The beginning of an adventure
The hackathon for improving the tax administration in Senegal is over. We leave “the prison” of our five-star hotel in Dakar. Time to see real life on the streets of the capital.
The first difference is the intense sweating – on our way to the b&b we sweat more times than for the three days of exposure to five-star air conditioners. Narrow, but paved streets in the embassy neighborhood (seems so) gave us hope that we will be far away from the main road and its poisonous emissions. The latter did not fit into our notions of 5 stars, but was present anyway.
The sudden power outages, too. We read in some blogs from 2014 that it was normal for Dakar the electricity to go down suddenly. During our first three days stay we definitely enjoyed the sudden outages with subsequent switch to backup generators, sometimes without subsequent switch to backups – very sad for all the 80 people in the conference room. And we did not know that at the luxury hotel will be our last power outage in Senegal, surprisingly and despite of all expectations.
The reality of Dakar
The good thing about our new hotel is it’s located in an ordinary residential neighborhood. So we enjoy the music from a nearby mosque and the not so hectic and heavy traffic. We are given a spacious room with air conditioning and instantly sit in the courtyard to eat and to celebrate – we have a birthday boy today – Nace.
A new finding for us is the local beer Gazelle. It is so pleasant that we manage to finish several 630ml bottles of Gazelle with the speed of a running from predators gazelle. We start to prepare physically and mentally for a half a day of independently exploring Dakar. Tonight, independently again, we will pick up Marti from the airport, because we feel that bargaining with taxis goes very well. And we still don’t know how many Gazelles we will drink until the end of our stay in Senegal.
We negotiated a yellow-black traditional (looks like it suffered a lot) taxi and headed to the area Les Almedies. It supposedly has a magnificent coastline, which is nice for walking. The taxi left us at an almost indoor oceanfront bazaar.
Going down to a narrow beach with lots of stones – the weather is pleasantly warm. The tents made of several knotted scarves, not used because it is a cloudy day. We are listening to a cassette, which is older than me, providing some dance rhythms. A group of boys happily goes past us, showing us their catch – water eels for everyone.
The westernmost point of mainland Africa
On the map we had seen that we are very near the westernmost point of mainland Africa – and could not help but try to go there. The bazaar quickly gave up on us, especially when they heard that it’s our first day and we are only looking around.
A man, ingratiating himself with us, offered his tour guide services. We refused, and asked if he knew how to get to the westernmost point of Africa. “Come with me, I know a shortcut.”
It turned out that the westernmost point of Africa is in a private hotel, that means there are not many options to enter legally. But we thought it would hardly be some different view other than the many beaches around…
But it is somehow slightly unfair that there is no free access to the westernmost point of Africa, don’t you think?
The waves are waiting for their riders
We went through many embassies and cute newly fresh buildings, bypassing walking left and right guards and sullen glances every time Nace reached for the camera.
We find salvation and peace in the ocean-side promenade with many restaurants. This proves to be the Mecca of surfing and surfers in Senegal. We sit on wooden chairs and tables on the first row with faces to the waves and surfers. You may notice from very beginners kids enjoying the shallow waters to skilled artists who turn pirouettes on the waves together with their boards.
Do you like surfing? Would you choose Senegal as your next surf destination?
On the streets of the neighborhood of embassies we notice many non-local people running, jogging or walking in sports wear. We choose to remain hydrated with water and another beer from Africa – Flag, and walk around nightfall dusty streets in search of a place to eat something. In the neighborhood of embassies with nice buildings with security and foreigners doing sports. You can notice also dusty sidewalks, kiosks, offering soft drinks and other necessities, and smiling families with children for a walk at dusk.
There is no taxi that passes us by without inviting us to get in with a whistle. Right now we don’t need transport, we have already managed to find place to eat salad, drink a glass of wine and immerse ourselves in the sweet smell of avid hookahs.
Meeting the last member of our expedition
After some relaxing and another celebration of the birthday, we are ready to head to another challenge of the day: pick up Marti from the airport.
It took us 0.3 seconds to catch a taxi from the road. We bargained and agreed on 1,000 CFA francs – we are close though.
Then the long waiting began, first we tried to wait in front of the airport and nearby, but we were kicked out by the guards (who must have missed us when we entered). So we stood together with all the mortals behind the lattice-fence. People are dressed formally – in bubu, with those sexy shoes – slippers. We stick to just bringing plenty of mineral water.
On our departure from the airport bargaining lasts longer – finally we achieve consensus. Therefore the local taxi distributing boss goes to wake up the appropriate driver. Whether the driver remained sleepy or was simply stupid, we don’t know. We had to ask children from the neighborhood to navigate us and eventually we (the strangers) navigate him ourselves.
We closed the celebrations of Nace’s birthday in our full ‘discover Senegal’ team accompanied by some aromatic red wine from Bulgaria and freshly washed glasses from Senegal.
Stay tuned! Our adventure continues with leaving Dakar and heading to other coastline towns facing the ocean and a desert!
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