OK everyone, as I type this it’s Wednesday, July 19, 9:40 PM, and we’re getting picked up from our hotel here in Dakar in about 45 minutes for a drive to the airport (not far away.) Our flight to Casablanca will then take off several hours later and we should arrive around 6 or 7 and make it to our hotel by 8 AM where we’ll cross our fingers that a room will be available and we can get in early before our afternoon check-in.
So as the Senegal portion of our trip comes to a close, now seems a good time to summarize our recent adventures.
Day 7: Saturday, July 8 — a Travel Day from Dakar to Fathala Wildlife Reserve
We left Dakar around 7 or 8 in the morning and the drive to Fathala was supposed to take five hours. It took a little bit longer as the route we took included a trip on a ferry across a lake. But we were very happy with our driver, Pape, who we’d hired to drive us there and pick us up on Tuesday morning.
When we arrived we encountered two ostriches filled with personality:
The accommodations at Fathala are wonderful. The rooms are tents that are very modernized — wooden floors, plumbing, electricity, a small refrigerator, shower, bathtub, and toilet. We also had a porch with two West African Lazy chairs. (We so enjoyed these chairs that later in our trip we decided to acquire some.)
April felt sick for much of the trip, when we arrived she prayed that it would rain and lo and behold it did start coming down and thundering. We sat out on our porch and just took it in all around us while watching the plains before us as animals grazed. Such a peaceful way to end a day of travels.
Days 8 and 9: Sunday July 9 and Monday July 10 — Two full days at Fathala Wildlife Reserve
What Fathala is perhaps best known for is its “lion walking” attraction. That was first on our priority list on Sunday. The two lions have been trained since birth to respect the African walking stick, so each guest is issued one before entering the lion enclosure and walking with them on a set route that includes plenty of spots for picture posing:
Here’s some video that April shot of the restaurant/lounge/reception/pool area:
For our second day’s adventure we took a tour of the villages nearby Fathala. The highlight was a chance to see and learn about this giant tree, believed to be over a thousand years old:
And here’s more video from April, pulling a P.T. Anderson/Boogie Nights-style shot from inside the pool:
We’d grown accustomed to seeing the image of Amadou Bamba throughout Dakar. Here’s an image from one of the villages near Fathala:
Day 10: Tuesday July 11 – a travel day from Fathala back to Dakar with a stop-over in Thies
It was another travel day on Tuesday — five hours back to Dakar, driven again by Pape, who we had grown quite fond of. We made one excursion in the town of Thies (pronounced “Chess”), where we toured a handmade weaving school. Here’s a photo of the color swathes they have utilized over the years:
Day 11 and 12: Wednesday, July 12 – a rest at the hotel and get caught up on work day; Thursday, July 13 – a travel day from Dakar to Saint Louis
When we were back in Dakar we mostly just wanted a quiet day for both of us to get caught up on emails and work. The next day Pape would come and pick us up again for another 5-hour drive, this time to Dakar’s original capital, a fishing town named Saint Louis.
Days 13, 14, and 15: Friday July 14, Saturday July 15, Sunday July 16 — three full days at Hotel Mermuz
We had a mixed experience in Saint Louis, mostly because the hotel we selected was not quite the “best hotel in town” that guidebooks and the internet claimed. (I think I’ll save a more in-depth discussion of this for another post.) But overall it was good and I’m very glad we went. The location of the hotel — right on the beach — compensated for some of its shortcomings.
One of the joys of this trip was that every night as we walked back to our room from the hotel we would see how many crabs we could spot. Usually we’d find a half dozen.
I’ll get back to Inherent Vice soon — it’s wonderful so far and I’ve decided to buy the movie on blu-ray. I’ve just been hooked since this weekend on the revised novel of one of the Liberty Island authors I’ve been working with.
I’ve mostly ordered Senegalese dishes for dinner and been very happy.
Yeah… we decided no swimming in the ocean.
Our first day in Saint Louis we were introduced to the restaurant at the La Residence hotel by a friendly French woman who sold April some extraordinary rare fabrics. We were so impressed that we went back for lunch the next two days too and on Sunday went early so April could utilize their faster, more reliable wi-fi than what was available in our hotel room. Next time we go to Saint Louis we intend to stay there.
Day 16: Monday, July 17 – a travel day from Saint Louis back to Dakar
The sights while traveling from one Senegal city to another are often extraordinary. On the buses there will often be someone holding on the back or people riding on the roof. There are also plenty of horse-drawn carts, often driven by young men holding iPhones.
This is the med kit I travel with. I added only a thermometer (digital) to catch malaria and/or sleeping sickness via fever early on. I also added a mini Swiss Army knife that has scissors and other tools. I'm on my second one. This thing has everything in it enough to adhere stitches if needed. Yes, you almost always need it. So far for this trip I've used up nearly all the stomach pills, the bandaids and antiseptic wipes. Currently wrapping another mysterious injury.
Days 17 and 18: Tuesday, July 18 and Wednesday July 19
We had moderate objectives for our last two days in Dakar: acquire 2-4 African Lazy Chairs at a fair price, then determine if we could ship them back and if so, how? We accomplished both missions. Yesterday we bought the chairs — pictures to come soon — and this morning we arranged to have them (and also April’s fabric acquisitions) shipped back to LA.
OK, that’s all for now — Pape will be here in 15 minutes for our drive to the airport. Next (and final) installment will describe our adventures in Morocco and Nigeria…