By now we like Senegal/Gambia, both of them, as Senegambie is a dream for just a few..
Imagine a border-crossing that takes just 30 minutes and no one wants any money from you. Leave The Gambia for the Casamance and this is just what you get.
Casamance is the green region of Senegal just south of Gambia, rich of palm trees and rice fields. The vast delta of the stream with the same name is all lined by mangroves forests, It has shaped lots of smaller and bigger islands with its nesting places for a huge variety of tropical birds.
Something changes after the border crossing. Is it the farness from Dakar? Is it the fact that Christians and Muslims make for fairly mixed society here? Zinguinchor, we learn, has the only (or first?) mixed cemetery in Senegal.
Or is it us? Who have finally tanked in enough African air and survived a down turn in the travel cycle (malaria/police/hustlers) and apparently have now all the new found energy to enjoy this great continent.
Whatever! Casamance is as far south as we would like to go this time (the plan is to head back to Mauritania and come back 2006).
We get to Kafountine at the coast via Diouloulou by October the 18th. In Eric's Camping Esperanto we meet Fodil (F), Olivier and Marie (B) and Roger (NL).
Olivier and Marie have booked Simon for a guided boat tour to one of the birds islands for pelican watching the next morning and quickly everyone agrees to undertake the trip together. (Especially, we, do not have a great plan not to mention a guidebook for Senegal).
So this is 7 people in the Land Rover, to Kassel, where we take to the pirogue under captain Augustine Diatta.
Probably a waste of energy to take pictures at mid day. Especially as I am still not in control re my white balance issue. But you always learn something new, like dynamic auto focus.
We get back after about two hours. Kassel is firmly in Christian hands. Where we go on shore there is a little cafe, serving beers and soft drinks and some palm tree schnapps.
A smoothly distilled spirit. I have not had such a fine one for a while. And sure not at one o'clock in the afternoon in the middle of Ramadan.
Children, all around in Kafountine.
Children that look into my lens from 5 centimetres (or less). A new experience taking pictures.
After 2 nights in the Esperanto Camping we leave with Fodil for Ziguinchor. Fodil is about 60 and pensioner from Paris. He usually spends half his year travelling. Usually 3 month in India, the other 3 month somewhere else.
He's done that for many, many years, if not all his life. Eye opening, to see him talk about his experiences.
There is still so much to do on this planet.
After three nights and days together we go separate paths. He is heading for Dakar to catch a plane home.
Hasna and I want to go back north via the Senegal, east of Gambia. Tambacounda is our next stop.
We get to Tambacounda. The National Park is so near. Beyond it, the region to the border of Guinea and Guinea itself, all areas we would like to go to. All supposed to be the original/aboriginal Africa.
But Niokolo Koba is a bit of a waste of time this time of the year. We kind of have sensed that before getting here. Still rainy season, the grass is high, to high for game viewing.
And the territory is vast, even in the dry season you hardly get to see one of the 30 or so lions, tells us our guide. And I don't like guides, guides that tell you all the time to be careful. But the policy here is to put a guide in your vehicle/or - don't see their great National Park.
And the guide makes sure you return before sunset, gets you moving all the time. No time for watching these monkeys. All in all a stressful 5 hour undertaking for 25 Euros.
Taking the dirt road from Tambacounda north (on 23rd of Oct) is more the adventure we are looking for. And this can be undertaken without a guide. And allows for extended bird viewing.
The road/the vegetation/the weather.
The road starts out nicely. But eventually we encounter some water.
Enough to make the trip impossible for bush taxis, nothing serious for the Land Rover.
But even we would not manage more then 60km on our first day.
When we set up for camp, a storm builds up quickly, forces us to stay inside and count the seconds between lightening and thunder ...
... - and hope that Michael Faraday (wiki) was right.
Some leftover of Kevin's whisky, and there we sit and watch the pouring and lightening and count ....
Savanna, Sahel. We have left the green tropics. Getting from one climate zone to the other is done surprisingly swiftly. Vegetation changes from a lush green to quite a lot drier.
Camp the 2nd day. And we have gone only 200km north from Niokolo Koba.
Getting off in villages is the experience we are looking for. People are as curious about us as we about them. And they show it.
Mohamed in Debe speaks excellent French. "I am the Marabou here".
