Out of Mali, via the "first region".
Bamako, Auberge Djamilla, after the festival, after a week looking after the Land Rover (and I think all is done). Djamilla is such a nice and friendly place indeed, African music all day, wireless internet access and cold beer, Fanny, Nico, Johann, Ibrahim and so many others. We watch the final matches of the Ghana African Cup of Nations, 2008 (oh yes, I had the plan to be right there) and while I work the Segou Festival sur le Niger images of Mangala Camara and Habib Koité and Salif Keita and Bassekou Kouyaté Hasna has taken over the auberge's cuisine and this is good for all of us, Germans and Austrians, Mauris and Moroccans, French and English.
We stay 2 weeks in the Auberge. For the boys Daniel and David, just a year old, this is then already more then 20 days in Africa. Enough time for them to get accustomed we wish to think but diarrhea has been an issue right from the beginning. Dirty fingers, from crawling around, sucking on overripe mangoes, eating bananas without taking the skin off. However they are in undeniably good shape, have eaten and drunk really well always. 4 huge dogs in the auberge make life very exiting for them and Aisha, our nanny here is an angel. We would find many more Aishas and other nannies on our way but none would be as good as this one.
We try to leave. The electrics of the car, passport/visa problems and a fevery David however push us back another few days. We ride out of town on 23rd of Feb 2008, during midday heat. Yes this dry season that yields top temperatures beyond 40 during the day is going to last for many more months. But nights are still fairly cold, these great nights' sleep, with a breeze of air floating in on one side, out on the other side. And Daniel and David, - still on Diarrhea.
Via Kati and Kita where they stop us to pay a council tax of 1,000 Fcfa (1,5 Euros). Stupid tax. But then why not. Finances those round abouts. Past Kita onto dirt roads. The dust is really what we all will suffer from once in Senegal, not just Dan and Dave. But scenery is beautiful, villagers friendly. A cold bath in a basin for the boys wherever there is a water well. We had the plan to reach Kayes but then when progress seems to be slow again during midday heat, we take the turn over the Balfing some 40km before Manantali. It is another 100km over bad roads in hilly terrain far away from civilisation. I am used to solitude, - but the boys? They cope well with the heat, the dust, swings of the vehicle on uneven roads, and in general with tooo many hours inside/on the road. And they'd better get used to all of that really quickly.
Kiniéba, last town in Mali, further it goes on bad roads towards the Senegal border where we cross another tributary of the Senegal river. Water is knee deep and I understand why you wouldn't get through here during the rainy season.
Police stamps us in, no bribes as if this is normal for the Senegal. What did I have head ache coming back to Senegal. And I pushed it further out on my agenda again and again.
Further on dirt roads, this is wild Africa, a horde of 50 monkeys, baboons maybe, set over just in fron of us. Lots of other wild animals are supposed to roam here freely, buffaloes, dear, - and leopards which one never gets to see.
In Kédougou, back on sealed roads, customs formalities for the car are cheap, easy, a completely straight affair. Why was I oh so afraid reentering Senegal?
After all the dust we relax a day in Yves' Relais in Kédougou. There is a pool and wireless internet (which they don't know about) and a bar/restaurant. The kids are on diarrhea, Hasna fevery, caughing. The dust.
There are other tourists, older and more obese then us, call themselves hunters. On hunting safari, soo far away from civilisation, and after the wild buffalo. 2 weeks, all inclusive, all organised. I have never understood those who hunt for something else than meat.
And, I only realise after a while, there is no music. Auberge Djamilla was afloat of it all day. "The (old) French don't want music". The nice place right on the Gambia river is a bit dead.
Casamace, back in Kafountine.
Via Tambacounda (some places don't change) and Kolda and Bignona we reach Kafountine, on the Atlantic Ocean. We have already been through Kafountine Oct 2005.
This time we are chez Malika, our friend from the Mali festivals. English, married to Chico for 25 years, she moved to the Casamance (wiki) a long time ago - and has become more African then many others I have met on my travels.
