The evening in Dakar ended up being a real treat.  We met some Peace Corps volunteers and went out with them for the night.  The first place we went, Le Cozy, was an ultra modern, hip little joint by our hotel.  It could have been in New York or L.A.  Later we hit up the dark and small Texas saloon, with a lot more Senegalese clients.  It wasn’t the crazy thrumming scene I expected, but it wasn’t bad either.

Tired of Dakar’s hassles, we left the next day after picking up our passports at the G-B embassy.  The traffic and diesel fumes on the way out of town were terrible.  Our taxi driver had his handkerchief over his mouth and nose for a good while.  Then we hit the open road and it was much better.

We went to Jaol, a tiny town where there is a small, man made island made out of seashells.  We stayed in a little guesthouse there.  You had to pay extra to actually use the A/C that was in the room.  The place had an awesome terrace that looked out over a river to mangrove thickets across the way.

Over lunch of tieboutien, Senegal’s tasty fish and fried rice dish, we met a local guide.  He took us over to the seashell village, Fadiout.  It wasn’t all that interesting.  It’s mainly Christian and the little cemetary (on another seashell island) with its crosses was cute.

That night we went out in the dark of the evening.  It might have seemed unsafem but there were people everywhere.  We had a tasty dinner of falafel and hummus at a place tucked behind the town’s gas station.  A lot of the restaurants around here are run by Lebanese people, so falafel et cetera is not uncommon.

We left early in the morning to cross into Gambia.  WE took a taxi and then changed into a sept-place.  These are station wagons that have been converted to seat 7 people.  They’re in between a bus and a taxi.  They aren’t made with comfort in mind, though.  It was hot and uncomfortable, squeezed into the old rustbucket on a makeshift seat.

We had to change into another car at the border.  We had no problems with the officials there.  They were very friendly in fact.

We crossed into Gambia and waited for the ferry at Barra.  We were taken into a room by drug enforcement officers.  One searched Andrew’s bag, but the other merely glanced at mine and chided his friend for being so gung-ho.  “These are Americans.  We know Amercans,” he said.

I talked with a young guy named Gibril on the ferry across.  We were surprised to see some sailboats in the river there.  We reached Banjulm where there was surprisingly little bother from touts or vendors.

We ate lunch at Ali Baba’s. (Falafel again for me) We got a taxi to show us around a bit.  Gambia’s dictator has the whole cult of personality thing going.  There are billboards congratulating him and the Gambian people on the occasion of his birthday.  He also takes credit for “13 years of progress”, most of which was hard to see in the dusty roads of the capital.

Laybato was a nice little place, nearly empty, in Fajara.  We got the room, went down to the beach and threw the disc around.  The beach was really nice and full of guys doing exercises.   We had a mediocre dinner there and went out to Senegambia, the local strip.

Our guide for the evening was Ibrahim, a somewhat inebriated rasta guy who “works” at the hotel.  Most of the bars we empty or were full of prostitutes.  So, we left.

The next day, after breakfast, we had massages.  Full body massages for something like $12!.   It was wonderful.  Then, we went on a little tour with a guy called Wilson.  He took us to a crocodile farm, where you can pet a tame crocodile.  Then we went on a walk through a small nature reserve where we saw some monkeys.  Then we went to a cool lodge built in the middle of the mangroves.  Met a black woman from England who was there on vacation.  There were sailboats at anchor just outside the restaurant.  After that we went to Paradise beach.  It was a beautiful beach and nearly deserted.  We walked around for a long time and played a little disc.  We met another American there who was working at the medical research center in Fajara.

That night we went out for pizza at the “Italian Connection” and out on the town.  The bar we went to was called the Youth Monument.  It was just getting started and we didn’t have too much energy, so we left.  Still we had a good evening.

We left the next morning for Kartong, but not before we had brunch at a l\place called the butcher’s shop.  The place is run by a Moroccan, but feels like a deli in the U.S.  the brunch was oddly picnic lunch-y; potato salad, hard-boiled eggs and meaty dishes.  The other customers turned ou to be peace corps volunteers as well, at one point there were only Americans in the place.  Some of them were the crowd that had been there for years and they helped us with some advice for onward travel.