In that function he is the religious leader (he is the Imam). He is also the head of the village for all civil/social/health matters. He represents the intelligencia.
His personality shapes a village. Whether people laugh/are in good spirit, whether there is a lot of tension/mobbing/quarreling, whether there is rubbish all around, whether villagers are of good health/have bright, shiny teeth. The villagers' fate depends on their Marabou.
They are digging a water hole, 60m their current depth. Some more to go. With picks and shovels. Just one is working at a time, lowered down to the ground of the hole while sitting on a shovel that is tied to the robe, all digging then is done by hand. Excavations are being pulled up by 2 donkeys.
Cementation and all casing is again done by hand. Hard work under extreme conditions. I cannot say/only guess what the light and air conditions on the ground of the well are.
Some accident is reported to us. Already some weeks ago. A stone hit a man right in his eye while he was working his pick at the bottom of hole.
Really I am not getting the light and the colours right. Weather conditions are difficult. But there is room for improvement.
Landy and Hasna crying for a break.
It's Hasna's turn. Malaria, we suspect when she shows signs of fever and weakness the night in Camp2. The doctor in Raméron, a village about 200km north of Tambacounda shares our suspicion, prescribes the usual Couartem tablets.
The same for Moussa, a guy who we have given a lift for the last 30km. It's still the "season". Apparently. I just hope that I can escape it this time.
Giving a lift has become the norm on these last 2 days through the bush. There is always someone, a mothers with baby, sick person, semi elderly who carries nothing but a kitchen knife ..., in need for a lift from here to there. They're as happy as can be.
And natural guides for us.
So in Raméron on Oct 25th we cut short our adventure and decide to return to St.Louis/Zebrabar.
But it is not just Hasna who needs some rest. The Landy that has held together well for all these month since England really, starts showing true sings of wear. Especially on these last 400km where I push it hard to get to St.Louis as quickly as possible. A noise from the front-left wheel, the middle-left wheel, some other noises underneath. There will be a lot to investigate.
But to top things up, while we push to get back, with Hasna suffering from her Malaria, the middle left suspension comes loose (washers brake) and causes the spring to jump out halfway. We manage to put everything back in place within and hour and a half. Bear in mind Hasna, malaria and the 4 p.m. heat. I am quite proud of my girl.
A puncture (middle-right) after midnight slows us down even further. But eventually we reach Zebrabar at 3 a.m. the 26th of October.
The idea is to stay a couple of days, repair the vehicle, and continue our journey in Mauritania, then Mali, ...
Back in Zebrabar
But it should come different. While we enjoy the beer and company of interesting people, travelers and others, the daily swim in the lagoon and Hasna's way of doing the cuisine, the Landy is indeed getting scrutinised daily. Thanks at first to Andreas, later primarily to Cristian. And many problems we find.
So we change the front-left hub bearing (it is squashed), we change a couple of break pads (already iron on iron in one case) and Cristian manages to repair the 6x6 box lever (did not wnat to disengage anymore) and the central differential block lever (was going hard since our entry in Senegal).
Hasna (malaria is a thing of the past within a few days) spends her days looking and searching for and preparing the meals. From the Senegalese she picks up quickly what bait catches good fish.
And she wants to catch a rabbit, at night with a torch. So-far without success, but who knows.
And she conducts the Cous-Cous for 25 party, the biggest ever staged Cous-Cous dinner in Zebrabar. Extra large portions for Cristian and myself, goes without saying.
Moroccan technique that works, - we are carrying a lot of that stuff.
There is always two sides in life. It's not all about food and fishing for me and my Land Rover.
Some weeks into our life at Zebrabar I am discovering that I've got two types (size) of prop shafts with different sizes of U-joints fitted to my Land Rover. Well the Land Rover has a total of 3 prop shafts (6 U-joints). And I'm carrying only spares for one. And a total of 3 U-joints need replacing.
That should set us back by yet another week. I know, I had a choice in life a long time ago and I chose then I wanted to become a semi-professional mechanic.
So lets order new parts via DHL.
And I think that it is really about time to leave here, and even if that is just for a week. maybe to Dakar, some Charwarmas, some new surrounding. What a great idea!
On Monday 14th of November we leave with Cristian and Ursula for Dakar. What a great idea!