like hassle and money we don't have to just throw away. It's a pity, because we have heard it has some beautiful coast lines and they speak English!! It's the small things... Lol!

So we needed to start heading inland to make our way to Mali. We drove for two days until we got to Wassadou Camp ( It was expensive (they would only allow us to camp if we had dinner in the restaurant), but what a gem of a place. We drove up a long 4km dirt track, that seemed like it would go on forever. But we got to this secluded camp that overlooked the Gambia River. An absolute stunning spot!
Rob was also thrilled as they had a car ramp where Rob could look at a random jingle under the car we had developed after our desert driving. Rob, and his trusty helper Charles, pulled out the rear diff expecting to see a loose bearing or something along those lines, but unfortunately found nothing. So they put it all back together and joined us girls at the river view to soak up the sun and enjoy the sun going down.

Us girls have become quite the avid bird watchers as we sat there with our binoculars, cameras and bird books; truly looking the part, while watching the happenings of the river. It was fantastic and we started coming up with a list of awesome birds we were putting names to. We saw the following: Fish Eagles, Palm-nut Vultures, African Harrier Hawk, Pied kingfisher, Hamerkop, Hadeda, Grey Plantain Eater, plovers and one that drove us mad as we couldn't quite give it a name until day 2... A Black-crowned Night-heron. It was fantastic and so tranquil! 
Then the monkeys and baboons decended on the trees across from us giving us a show! They were hilarious as we watched them swinging from the trees, playing and fighting and just being hooligans. We watched them for hours until it was time to get ready for dinner.

Once again we ate like kings as they brought us our starters. Egg salad with a delicious mustard and vinegar dressing. Then for mains which was marinated beef cubes and rice and then for desert which was a fruit salad. It was amazing and totally worth it! 

In the morning we wanted to leave early to find out about the Niokolo-Koba National Park and find out about their entrance fees. Apparently this park has wildlife, but much less than the Game reserves down south as unfortunately, its been subjected to hunting and poaching, so we were already a little sceptical as to its prices and whether it would be worth it. 
They said we were unable to enter the park without a guide and therefore one needed to come in each vehicle. That however, would be a problem since we only have 2 seats in each car, but this was no issue for them as they would just sit on the roof.... Yes that's right, they would just sit on the roof of our cars!? England's health and safety department would have a heart attack if they knew. Lol!
So it would cost 10000CFA per guide, 6000CFA per person, 10000CFA per vehicle and 5000CFA camping fee, so that is 37000CFA (£41) per day per couple! Ouch!!! So we decided against this and would do our game drives down south where there would be a better chance of seeing animals and we could drive at our own pace without a guide.

So we headed into town to grab a few supplies and would head back to Wassadou as it was New Year's Eve we thought a nice campsite would go down just a treat! Our first mission was to draw more cash before heading to Mali, but all the banks were either not working or had a massive queue. So no option, but to joined the queue, if you can call it that!? In England you queue in an orderly line and wait your turn, here you just stand amoung the crowd and hopefully someone will be nice and let you go in front of them. It took about half an hour but we got to have a chat with the locals. One asked me if I was married, of course I confirmed I was and that he was in Senegal with me. I asked him whether he was married and he said no. Then he asked if I had children, after telling him I didn't, he was shocked. "Why do you not have children?" He asked puzzled. "You should have children!" He couldn't understand that I did not want them. In Senegal, the more the merrier. There's something wrong with you if you don't. In the end to get him to stop asking questions and looking at me funny, I told him I would have later, not now. And he seemed happy enough with that. Very amusing!
Then downtown, we made friends with a few of the kids. They kept up their usual tricks asking for CADEAU, CADEAU, CADEAU.... we decided we would trick them into forgetting about asking for presents and asked them their names and had a bit of a chat. When we mentioned a photo, they were all in there and happy to be in it. One guy was a little weird and kept smelling my armpit!! Yes, smelling my armpit! It was roasting that day and I'm not shy to say I was hot and a little sweaty! The poor kid should have fallen over with the fumes, but then again, if I don't say so myself, I smelt better than them. So I'm just gonna go with my lingering perfume being the thing he was smelling 😜😜😜

We left them with big goodbyes and now in search of booze. As I got out to ask the petrol stations where we could find, they directed us back into town. When I got back to the car Cat had seen a chicken stall where they cook whole chickens on hot flames and add onion, secret chicken spices, mayonnaise and mustard. It smelt amazing so we ordered one as well for lunch. It was New Year's Eve after all!

