Day 66-70: St. Louis to Dakar
After the good reports Tomas’ friend Craig gave us about this place we simply had to stay at the Zebrabar. An amazing campsite run by Ursula, Martin and their two kids on the beach south of St. Louis. After a slow start in the morning we went to tackle the 48 hour problem. Ursula said we should go and see the colonel in town about an extension. He could either be in the south or north office and we should bring an official letter. At the south office there was this really unfriendly guy, telling us it was a no-go and we had to go to Dakar immediately. As soon as he left the office we entered this colonel’s office and he told us we should go to the other office in the north. OK, couldn’t they have told us that half an hour ago. In the north office they were much more pleasant and were happy to give us a 10 day extension as long as we paid 10.000 CFA, as if we had a choice.. At least now we had all the time to reach Dakar and walked around a bit in st. Louis, which is spread out over a couple of islands and has a nice old colonial center. In the evening we went back for some drinks and live music for which st. Louis is famous. Had some mojito’s at Flamingo bar and stumbled on an open air live concert of a local male choir in the middle of the street! When we arrived back on the campsite we saw we where finally joined by 2 other overland trucks. So far we almost had every campsite to ourselves, which was quite remarkable and a bit boring. The next day we socialized a bit with the Dutch and English couple, which both seemed much more organized than we are. But we got some really good tips and I could do something in return by stitching John up when he got attacked by his highjack lift (ouch!). As it was weekend it wasn’t much use to go to Dakar already seeing that all the embassies (to get visas) are closed, so we stopped at Lac Rose some 40 km before. It is a lake, containing 10 times more salt than the sea, which apparently gives it a pink color. Maybe there was a slight pink shimmering, maybe not, but we still enjoyed lying at the pool at Chez Salim and talking to a group of crazy Dutchmen who were about to start a 5500km push bike journey to Accra.
Day 71-77: not too bad to be stuck in Dakar
On Sunday we drove into Dakar. An excellent choice since it meant virtually no traffic in a normally chaotic African capital. We parked our car at the back entrance of the luxurious Pullman hotel to make sure it was safe and walked to the port to get the ferry to Goree island. This small island 20 min away from Dakar had been the place from which slaves from all over Africa were deported to the Americas. Full of history and a fine example of how the Dutch (amongst others) were misbehaving in the past. It has a lot of nice colonial buildings, a fort, the maison d’esclaves (slave house) and a nice beach worth a day’s visit. We hadn’t really figured out where we were gonna sleep that night and finding a place to camp in a big city is always a problem. Luckily our Dutch friends from the zebrabar gave us an address and so we ended up staying at Voile d’or, a resort next to the port (not the nicest location for a hotel) where you were allowed to camp. It was great to catch up with our friends who were already staying there a couple of nights and came to the conclusion that the resort was also being used as a brothel, nice.. The place was decent enough for one night as we hoped not to stay in Dakar longer then necessary. I guess we didn’t expect necessary being as long as it was, because not all the chores on our Dakar list went as smooth as estimated; We first went to the Nigerian embassy. According to fellow travellers it would be an impossible mission, but we were not discouraged that easily. Even though we were not Senegalese resident (which is one of the requirements) our applications we still accepted after handing over our reservation at the Abuja Sheraton hotel (which we made 10 min before and cancelled after we printed the confirmation). It would take 48 hours to process (bummer) so we decided to go to the petite coast in the meantime. But first we had to go past the local Landrover dealer because we’d found out the day before that the radiator had started leaking again. Patching it up again wasn’t an option but getting a new radiator would cost us 800.000 CFA (1300 euro’s!!). We put in some more magical Mauritanian metal dust and hoped the problem would go away. The petite cote was a nice escape from Dakar and we found a nice beach side resort (terre d’Afrique) that allowed us to camp on their ground. So we frolicked in the sea for two days waiting for our visa, life was good! Until we learned that the Nigerian consul requested a meeting with us (not a good sign) and all the cooling fluid had disappeared over night.. On the way back to Dakar we had to stop every 20 minutes to attend to the radiator situation. On the bright side, the meeting with the Nigerian consul was a success, the nicest official so far. He just wanted to know what our plan was and who we were and what kind of visa we would be needing. He gave us his business card and our passports with a 30 day tourist visa, so much for that being impossible! We gave Martin