Malika (Anna Berau) trades in artisanat and African musical instruments, she loves African music, ran a music school for a while, is well connected here. One day Bakari Kouteh (his myspace) and Californian Steve Pile come by. Bakari is Gambian, a Kora virtuoso, Steve, guitar pro, over to learn play the kora, this 21 or so stringed callabash, a harp-like instrument with its magical sound. In my dreams I can still hear Bakari play for us.
At Malika we eat all those deliciouse Senegalese dishes, from Tiébou dienne (fish and rice cooked in vegetable/fish soup), to Yassa (Onion, mustard based), to Maffe (peanut, arachides paste based).
But what I am looking for in Kafountine is really the beach, that I have been longing for. The boys are a bit cautious in the beginning, it is a risky new environment.
The Senegalese South at the ocean, is still lush green, beautiful even during this dry season.
And I forgot - police has been friendly, customs and other officialdom have not asked for bribes. Our Passavant is extended for a hand shake in Ziguinchor. Or, maybe they have just let us go when we have arrived with twin baby boys. Or at least so-far.
Of course there is a story waiting to be told, as Senegal's always good for a corrupt police story. But wait a bit.
Cap Skirring, Djembering, Elinkine, Karobane, the beach.
We head to the southern beaches of the Casamance around Cap Skirring and Djembering. Irene comes to visit us, and we go there again and to Elinkine and the island of Karabane. The boys, especially Daniel like the pirogue trips, whether motorised or by sail. With Mamadou in Elinkine we eat delicouse charcoal grilled Oysters.
In Djembering holidaying French fishermen give us either their catch or the shrimps they use as bait or both. So we have Red Carp and Scampi/Crevettes on charcoal on one day, moon fish for Tiébou dienne on another day. On the beach driftwood is plenty. It makes for a good campfire and charcoal. And it lights the night. At least on our first stay all is pitch dark. Even the stars are only visible in the zenith, the rim is too humid, no light breaks through, no moon either. Spooky.
On our second visite the moon is again a crescent. Sheds its light again. I have long understood why he has such an importants down here.
African boys on the beach.
Fromager, Silk Cotton Trees, Kapok.
Huge trees, Baobabs and Fromagers is the really impressing thing down here.
The baobabs (pain de singe, Affenbrotbaum) are common eleswhere, but the Fromagers, it seems are just from here.
Foam on the beach.
Senegal, a corrupt police story.
On 13th of March 2008 we leave via Zighuinchor for the border to Guinea Bissau and finally not even a kilometre before it, the Senegalese police (or at leat 2 of their agents) do what they are known for. Hassle us for an hour. I know the guy, he searched us the other day. Got through all our private wallets and hand bags. On all my tyravels no-one ever searched my wallet.
Then I thought, "what is he after?" Drugs?
This time after initially showing him my customs paper (passavant), I refuse, block completely, I refuse to let him search us again, dig into our private affairs. He is the crook, and he is part of a system of crooks, he has to collect bribes, for the bosses and the bosses deliver to their bosses. I can smell the plot, he is dangerous, he can put a little pack of drugs in your vehicle, then claim it has been yours and put you behind bars for days or weeks. "Even years!" he laughs.
But he is weak as well, he has no power against you when you are steadfast, smile, stay cool, even threaten back: "If you keep me here, you will remember this day for many years to come".
After an hour, where he comes up with racist comments, and "Stay where you are, we don't want you here" rubbish, where they refuses to give their names, the crooks let us go, the thing they don't want is creating problems. The crooks' bosses don't like problems either.
Well, again sad, sad that this is what we mostly talk about, overland travellers, when we talk about Senegal.
The saying is, "to Senegal you only go once." I have come again. Will I come again?
Stay tuned, Guinea Bissau is beautiful, greener, wet lands less destroyed, so much lies there to be discovered. And the police and customs smile. We even manage to enter without a visa.
Oh and I nearly forgot, the boys have been without diarrhea for aa week.