Our flight from Las Palmas to Dakar touched down without incident on the shabby runway of Dakar’s international airport last night.  Our itinereraries said we should arrive at 1 a.m.  Our watches said it was 11 p.m.  The clocks on the wall said it was 10. Iberia is running some sort of time warp special there. Somehow, we flew East and ended up and hour earlier.

I’d been warned about the touts and hustlers of the Dakar airport, but they weren’t really all that bad. You couldn’t really blame them for trying. We found a taxi into town for 10,000 CFA ($1=450 CFA right now). In the darkness we drove past the shantytowns and refuse, gettign assailed by successive smells; garbage, burning garbage, manure and fish.

Our hotel is small but clean. The room has air conditioning which we kept on all night. The elderly assistant who wears a blue pyjama like outifit that has a name, possibly his, embroidered on the breast, went to turn it on for us before we walked up the steps. Down in the small courtyard bar/ restaurant, we had our first Sengalese beer, La Gazelle. It was nice and light, without that sweetness that too often characterizes beers from the tropics.

We slpet well despite the lack of mosquito nets. Hopefully keeping the doors and windows shut for the A/C kept the little buggers out as well.

In the morning we went to get more anti-malarial medication fromt eh nearby pharmacy. We walked past the Marche Kermel, which looks like a building to house a carousel. It’s a tourist attraction, apparently. There aren’t a lot of tourists here, as far as we can tell.

We found a breakfast place over on Place de L’Independence, the main square of town. A whole team of very pretty waitresses attended to us in the oasis of an air-conditioned dining room.

Did I mention that it is oppressively hot here? You practically drown in the humid air. On top of the heat and humidity, you have the smells that pop up to make breathing even less pleasant.

Walking through the Place, we were approached by Kadim, a young Senegalese guy. He talked to us for a bit and we were impressed by his American-accented English. He said that he had gone to Tuskegee University in Alabama to study music. From the way he dropped slang and Americanisms, I believed him. He turned out to try and take us to a shop where we were encouraged to look around. We didn’t want to buy anything or even be there in the first place. He quickly conceded tot hat. He wants us to come hang out with him tonight, but we’re still not sure we want to. On the one hand he’s warning us about strangers and on the other, he’s offering himself, a stranger, up as a guide or companion while we’re here. It might be an experience to see where he lives and drink tea, but how can we think there’s not going to be something in it for him?

After that encounter, we headed off to the Guinea-Bissau embassy. It’s off in another part of town called Point E. Our taxi driver didn’t know where it was exactly, even though the streets are numbered one way and lettered the other and we knew the coordinates.

We had our pictures taken in a little shack that sells drinks and snacks and does photocopies. (There are a lot of embassies around there, including the Iraqi embassy across the street from Guinea-Bissau’s) The guy who took the pictures accidentally printed out two copies of my picture. Then he told me it was his fault, so I should only pay half price for the extra copy.

We filled out the application form and dropped off our passports. They charge a ridiculous 45,000 CFA for the visa. Visa fees probably comprise a big chunk of G-B’s GDP.

Afterwards we tried to find the Thai restaurant recomended by Lonely Planet. Andrew remarkled that he’s never had good luck with LP’s restaurant recommendations, in fact, he’s never found any one of them. We rounded the corner and saw the sign for the Jardin Thailandes. I remarked that there’s a first time for everything, but at the gate we found that they only open in the evening. The Lonely Planet restaurant slump continues unabated.

So, we found another place and sat down for our first real Senegalese food. They didn’t have much by way of vegetarian options and we weren’t digging the fish. So we got aloko, which is fried plantains, and athiéké, which is a cort of cous-cous made with manioc flour. They served the athiéké with a delicious, smoky sauce of chunky tomatoes and onions. We scooped it on and devoured all of it. I sauced up the plantains with the two hot sauces they brought out with the salt. One was a red pepper sauce and the other more like a mustard.

Tonight we are planning on going out on the town for some of Dakar’s famous nightlife.