Llama Land

adventures and madness

West Africa (2/2)

I recently returned from a month long trip to several countries in West Africa (Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia & Guinea-Bissau). It was truly an amazing trip, seeing places & cultures that I had never before experienced. Overall, the trip went incredibly well, especially considering that the conditions of the places that I visited. What follows is a trip report for the second half of the trip, traveling south from Dakar (Senegal) to Bisau (Guinea-Bissau) over 8 days. You can read about the first half of the trip HERE.

The plan for the trip was to use Dakar, Senegal, as the base for seeing the region. After returning to Dakar from Mauritania, I joined Scoot West Africa on a motorbike tour. Over the course of 8 days, I traveled south from Dakar (Senegal) through The Gambia, back into Senegal, and then to Bissau (in Guinea-Bissau), before returning to Senegal. It was a magical, exciting experience, not least of which was due to the fact that I’d never driven a motorbike anywhere (beyond a 12 hour class last August).

Day 15

I slept really well. I spent the first half of the morning lazily lounging in bed. Then i got a shower, and decided to walk to the western most point on the continent. Google claimed it a 40 minute walk. The walk was fairly easy, and most of it was in low traffic side streets. I passed the Peace Corp headquarters for all of Senegal, and later (another) massive US embassy compound. When i reached the area where i expected to find a rocky beach, instead it was crammed full of tiny seafood shacks, and a maze of souvenir shops. I wandered further, and came upon a massive abandoned Sheraton complex. It was like some post-apocalyptic scene, with tennis courts full of junk, stacks of beach chairs rusting, and over grown weeds everywhere. The one thing it did have was the jetty running into the ocean. I walked out there, mission accomplished.

At this point i was getting increasingly hungry for lunch, and it was after 11am. I started circling back, walking along the southern coast where there were supposed to be a bunch of beach front restaurants. However most of them were not yet open. I found one place that was open, with several cars parked in front, and figured i’d give it a try. They handed me the full menu, which clearly claimed breakfast ended at 11:30am. Yet when i tried to order non-breakfast food, it was a french disaster. Apparently no one eats lunch here before 12:30pm. In the end, it worked out. I got bissap juice, and a nicoise salad, but they refused to make the salad until 12:30pm. I spent the time reading. At one point this guy wanders over from the beach, trying to sell an arm full of tacky t-shirts. The one that he was most determined to sell was black, with white lettering, all in french. Of course, i didn’t recognize a single word.

After lunch, i made the long, hot, slow walk back. Apparently its butterfly season, as there are thousands of small white & black butterflies everywhere today. I stopped in the same gelato place as yesterday, and got dark chocolate and citron, which was yummy. While there, 2 Italians wandered in, and attempted to order something in Italian. Of course the guy behind the counter couldn’t understand them, and kept looking at me, as if i would know italian. Although i suppose he might assume everything is english.

On the walk back, i’m nearly there, but needed to stop in a store to buy water. Just as i was about to enter the store, this random guy on the street greeted me and tried to start a conversation. I assumed this won’t get much further than bonjour, but then he switched to english. It then got super weird, and i think he was trying to scam me. He claimed that he lived in Alabama many years ago. He asked how long i was visiting senegal, and where i live. he had a strong french accent and there was a lot of street noise, so I had difficulty understanding everything he said. He asked if i was married and whether i had children, and that’s when it got really strange. He reached into his pocket and hands me a beaded necklace as ‘a gift’. Immediately i thanked him, but made it clear that i did not want to buy anything. He insisted that it was a gift for my wife. Then he grabs another different necklace, and hands me that too, again insisting that its a gift. He quickly changed the topic, and comments how his wife just had a new baby, and there’s a party tomorrow, and he invited me. I told him the truth, that i was leaving dakar in the morning, and wouldn’t be able to go, but thanked him. At that point he asked if i could buy rice for his party, which was prolly what he wanted from the start. I told him, i need to go into this store to buy something, come in with me, and i’ll buy you the rice. Immediately, he told me that its too expensive in that store, and he wants to go somewhere else to buy it, and he wanted me to follow him there. I was very uncomfortable at this point. I told him that i still needed to buy from the store, and we could chat when i was done. While in the store i’m trying to think of now i can ditch this guy, especially now that i’ve got his necklaces in my pocket. I looked out the window, and i don’t see him any more. I bought the water, and exited from a different door than i came in, and i still didn’t see him. I briskly walked back to the guesthouse, and didn’t see him. I’m confused wtf just happened. I’m 100% certain that he didn’t follow me back, as i turned down a few different side streets, and checked behind me multiple times, and he was never there. Are the necklaces stolen? They look like cheap beads to me. Was he planning to rob me if i followed him to this rice store? Should i bring these necklaces home, or toss them? maybe he was being honest all along? So many unanswered questions.

