A Travellerspoint blog

March 2010

Senegal

Biggie Biggie (Enjoy) Wow Wow (Yes)

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View A Backpack, A Bicycle, And a Bonderman Grant to Travel the World on dericvito's travel map.

My initial impression landing in Dakar was that Senegal is more similar to India then southern Africa. The people are aggressive, friendly, cunning and proud. The hospitality rivals the 40 cups of tea I accepted in Syria. The food and the clothing are spicier and more colourful. The streets are jammed in Dakar and its dirty. Religion is everywhere, but mostly on mini-buses, alongside American flags.

I had two weeks in Senegal, the first with my friend Casey continuing from Cape Verde. We headed straight north and arrived on the former colonial capital island of St. Louis on the eve of Mohammed's (the prophet) birthday. A Frenchmen from our bus named Lula (which coincidentally? is a word for white man in Senegal) took us to his friend´s home. Our first meal was home cooked and a preview of what I was to be eating for the rest of my time here, fish (preferably with Theibu-Jen pictured below). Actually for the last month I've eaten fish pretty much everyday.I now probably prefer it to any other meat, although I've never ordered in any restaurant in the US. It was also citrus season so a steady supply of oranges and grapefruits kept my hydrated was Casey was not pushing water.

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To celebrate the holiday, each mosque in the city set up a tent, which only filled up at midnight with people dressed in their finest gear. Some sang, danced and drummed, others watched. After strolling the island for a day we returned to Dakar, then on to the peaceful abode and lodge of Ras Umu on the island of Goree.

One of my favorite places from the my first week in Senegal was our lodging in Dakar. It was just a regular apartment building for seemingly middle class Senegalesse. There was a shared kitchen and bathrooms and TV space. Families and travelers all mixed together.

I arrived in the Casamance region for my second week in Senegal by boat. I slept very well in my private bunk in a cabin of eight. I love traveling by boat. It has all the isolation of an airplane with none of the crampness and foul air.

I had not intended on coming to French speaking Africa, but due to the overwhelming gregariousness of the people here it turned out not to be much of a barrier to meeting people. I used my TV French 'tres bien' as opposed to my father´s TV dinner French 'french fries' I now default to ´Merci´. I also used of course some English a bit of Arabic and a smattering of Spanish. With that I met tons of people while cycling between and over the waterways of the Casamance trying to avoid the rumored bandits and more real seperatist-government skermishes. At one point a solidier stepped from out of the woods from nowhere to see if I needed assistance with a flat tire. I give him a cookie and he diappeared just as quickly. Here are a few of the people I met:

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Nana (with his wife) is a entrepreneur from Ghana. He left home, and his children (and wife?) to come to Senegal to get a visa for Europe. Failing in that regard he met his current wife and settled down in the crossroads town of Bignona. He started out "hustling" household goods door to door before making enough to build a barber shop which he now compliments with a mini-market and restaurant. He's working on securing food for a meat shop. He wants me to send him a shipping container of American waste to sell.

Fatur (in her restaurant) left here village with her mother to run a business in a slightly larger town with a large fishing industry and tourism. She's 24 years old, not married and spends her days 10am to 10pm at her small restaurant making and selling all the Senegalese classic dishes, from Theibu to Maffe. She´s open to proposals from a variety of men.

Aleiu (next to his friend in yellow) is a student in high school, with a few years left to go. He lives in the village of Albadar, where if you don´t have oranges trees you haven´t got anything.´´ Aleiu speaks good English and his friends speak little though they attend the same classes. His grandfather is the chief. Don´t forget to bid him farewell when you depart the village.

Boubka (in front of his family helps out at his family´s lodge, sweeping the sand. His father, his father´s two wives and a bunch of little ones live in a small house on the outskirts of town. They can´t afford locks on their doors and someone stole his bike. He speaks passionately against corruption though his face shows little expression when he talks.

I stumbled upon a workout of the pro-basketball team in Ziguinchor in the Casamance and got my feet on the court for the first time in six months. It felt pretty good and I held my own though I was impressed with the level of play. Everywhere in Senegal you see boys in training, mostly jogging through town or along the highway, sometimes with their team and sometimes alone. Soccer I assume is big business and a big opportunity here.

I am currently in Brazil. Resting in Sao Paulo why slowly making my way northwards towards home, which is very much on my mind as are all of you.

Posted by dericvito 14:26 Archived in Senegal Tagged bicycle Comments (1)

Cape Verde and Carnival

Once upon a time in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

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View A Backpack, A Bicycle, And a Bonderman Grant to Travel the World on dericvito's travel map.

I took my roundtrip from Southern Africa back to Europe landing in Porto, Portugal. Portugal is now officially my favorite country in Europe for two reasons: First, Both times I've been there the streets are filled with people in costume. During my last visit I was in the university town of Coimbra where students dress in Harry Potter like capes and parade around the streets during graduation. This time it was mostly children in halloween style getups for Carnival. Second, You can get a wholesome homestyle meal (soup, bread, entree, glass of wine, desert and coffee) for five Euro, almost anywhere. Porto was mostly a layover to get a visa for Cape Verde, but also because bike touring in Portugal was my original dream of a cycling trip.

When I arrived in Mindelo, Cape Verde to the shout of my friend Casey from a second story window the Carnival celebrations had already begun. I was later informed the party had been underway for a month. Cape Verde is a small island chain a couple hours flight off the coast of West Africa. It was occupied by the Portuguese, who apparently found it unihabited and subsquently populated it with Europeans and West Africans, the blend of which makes up the current population. The relative recentness and mash of traditions makes it a facinating place which has adopted aspects of both African and Portuguese culture, all of which show up during Carnival. Casey, a long-time Seattle friend, was my traveling partner in Cape Verde and part of Senegal. Together we mingled in the crowd on the streets and watched from our balcony as three days of parades passed by. First it was the children, who trotted along with their schools or community groups to the chat of, "hu hu hu, HA" something similar to the main dance number in the animated movie Madagascar if you've seen it. Then came the Monday evening parade, an elegant affair with an Africa theme. Finally Tuesday and main event competition arrived. Throughout there were street festivities and a constant flow of people watching people while circling the central plaza.

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From Mindelo, the cultural heart of Cape Verde, we traveled to the island of Santo Antao. Cape Verdean islands are mostly dry and barren with a moon-like landscape that brighten up green with a hint of rain. Santo Antao is no exception, but the northern half gets some regular water on their steep hillsides, which thus give way to beautiful valleys. We spent a few days treking, breaking for backgammon games and a beer and watching the sunset in the small towns of this peaceful island. We returned to Mindelo for Saturday night to hear some traditional and modern Cape Verdean music, which did not disappoint, and even a quick visit to the local club where Carnvial never ended.

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Out in the middle of the sea Cape Verdean life is comparitively good compared to most of West Africa, the pace is calm and people relax and enjoy themselves in their free. Our last stop was the capital city, Praia. In Praia the scent of modern African life was present, as was some very tasty friend fish, but nothing like our next stop, Dakar.

Posted by dericvito 01:20 Archived in Senegal Comments (0)

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