Once back at the campsite the owner told us that the price was more for New Year's Eve as they had a big menu planned and show/party. He told us drinks were included, and that was us sold. It would cost 49200CFA (£54) for the night. Ouch! But it was so worth it! We spent the rest of the day vegging by the river Gambia reuniting ourselves with our birds and baboons. Brilliant afternoon! 
We had to be at the restaurant for 7pm so at 6pm we had to say goodbye to our hooligan friends and try make ourselves look a little bit presentable. Cold showers all round and some smarter looking clothes were dug out of our clothes boxes. Cat and I even put on makeup! It was really nice feeling pretty again! We've gotten so used to not putting on makeup that it was a nice change. To think at home in the uk, I'd never step foot outside the house without makeup! Things certainly have changed!

We were in for a treat! 5 course meal with fresh bread out the oven, white wine, red wine and champagne! And then for the show. Senegalese people from the neighbouring villages dancing and singing to drums. They had different dances for different things, like a dance to bless the peanut and wheat crops and a rain dance. The host was hilarious and tried his best to converse in English with us. Cat and I even got pulled up to join in and try their local dancing styles. It was brilliant fun and we got to see 2016 happen with a bang Senegelese style! 

We hope you all had wonderful celebrations as we did! And wish you all the best for 2016 in life, love, work, and travel! Happy new year everyone!!! πŸΎπŸŽ‰πŸ’žπŸ˜


  1. Hey there guys. My girlfriend and I are doing the same trip as you but are a bit behind. We cross from Spain into Tangiers later today. We have Nigerian visas which expire in less than 3 months so there is a chance we may catch up with ye on the way. It would be great to join ye for a beer. On a separate note I see you are planning on going through northern Senegal and Mali. We had previously been warned that northern Senegal was dangerous and our plan is, probably, to go into Mali via Guinea. It may be no better there as we have also been warned that in Guinea the police are very corrupt and the roads terrible. We are also a bit wary of Mali given the terrorism there recently but given the Ivory Coast has still not opened borders with Guinea or Liberia there is no choice. Any way Mali is supposed to be very beautiful. So I am sure you have asked for advice along the way. We may end up following you guys through Senegal in the end. That place for new years eve looks amazing. Best of luck with your brilliant adventure and hope our paths cross soon. Cheers. James (from Liz' email address)

  2. Northern Senegal is perfectly safe, were already talking about returning. We loved the place., as for Mali. We're sat in sleeping camel in Bamako right now. Again a beautiful country. And I've felt nothing but safe since we got here. Everyone is friendly. Waving a blowing kisses. We drove 200km of piste in 12/13 hours. Towards Bamako from the boarder. Passed many villages etc all was fantastic. Just be aware, and be happy. And accept the dust. There's lots of dust.

  3. We have a list of the campsites we've stayed in. If you email us, we can send this to you via email.

  4. Thanks Rob. It sounds all great. We are just settling into Dakla for the evening and can't believe how amazing this place is. We've even decided to spoil ourselves and stay in a guesthouse for 38 euros. First night in a bed for a few weeks and don't expect one again that soon. I will email you straight away for any list or advice on campsites you have stayed in, particularly from Mauritania down to Mali. We plan on following your route. We have a visa entente already (not sure it will work in all countries though) so hopefully no need to apply for too many visas in the next few countries, except we need to apply for Ghana ones somewhere, maybe Dakar. Ok. Will email now. Thanks a million!! and hope to see ye guys somewhere soon.