Day 16

I slept ok, but noisy people woke me at 5:30am, and after that i had difficulty falling back to sleep. When i was about to checkout, the entire lobby of the hotel was full of smoke. I guess someone was burning something on the street. Checking out was a pain. No one understood english, and kept insisting that i wait while they called yet another person for help. After waiting 10 minutes i insisted on the bill (in french), and then they couldn’t do simple math right either.

I finally got it sorted, and walked to where i’d pick up the helmet. Initially the guy claimed that he didn’t know anything about it, but then he called someone else, and he found it. The ride to Ouran was waiting for me at that point. This older guy, who was missing his left hand, was super chatty in english. Telling me all about when he visited America 5 years ago. The driver didn’t say a word.
The older guy got out after 10 minutes. The driver seemed to have no clue where he was going & he stopped to ask for directions 7 times. Traffic was kinda awful for a while, with super slow trucks, speed bumps for every tiny town, and vehicles swerving all over. Despite that we reached Warang (Wolof for the french ‘Ouran’) at 10:20am.

I met Matt immediately (he’s australian, but lives in Mali). He seems nice, and has been to nearly every African country multiple times. He showed me the saddle bags, and i transferred all of my clean clothes and my other gear over. I kept the backpack with water to wear. Then he gave me an overview of the bike. Its a bit less complicated than what i rode in August, which is good. He let me take it for a few rides on an empty dirt road, and then we got on the road for real. we had 30km to cover before lunch. I started off slow, and was averaging between 25 & 30kph for a while, as i got accustomed to the bike & the traffic. There wasn’t a lot of traffic, but still i had random taxis, trucks, vans, horse carts, and people on the road every so often. The big surprise was the wind. It was strong, and i had to hold my body rigid against the gusts. Matt said the wind is not typical. The scenery was nice, with huge baobabs all over the place, farm land, and occasional small towns.

Eventually we came to a larger town, and traffic got a bit more crazy, with random everything entering and exiting the road. It was not fun, but i was careful, and did ok. At the far end of town, we stopped for lunch at a place on the water. The food was yummy, and i had a bissap juice & chicken yassa, which has this onion sauce on it. While there, a woman from the peace corp showed up, and was thrilled to run into people speaking english. She’s been living in a village 20km away, in a straw hut for the past 9 months. Matt & i discussed the trip more, and since i’m the only person, we can skip the stuff that i don’t care about, and add stuff. And he thinks we’ll have time at the very end of the trip to do a day trip into Guinea-Bissau, which is the next country south of Senegal. So i’ll potentially get 4 new countries on this trip instead of 3!

After lunch we rode for another hour to a village along the coast, arriving just after 2pm. there was very little traffic, and there were more goats and cows in the road than cars. I was also feeling more comfortable on the bike, and started to get up to 50kph at times. We stopped at a bar, and got some beer & water, and relaxed while we waited for a boat to take us to the island where we’ll be staying tonight. We left the bikes here for the night. matt said that we made excellent time today, and with just 1 person, everything goes faster.

The boat ride to the island passed vast mangrove swamps, with lots of birds. There was also a Spanish woman with her mother riding out too. At one point we passed a boat full of teenage boys fishing who got a bit too excited when they saw women. The guesthouse is basically comprised of small bungalows facing the beach with a common dining area. Its really pretty. Dinner was freshly boiled shrimp from the waters, and then chicken over spaghetti in a really flavorful sauce. Crepes for desert, which were yummy. Also they have super spicy pepper sauce that’s bright orange.

