Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Senegalese Pin

SENEGAL (Thursday, June 28 - Saturday, July 7 2012)

The pins: St Lewis, Dakar, Sikilo, Kalifourou

Diama- Kalifourou: 950 km in pure African soil.. in the most developed country within the West Africa.. trying to get over the Nouadhibou shock..along with Ghislain, our French co-traveller..

St Lewis
After our first off road experience to reach Diama and Senegalese borders, we headed to St Lewis, the first capital of Senegal since 1902. We landed in the quite famous camping L'Ocean, well known from many overlanders. Car was full of dust, so we spent three days to put everything out and clean it. We were also trying to start thinking positive and get over the Nouadhibou experience. One more time, Ghislain helped a lot with his way. He gave us also some malaria pills to start over the anti-malaria treatment. We tried local fish (capitaine), a great pizza and Senegalese gin. All were great except gin that was a kind of gas oil but Ghislain managed to drink it all! We also had a walk in the city center despite the fact that we were the only white people. Local people told us that it was not a season for tourists. We found out also that there were plenty of white people all closed in their hotel.

Typical Senegalese boat, St Lewis
St. Louis is a quite big city of 100,000 inhabitants who mainly work on fishing and it is very famous as an erotic hub for European girls -especially the ugly ones- who want to find a handsome black partner. Beach is the field where the game takes place..
On Monday morning we headed to Dakar port so as to put everything in order regarding the car's customs documents. They stamped everything and at the end kept the last page of Carnet as they usually do in the borders. One more time, pay attention to the border authorities in Diama and check thoroughly what's on the document they give you back.

CFAO Motors, Dakar
In Dakar, we stayed in the parking of restaurant Sunugal which has also a private beach. Kind of camping and a bit more expensive than L'Ocean. Quite uncomfortable and full of dust as it was close to a working site. We spent all our days in the Senegalese capital so as to get our Guinean and Ivorian visas as well as run a service in Zikos in the CFAO Motors (Exclusive Suzuki Dealer in 18 African countries). They changed the oil engine and managed to fix the electrical stuff that the Mauritanian electrician had previously damaged in his attempt to install the alarm. We had decided, along with Ghislain, not to cross Mali relying on the local people advice and information. We are pretty sure that we could make it at the end -as a lot of travelers tried this way before us- but we all decided not to take any risk for the moment. 

In Dakar, we also got our first fine from the most "polite" policeman we have ever met so far. His funny excuse was that we had transformed our car into a house. Ghislain was really pissed off and he tried several times to change his mind. I did the mistake to give him my driving license and he insisted on paying the fine. At the end, Ghislain made him to give us back the license for 5000 CFA or 7,7 euros that he put in his pocket.

Unfortunately, we did not enjoy Dakar. We could not get over the two broken windows and our stuff that were missing. The funny part is that the cameras they stole are film analogue cameras. That means that nobody would be  interested if they will try to sell them. What is more, they miss the camera's cable for charging the battery. Finally, our medicine is to specialized for them. If anybody will try anything from our stuff, he will suffer for sure. 

Bush camp in Sikilo
Next day, after a unsuccessful attempt to get the Ghanian visa at the same day, we headed south east to Kaolak. Eventually, the road was in a very good condition and we managed to go further. Before getting dark, we decided to wild camp close to Sikilo, a very small village in the countryside. That was our first time in our trip while Ghislain was really used to it (he bush camped in all his Morocco trip except once). It was in Sikilo where Zikos became African. Ghislain found a beef scalp and we put it on the front of the car. That was the highlight of the trip and since then, all local people treated us like hunters or even weird people from another planet. 

Zikos is African
The night was spectacular. For the first time since a long time we saw stars in the sky and from the nearby village we could hear children singing. Even the policeman who dropped us in the midnight, did not spoil our night. One more time, Ghislain did his best. He asked for our papers and our French friend managed to explain him that we just camped there to spend our night.When he asked for our papers, Ghislain told him that it is not good to wake up the couple.. hahahaha.
Next day we did some 315 km in the rain (poor Ghislain) and we managed to reach Kalifourou, the last village before the Senegalese-Guinean borders, where we spent our night. We tried some local food (donuts and lamp bowels), played UNO and went for sleep very early. Ghislain stayed in his tent while we preferred not to open the tent but sleep in the car. Too hot, too wet, too uncomfortable.

Senegalese countryside
Saturday morning, we woke up very early and after 15 minutes we took all stamps in our passports and Carnet and we were ready to move further in Guinea. It was not in our initial plans (Mali & Burkina Faso instead) but we had already decided to do it. In the borders, all officials, both police and customs, were too professionals.

We liked: The colorful Senegalese clothes, the handcrafted boats at St. Louis, the Senegalese countryside after Kaolak, our first night in the Senegalese bush, the donuts in the borders and fish and pizza in St. Louis.
We did not like: The incredible pollution in Dakar from cars and trucks, the policeman who fined us and his funny excuse and the parking-camping Sunugal in Dakar.

Huge baobabs
Senegalese farmers
We saw: Countless acacias and huge baobabs (the "small" trees that Little Prince daily removed from his planet), many villages with friendly locals to plow the earth with their horses and humbly round houses with thatched roofs.

Average price for diesel 1.22 euro
Local currency: CFA franc - Exchange rate: 1 euro ≈ 650 CFA

Toll station in Dakar

Driving in Senegal: All the country's road network is very good (all tarmac). In Dakar, we paid tolls to get in the city center and they are now building a new motorway from Thies to Dakar. We had no problems at roadblocks and probably did not pay any attention to tourists. We had been only stopped once but the policemen wanted to talked to somebody rather than check our paperwork. Generally, it was safe to drive in Senegal. Finally, we have to underline the fact that Senegal is the only country so far that takes care of the road links from Mauritania and Guinea. From Mauritania, they own and make money of a bridge and to Guinea, the road is a brand new tarmac road (40 km length).

Zikos on the way

Car: Zikos had his first service outside Greece in CFAO Motors in Dakar. The Local Manager (Mr Dacunto) helped us a lot and did everything in the same day. We changed the oil engine, we fixed the fridge and the alarm and we checked again the starter (ignition). It seems that we can go further but we need to replace it as soon as we find the spare part. 

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