of the zebrabar a ring to see if he knew a reliable mechanic in Dakar and so we met Marc, another Swiss who had been living in Senegal for 20 years and had his own garage. They took out the radiator and decided it was beyond fixing. So the radiator went to another workshop to get new membranes, which would take 2 days.. Marc had some overlanders staying at his garage before and told us it would be no problem if we would sleep in our rooftop tent in the garage, another new experience. So we slept at the garage the first two nights and got invited to a thanksgiving diner at Marc’s friends. It was a great mix of Senegalese and expat people; everybody was super friendly and the turkey delicious. On Friday the radiator was back and looked tiptop. We were all packed up and ready to go and just went for a small test round when we realized the brakes were still not good even though they replaced the vacuum pomp hose. According to the mechanic it could only be the vacuum pomp, which we just had replaced 2 months ago!! It meant we had to stay until Monday to get a new vacuum pomp. The garage was fine for two days but we were not really looking forward to spend the whole weekend there. We called Marta an Aziz, people we met at Thanksgiving, who own a surf camp and maybe would have a spare room for us to crash. So for the second time this trip we treated ourselves to real bed and great company. For 20 euros it included breakfast and dinner and we were even brought along to another party, housewarming this time. During the day we went to Yoff beach en Ngor island to work on our tan and read a book and Tomas decided it was time for a haircut. Aziz took him to his local hairdresser and Tomas came back looking like a skinhead! We had our last dinner from the big common plate at the surfcamp before we had to go back to the garage to make sure they would start fixing our car in the early morning.The next day the new vacuum pomp was fitted and the brakes worked like clockwork! And again we were ready to finally leave Dakar. But of course as soon as we were about to set off they realized the brake lights were on constantly..so we spent another day sitting in the garage waiting for this new part to be glued (!) in. Thanks to Marc and the guys it did go as fast as possible, so if you have a car problem in Dakar, go and pay them a visit!
Day 78-80: The road to Mali
We were keen on driving to Mali asap, so we went as far as daylight allowed us and bushcamped somewhere along the N1 road. The guidebooks were all warning about the worst potholes, but they were dated 2008 and the tarmac was picture perfect. The next day we decided to make a stopover in the Niokola-Koba nature park. Arriving at the gate we had to pay entrance fees for ourselves and the car and had to get an obligatory guide for 10.000 CFA per day. We only wanted to stay there that afternoon and tomorrow morning but still had to pay for two full days! The park was densely overgrown and it was therefor difficult to spot any animals. We saw a couple of antilopes, warthogs and marabou birds and at the Simenti waterhole we even spotted a huge crocodile sunbathing on the riverbank. We spent the night at the campement Lion where you could hear the hippo’s bathing and grunting in the night. The next morning we were troubled by monkeys who were after our breakfast (succesfully) and we drove to the small Niokola river for some fishing. During the time Tomas was prepping his rod our guide already caught the first fish (with only a line and hook). Tomas first attempt resulted in catching the tree on the other side of the steam and before he got it released our guide caught the second fish. In the end we left with a score of three fishes; Guide 3-Tomas and Frederieke 0.. The way out of the park was even more dense and branches of bamboo were hitting Fiona left and right even knocking down our extra lights on the roof. In the mean while we were also dodging bush fires, apparently set deliberately to cut down the overgrowth so the tourists could see the animals better. We dropped our guide off at the exit and the cheeky bastard had the nerve to ask for even more than the 23.000 CFA (35 euro’s) for 2 half days of sitting in the back of our car. We cut up a watermelon for lunch and were immediately under monkey attack again. The were so aggressive that one if them stuffed its face in a piece of mellon while Tomas was still cutting it (and screaming like a girl). We hid in the car with the windows rolled up, being caged in like animals and eating the remains.
The road to Kedougou was ready to be tarred but in a very good condition. From Kedougou onwards the road was of european quality but to our surprise we didn’t see more then a couple of passing trucks. It made us wonder if the bridge at the border was open. At Moussala we had the passports stamped but the officer told us the custom office which deals with the carnet was in Saraya, 50 km’s back! We were not in the mood to drive back and somehow Tomas convinced him to stamp it anyway (it still believe it is the new scary skinhead hairdo that did the trick) and we went over the bridge to Mali.
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Day 66-70: St. Louis to Dakar