After dinner we took a boat back into town (in the dark) to see the local wrestling tournament. Holy cow, this was so many levels of bizarre, bonkers and crazy. It was held in a huge walled in area, and there were easily a thousand spectators, including people climbing the walls to see the event. There was a live band with a singer, who were going at it non stop. Women all dressed up in traditional outfits would parade about every few minutes. There was a sandy ring, where the actual wrestlers would compete. But when they weren’t actively competing, they would be rhythmically strutting around to the music, pouring ‘magic’ water over themselves, and generally hamming it up for the crowds. The actual matches were usually brief. As soon as 1 person no longer had both feet on the ground, it was over. the wrestlers were huge men. Over 6ft tall and all muscle. We stayed for over an hour. It was just surreal.

Day 17

I slept ok. I had to take a cold shower this morning which kinda sucked. Breakfast was tea, fresh bread & jam. It was fine, but obviously nothing special. The boat back into town left at 9:30am.

The first hour of riding was on a road with little traffic, and just a few small villages. i got up to 60kph for most of the way. then we stopped at a major intersection for a snack (bananas, 2 for roughly 2c). The new road was the major national route, and was full of trucks, buses, taxis, and everything else. Other than 1 van that flew past me at high speed close enough to touch, it wasn’t bad. We stopped for fuel just after noon, and Matt gave me the option of driving a bit further into a town to eat, or just buying random food at the gas station. I opted for the faster junk food. We got this yogurt in a plastic pouch that had millet, and it was so bizarre. It had the consistency of sandy yogurt. I also got these things that looked like coconut macaroons, but in reality they were cakes coated in coconut. we were back on the road at 12:30pm.

We immediately turned down a relatively deserted rode, which eventually crossed a huge flood plain, with a river not far away. after 20km we reached a dock, and there were small boats ferrying people across the wide, slow river. while Matt went to negotiate the fee, this wacky older British guy approached me. For some reason, he thought i was german. Then he commented how he left the UK on a motorbike 8 months ago, and has no plans to return. After a few minutes, we started loading the boat. There were 4 passengers huddled at one end, then they hauled the bikes on, and our gear, and we sorta squeezed in. They threw life vests at everyone, which seemed pointless, as the river was barely moving, and i could have swum across in maybe 2 minutes. The boat crossed in 5 minutes, then everything was unloaded. We road for a while more across the flood plain and entered a small town.

From here we turned onto a gravel road for 20km. It was a bit more tricky riding, but i took it slower for a while and did ok. There was almost no traffic at all. We passed a few farms, and random palms & baobabs. Then we got dumped onto pavement, with a little traffic, and we were on that for the final 20km of the day. We turned onto a bumpy, dusty road just after 3pm, for about a kilometer, and reached the hotel (Keur Saloum).

The past 2 hours were a bit rough. My hands started cramping from holding the handle bars for so long. My left also has a few blisters. My butt aches from sitting for so many hours in the same position. Its nothing horrible, just annoying. The hotel looks relatively nice, if a bit tacky. All the guest rooms look like giant, thatched roof huts, but in reality, they are concrete, with electricity, plumbing and wifi. matt & i got a few cold beers around 5pm, and went down to the riverfront to relax. Dinner was chicken, which was good, but even matt commented that its weird to have so much chicken. Normally there’s seafood everywhere.

Day 18

i slept well, and my eye is feeling better this morning. Not yet 100% though. We had breakfast, and were on the road just after 9am. The drive was fairly easy until we reached the border town. Then it was sheer chaos, with everything swerving all over the road. We filled up on fuel, and matt took care of the motorbike exit formalities while i watched the bikes. For some reason they also wanted to see my driver’s license too. After that we crossed over the road to get stamped out of senegal. Usually there’s 1 line for exiting and a separate for entering and there’s very few people exiting in the morning, and its done in a few minutes. However today, they merged it all into 1 line, and 99% of people were in line to enter senegal, and the line was huge. Unsurprisingly, the border area is pure insanity. The usual kids begging for money, random shifty guys with huge stacks of cash wanting to change money, and all sorts of people just crossing one way or the other. After 40 minutes in line, we were stamped out. Then it was a very short drive, and we were on the Gambian side. Matt had a ‘friend’ in Gambian immigration who came out to meet us and work some magic. I waited with the bikes, and got to deal with the random people. There was some crazy guy talking to himself. A blind guy was singing and walking into stuff. After an hour, we finished up border crossing nonsense, and started driving south.

