Wednesday 13th March 2013
Woke up this morning in our hotel room at La Madrague overlooking the sea and Ile de N’gor across the bay. The day was perfectly clear and the view is delightful. We went down to the restaurant and had breakfast (coffee, juice, bread, cake, croissants and pancakes). It sounds better than it actually was – the pancakes are stone cold – but David showed how much he likes cake for breakfast! After breakfast we had to visit the Cote d’Ivoire Consulate in the suburbs and a taxi driver (Pape) took us there for our interview to get our visa. He said he knew where it was and drove to the Consulate area of town – where it wasn’t (shades of Amazing Race) – but asked a few local people and moved on to where it actually was. The drive was interesting – lots of things to see including many horses and carts. The horses all looked healthy and in good condition, unlike those poor things we saw last year in Ethiopia. Eventually we arrived and went through the gate into the grounds and then through a huge front door into the consulate. We were ushered past others sitting in a waiting area into the conference room and asked to wait by a very pleasant young man, who then checked all of our paperwork. He told us that the consul was very busy and would be with us shortly. So we waited for about 15 minutes and the consul came in – he checked the paperwork and we then had our photos and fingerprints taken (Lynn first, then David), then given a copy of the document to bring with us when we returned. The consul told us that the visas would be ready on Friday (2 days – as per their website). As we walked out, David took a wrong turn and started to walk down the Consul’s corridor which gave everyone a laugh but we managed to find the front door and our taxi waiting just down the road. We then went back to the hotel in the taxi and arranged with the driver that he would take us back to the consulate on Friday to pick up our passports and visas. We then sat around and rested and went out later in the day to the town on the main road (N’gor) and bought some food for next day’s lunch, chips and wow! We found some rum and beer in the Shell Service Station in the town. Back to the hotel for a late dinner then to bed with the sound of the sea in our ears. Beautiful day, beautiful place.
Thursday 14th March 2013
Up later today as we didn’t have anything to do except laze around. Down to breakfast late, then went for a walk along the beach, at first to the right where we walked past a very large box-like hotel with a large private beach – but very unattractive, lots of broken pieces of beach furniture – eventually reaching the rocky point where we turned round and walked back the other way. This bay is not very large and once we got past our hotel again we came across several small restaurants on the beach, fishing boats, tied up sheep, and people doing various commercial businesses. As the sea wasn’t fully out we had to judge our forays around fishing boats and Lynn misjudged one and got quite wet. It was a nice walk and we saw many people swimming, playing soccer on the beach, even a horse and cart, pelicans just sitting there doing nothing like us, pretty idyllic really – we decided then we didn’t want to leave. Walked up from the beach and around the back streets, through the village again, bought a baguette to go with the sardines we bought yesterday, teamed with the beer made a pretty good lunch (healthy – had all the elements…..) sat on our balcony and ate it, then read our books (e-readers and paperbacks) and had an earlier dinner than last night. In between we had done a bit of washing and really done pretty much nothing all day. So, all in all, a pretty good day. To bed around 10.30pm.
Friday 15th March 2013
Today the important task of picking up our visas from the Cote d’Ivoire Consulate was happening, so down to breakfast about 8.30am, the day was a little hazy early but very pleasant. At 10am our driver Pape was waiting for us as arranged and took us to the consulate again, although today there was something happening in Dakar and some roads were closed off and there were many gendarmes lining the road at intervals of about 250 metres so something was afoot. The road we had turned off at on Wednesday was closed so we had to detour and finally arrived at the Cote d’Ivoire Consulate, walked in, met the same young man who greeted us the other day and he gave us our passports with visas duly inserted, so task completed. We walked outside and our taxi was being washed so we sat next to the taxi driver on a seat provided and chatted about this and that (in French with our trusty French dictionary to hand) and had a very pleasant time. He then drove us back to the hotel, after which we walked back down to the village and armed with more sardines and a baguette we then had lunch in our room on the balcony. There was some excitement as what appeared to be some soldiers (about 40 of them) were doing an exercise in our bay. Half were jumping in to the water off a jetty and the other half starting from the beach and were swimming out to the island where they were being picked up. We were worried for some of them as they must have been pretty poor swimmers (but sensibly all had life jackets on) and were having difficulty negotiating the crossing. Finally, however they all made it. Lynn followed their progress with the binoculars and was happy that they all made it even though the last one must have become very confused as he swam in the wrong direction for a while… Lynn also watched a sheep being washed in the sea. After lunch, we had decided that we were going for a walk to go to the westernmost point on the African continent, which coincidentally is only about 4 km from where we are staying. So we set off at about 3.15pm and walked down to the village (about 500m away) and then headed down the main road and then turned off towards the beach. The walking on the main road is very good exercise as the pavement is quite high off the road but all driveways are road level. Consequently every few metres you have to step down about 40cms to the next driveway, then up 40cms to the pavement again once across the driveway – excellent leg exercise! Near the westernmost place (Pointe de Almadies) is the United States Embassy and Consulate – fair dinkum, this is the most monstrous place we have seen. On the way down this street, there were many large businesses and hotels as well as the Libyan Consulate. We walked through the market but could not quite find our way through to the path that led out to the point, so we doubled back around the US Embassy and then had to walk into a hotel to ask how we reached the path. The receptionist told us to go out around the US Consulate and then cross the sand on the beach and climb over the rocks to get there. We ignored all that and walked straight through the hotel grounds to get there. Nobody except a couple of divers fishing with spear guns and a cat were there, so we took some photos and then walked back along the road towards the town. We quickly looked in a supermarket complex and then when we walked out the police had all the traffic stopped and there was this huge motorcade came past where we were standing on the side of the road. Apparently the king of Morocco is visiting Senegal and he, along with about 100 other cars full of dignitaries, secret service and assorted hangers on drove by in limousines, 4 wheel drives together with many police cars and media vehicles. Some of the men (all men of course) in the cars had amazing uniforms on, bright red with golden bits and pieces. It was quite exciting actually. We then walked on towards our hotel, turned left at the Shell Service station and had immediately left the bitumen behind. Here, as soon as you leave the main road you are on sand. Soon back to the hotel where we decided to have a drink before dinner. We hadn’t realised but the hotel was holding a Spanish Themed dinner complete with paella for a set charge (more than we wanted to pay). They were unsure what to do with us guests who just wanted a ‘normal’ dinner but very soon 2 other groups like us had arrived and they ended up seating us in the inside part of the restaurant and those who wanted the Spanish dinner in the outdoor part. They even moved the loudspeaker so we couldn’t hear as easily the African/Spanish music. Sadly I don’t think the evening was a huge success as we only saw one couple in the ‘spanish’ area and as we were leaving after dinner the staff invited us to listen to the music. We declined pleasantly as we knew we would be able to hear it from our room and, in fact, drifted off to the sounds of djembe and bongo drums playing Spanish tunes….