We went down to Kartong beach after that glorious, and expensive brunch.  We stayed at the Bobou beach lodge, in some treehouses.  The Gambians have a precise date for the start of tourist season, Oct. 14th, and so they weren’t quite ready for people.  The treehouses were cool little structures that swayed in the wind.  Beach there was beautiful, too.

The next day we decided yo try to cross the border there.  Lonely Planet says it’s not as easy as it looks on the map.  And it isn’t.  We walked in the hot sun to the river, got a little canoe across and then started walking on the other side.  It was beautiful grasslands spotted with trees.  Then we came on to the villages there.  It was intensely hot and humid as well.  When the sun hits your exposed skin, it actually starts to hurt.  We had pea and bean sandwiches in a little village along the way.  They’re surprisingly good, or maybe we were just hungry.  After 12 kilometers or so, we got to the road and caught a ride into Dialouloum where we hoped to get our passports stamped.

We couldn’t get them stamped there according to the surly policeman.  So, we had to get a taxi up to the usual entry place, Seleti.  There they wouldn’t stamp them because we didn’t have an exit stamp form the Gambia. (We had left knowing there was no one at the immigration checkpoint outside Kartong)  So, now we had to go back into The Gambia to get their stamp.  The guy at the border who had his shirt halfway off, gave us some trouble.  Well, he gave us about as much as we deserved; we were in the wrong and he wasn’t buying the dumb tourist bt.  In the end we paid him only a couple of dollars each to get the stamp.  Then we went back into Senegal and got that stamp.  Along the way we had to change cars for each country.  So, our awesome, independent border crossing was a bit bothersome at the end, but still worth it.

We stayed that night at a village campement.  these are locally owned tourist accommodations.  They weren’t really done with the construction at this place.  Our room had no electricity and was stifflingly hot.  It was a beautiful location ont he side of a wide flooded plain, though.  We slept on the foam mattresses without sheets or pillows.  Two hours after falling asleep, I awoke in a bit of a panic.  It was so hot I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I got up and splashed water all over myself and stood outside for a while to cool off.  Then I was able to get back in bed, still wet and fall asleep again.

We left in the morning fro Ziguinchor, the capital of the Casamance region.  We decided to splurge a little after staying a few nights in quite rustic accommodation.  We stayed at the Hotel Kadiadoumagne.  That word is the name of a rice-planting tool that looks like a long oar.  The hotel is upscale, but has an authentic local feel to it.  In short, it makes you feel colonial.

We took a tour in a tax yesterday to Cap Skiring, where there is another nice beach.  We may have walked into Guinea-Bissau there since it’s right on the border. Then we came back towards Zig and rented mountain bikes at Oussaye.  It took us a long time to find the guy who works at the place, but man, am I glad we did.  We had an awesome ride through the jungle (they call it the foret, but it’s a jungle)  weaving through bushes and vines on a singletrack.  We passed through villages out there and then came to one where the guide’s colleague was at home with his family.  He spoke very good Spanish.  Andrew was grateful.  There must be a lot of Spanish tourists that come here, or came here; everyone guesses that we are Spanish.   The Spanish-speaker made us Senegalese team which is very sweet.  It started raining and we loved it.  The Senegalese must of thought these white guys were crazy standing out in the rain while they took cover in the house.  The rain was cool and refreshing though, after all the muggy heat we had endured.

We continued on through rice fields and peanut fields back to where we rented the bikes.  The cab driver then took us back to the hotel as the evening faded into night.

We had a very nice dinner accompanied by a woman we had met in the cab in the morning.  She is a musician, single mother and businesswoman who speaks English.  That’s rarer than a hen’s tooth around here.  Unfortunately we couldn’t arrange a concert with her and her friends.  It’ll have to wait until next time.

Today we are off to Bissau.  We’ll spend a few days in G-B before heading over to Mali somehow.  But before we leave, I think there is a chance for one more dip in the pool!

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