Elinkine, Senegal

Forgetful at age 35.

Its 3.45pm, 32oC, 80% humidity, and I’m sat at a table under a little straw hut on a beach next to a tributary of the Cassamance river in southern Senegal. Cassamance has been a troubled region. The best way to describe it is it’s a tiny bit like Scotland wanting independence from England only it’s not really the same and it’s been a tad more violent in recent years. The only noticeable thing to us is the very armed army vehicle from time to time and warnings about land mines in various areas. Ultimately it appears that Cassamance is very open for business and more than willing and capable of hosting tourists.

The area is beautiful. Rivers and mangroves everywhere, palm trees, beach lined rivers, small islands, blue skies, lush forests, even dolphins. As I’m sure you are aware, I’m more of a remote nature person than urban talk to strangers type of traveler but, the people here are fantastic, so friendly and welcoming. Up in the north and in The Gambia people would regularly get animated in a negative way if they saw our cameras. Here they rarely decline a photo and the children jump at the chance to have a photo taken. Today (Thursday) a few others and I handed our cameras to some of the kids to play with, they loved it, I didn’t quite so much once they started to find the ‘delete’ button. Yesterday we stopped at some random village and I decided it would be a bright idea to get the football out and have a kick around. This had the potential to lead to carnage and all-out war yet it was all good fun, well behaved and quite remarkably I managed to get the ball back.

It’s not all good fun. The temperature is consistently around 30oC but the humidity is always hovering around 90% which makes doing anything quite unbearable. Last night I even failed to have a good night sleep which is not like me, but it was so stinking hot. That’s pretty much the only thing to be sad about right now! As I write this there is a wonderful breeze coming off the river and some guy has randomly started to play drums in the bar next door. I should mention our crew, as Hatter and Jimmy are the only ones actually working up a sweat, giving the truck a full service. You can’t fault these guys, they have been doing a full service today, wheels off and brakes checked etc.

Our last major town was Ziguinchor, Cassamnce’s capital. It’s probably no bigger than my home town of Ashby. It was here that I nearly overdosed on food, in particular brochette. This is basically a beef kebab but, the restaurant we frequented must have marinated the steak for a good while because it just melted in your mouth, it was delicious. It was also here that we got our Guinea-Bissau visa issued. The phrase ‘no rush in Africa’ is more of a rule than a phrase. Crossing from Senegal to The Gambia took no less than 3 hours and included one of our guys getting a telling off by soldiers with big guns for taking photos on the border. We expected to be at the Guinea-Bissau embassy in Ziguinchor for most the morning obtaining visas. It took a mere 90 minutes and cost a third less than if we had applied in Dakar. The most likely reason for this is that the quicker they issued the visa’s, the quicker they got to go home (at 10.30am). This I must stress is only the author’s personal opinion!

On a final note the social scene really stepped up last night with a hardcore game of scrabble and a total of three beers being drank by me which I believe was matched also by a few other crazy fellow travelers. You may laugh but, staying up till midnight being crazy is a lot of effort after spending the whole day winding down to a state of complete relaxation.

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