Saturday 16th March 2013
Up late today – really getting lazy – down for breakfast. In the morning we walked along the main road towards the village of Yoff but we didn’t quite reach there and turned around and came back. We had decided to not go the whole way as the guidebook said that Yoff is a strict Muslim area and we didn’t have our arms or legs fully covered. It was an interesting walk though and we went up and down some interesting streets and even saw some people unpacking crates of bicycles and tools – their car had an ad for ‘Cycle Africa 2013’. We had our usual lunch of baguette, sardines and beer then in the late afternoon went for a walk on the beach both ways. The beach near the village is quite dirty with a deal of broken glass and food scraps. Streets also have lots of rubbish and we have seen people just chucking their rubbish down or out of bus windows. There were many boys playing soccer on the beach and also swimming in the sea. The boys here are quite tall and mostly very slim, probably from running around all day. There is always a lot of things happening – while we were walking, a couple of boats came ashore from the Ile de N’gor just across the bay. One was filled with Chinese tourists and the other was even more crowded with tourists returning after having been at the island all day. Everyone seemed pretty happy – the tourists are mostly French and they lay in the sun getting burnt all day. We walked on back to our hotel for an aperitif prior to dinner. Dinner was much quieter tonight (no Spanish music) and we were in bed by around 10pm.
Sunday 17th March 2013
Excitement today as we had decided to take the public bus to the city, so down to breakfast for our usual croissants and cake (David), cold pancakes (Lynn) plus coffee, juice (this morning the orange juice tasted strangely as though it had been mixed in with the ginger juice), rolls, cheese, more cakes and fruit. Something for everyone really….. After breakfast we walked up to the village and waited for the bus (it had to be Ligne 3 Petersen) so we waited while about 6 other buses went by until ours came along. The fare was 250francs (about 50 Australian cents) each and the bus stopped many times on the way to pick up and also to drop off passengers. It went off the main road a few times into villages so we got quite a good tour for our money. We didn’t really know where Petersen was when we set off, but it turned out to the market area and after about an hour on the bus, we arrived at Gare du Petersen (our French is getting better). A man who was on the bus with us asked us where we were going and we said – to the Place de l’Independence and the Presidential Palace. He showed us which direction to walk and walked with us a few blocks and showed us where to turn off. The walk took us through more market areas with lots of assorted shops and stalls. We arrived at the Place de l’Independence which was fairly ordinary and much smaller than we had anticipated. As today is Sunday, the streets round the place were fairly quiet. A few people were sitting around and a few vendors asked did we want to buy paintings, watches, phone refills and the like. We are quite good at saying “Non merci” by now but they still try. We then walked towards the Presidential Palace which looked more like we expected for a Palace, took a few photos and then walked back the way we came (so we didn’t get lost). On the way back we had a beer in a bar (so we could use their facilities) and then continued our walk back towards Petersen. Unbelievably on the way, a Dragoman truck Madge (must be the one we will be travelling in after tomorrow) drove up the street down which we were walking. We couldn’t quite believe what we had just seen and continued walking. We reached the bus station just in time to catch a Ligne 3 bus back to our village at N’gor. About an hour later after many starts and stops we arrived back at the village. We had been interested to watch the behaviour on the bus – younger people stood up for women and older men – also money was passed back from passenger to passenger to the conductor and the ticket and any change passed forward by the same method. All very polite. We by now know our area very well and got off when we saw our local shops, walked back to our hotel, after which we then had a late lunch – baguette, small amount of cheese and some crisps then relaxed in our room for the rest of the afternoon, before an aperitif, then dinner. Having seen the city we feel very pleased that we had spent the week at the beach rather in the city because there was almost nothing to see and we would have spent the week in our room rather than having the nice walks we have enjoyed.