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Ω2

Senegal: Sub-Saharan Africa has opened up before us!

   It is well known that the borders between Mauritania and Senegal are guarded by some of the most corrupted officers of all borders in Africa. Travelers are frustrated and are obliged to pay a fortune in bribes. That was the reason we decided to cross the border through Diama, instead of Rosso which has the worst reputation. Unfortunately, we sadly realized that the officers in Diama have copycatted the style of their colleagues in Rosso, with the situation being tragic there as well.

   Both on Mauritanian and on Senegal side, they were asking 10 euros for every stamp they were putting on our passports and on the custom office’s documents. We knew how things work before reaching the border, so we were ready to deal with it patiently. On the Mauritanian side we managed to skip bribing. On the Senegalese side, however, a ruthless officer was keeping our papers and would not give them back unless we paid the money he demanded!

Working on a tree log in order to make a pirogue.

   From the moment we set foot in Senegal it was obvious that we had reached the Sub-Saharan Africa. The scenery of the desert gave its place to savannah, the locals with the Arabic characteristics were replaced by the black people of West Africa, while the culture that we encounter is much different.

The garbage cart going from house to house is quite a luxury in Africa…

   We made our first stop in Saint-Louis, where we were hosted by a French guy, Samuel, and his two Senegalese flatmates, Bouba and Baye. We are really grateful to these guys, as they made as forget all about our nasty experience at the border and took us straight into the essence of the Senegalese culture, just to make us realize that most of the Senegalese who do not wear a uniform are wonderful people, smiling, with great sense of humor and full of energy!

Studying the Quran outside the Grand Mosque of Saint-Louis.

   Just a few hours after having arrived in Saint-Louis, we took our motorcycles and went over some friends of these guys. Everybody was gathered in a room. Most of the people there were musicians, so it was not long before they took their guitars and drums and started playing. What a fascinating experience that was! Their music had such an energy… Here “Angie” and “Dust in the wind” were not part of the menu… Not that we don’t like these songs but these people were playing genuine African music and we were surprised to hear our beloved “Tajabone” of the Senegalese Ismaël Lô. The exceptional music of Senegal that you are most likely to listen to is called “mbalax”. It’s a mix of Cuban beat along with African drums! Men, women and children were dancing rapturously! We were struck by how much men and women are being mingled here. This is quite a difference compared to North Africa.

   After a couple of hours, women prepared dinner for everyone. They laid a few tablecloths on the floor and brought three big, stainless steel platters. We all sat on the floor around them and ate using our hands. They even brought us some homemade juices to drink. Everything was great! After dinner, we said goodbye to everyone and left, as we were whacked after such a long day…

Just a few hours after having entered Senegal, we found ourselves amongst a cheerful party of musicians!

   Saint-Louis was founded in 1659 on an isle of Senegal River and it was the first French settlement in Africa. Grid town planning and European architecture indicate that it is no ordinary African town. The house where we were being hosted was situated on one of the most picturesque spots of the area. It was on the peninsula, south of the town, built literally on the seaside. We spent endless hours gazing at the Atlantic Ocean while in the night we were sleeping with the window open, so that we could hear the soothing sound of the waves, something that we had missed a lot…

The seaside in front of the house where we were being hosted was the view we were enjoying for many hours every day…

   It was there where I found out that, quite strangely, the tube of the rear tyre of my motorcycle was punctured. That was very surprising, as I had installed an ultra heavy duty tube, with every modern control and self-programming system! When I took it off, I found out that a crumple had occurred and there was a small puncture there. I went over a local repair shop and witnessed something unbelievable… The workman stitched the puncture with needle and thread! He put on top a soft, sticky rubber and then pressed the tube for five minutes on a custom made press, where he had adjusted one of those old flatirons working with charcoals, the ones that our grannies were using for ironing clothes. The rubber soon melted and became one with the tube. I was very anxious to see if this technique would actually work. Indeed, after so many days the tyre has not lost its air pressure! Repair cost: 3 euros!

Restaurant at Yoff, the independent Muslim quarter of Dakar, where there are no government officials, it is self-administering and crime is unheard.

   After 134 days on the road, we arrived in Dakar! I guess we did not windup first, did we? Nevertheless, it seems to me that we did a good time for the Thessaloniki – Dakar route! I remember every magic moment of each day… In the suburbs of the capital we are being hosted by Wilson, a Nigerian guy with a big heart, who has migrated to Senegal and he sells shoes on the streets. He lives in a simple neighbourhood with filthy alleys, in the house of a warm Senegalese family that has adopted us.

With Wilson, the Nigerian guy who is hosting us in the suburbs of Dakar, and his friend whom he calls ”father”.

   It was time to take care of our motorcycles. We found two good rear tyres and we welded Christina’s aluminium water tank, which was cracked after so many falls in the vast lands of Sahara. We also made some other small repairs and we are now ready to continue our trip to the south!

The picturesque Gorée Island which for many slaves was the final stop before arriving to the Americas, if they had made it through the hard trip across the ocean…


 

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