Gambia has loads of police checkpoints, and they’re all corrupt to some degree. We came to 3 in the first 5km. At the first, some old guy in a police jacket asked where we were going, and kept shaking our hands repeatedly, but we finally got away from him after a couple minutes. At the 2nd, they had elaborate barricades and halt signs. One guy in military in fatigues waived us to approach, and as soon as we did, a woman with a huge gun started berating us for approaching without her approval. Matt calmed her down, but at one point she was demanding a ‘gift’. At the 3rd, we got flagged down, and ordered to get off the bikes. There were 5 police goofing off there (one was in the process of making tea on a pile of coal). They were super chatty and invited us to stay for tea, which was apparently their subtle way of telling us that we would be held there a long time if we didn’t give them something. After a few minutes, matt gave them some money ‘to buy more tea’, and then they let us go. As i was putting my helmet back on (which takes me a while since i have to get my eye glasses on too), some other cop started screaming at me repeatedly to ‘hurry up’, because i was apparently occupying space on the road where he wanted to stop other vehicles to shake them down for ‘gifts’. I nodded, but its not like i could have moved any faster.
after driving another 5km, we reached the chaotic port & ferry terminal, to cross the huge Gambia river over to the capitol, Banjul. It was nuts, with huge trucks, and everything else moving everywhere. Matt went to buy us tickets for the ferry, and then we entered this gated, long walled road which actually led to the ferry landing. The road was awful. Bumpy, rocky, sandy, with people & vehicles of every size moving towards the ferry. I had to weave all over the place to avoid crashing, or being hit by larger vehicles. Then we drove up a metal ramp, onto the ferry where huge trucks were moving about attempting to park. Finally got to the front of the ferry, parked, and calmed down a bit. The ferry had 3 levels, and i climbed up to the 2nd level, where i was able to see back up the road. It looked like one of those war refugee escape scenes where people are chaotically scrambling from the advancing enemy. After a few more minutes waiting for more people to board, we finally pulled out.

Matt commented that we were actually fortunate, as sometimes he has to wait hours for a ferry (the longest was 4 hours). So being able to board immediately and depart a few minutes later is close to perfect. We were actually on the slower, smaller ferry, which took 45 minutes to cross the river. Matt forewarned me that as soon as the ferry docks, it will be another mad scramble, as everyone attempts to get off at once (people, vehicles of all sizes). Sure enough, as soon as the gate went up, there was a surge of everyone pushing forward. I was in the middle of this mess, trying to ride without crashing or hitting anyone. I made it off, and we then had to drive up the port road to the main highway. This road is only used by vehicles, so its basically 99% huge trucks. The road itself started off paved, but then degraded into rocky sand. There were trucks driving everywhere, not keeping right, or making any effort to behave predictably. Plus so many broken down, gutted, stripped trucks on the side of the road. Finally, we got to the highway, and it was a 4 lane road, the biggest i’d be on thus far. Thankfully, traffic wasn’t too bad, but there were more police checkpoints, where they closed 1 lane, forcing everything to bunch up when merging. The rest of the drive through Banjul was chaotic urban driving. Not horrible, but not great either.

We got to the hotel (Palm Beach Resort) a bit after 1pm. Initially it seemed nice, but after a few hours, i think i hate it. It seems like it was built maybe 50 years ago, and very little has been done to maintain it since. My room is very dumpy looking. All of the guests seem to be elderly British or trashing looking Europeans. I think gambia is where europeans go on vacation when they don’t have much money. The only wifi is in the lobby, and the AC in my room barely works. Also, it feels much more humid here. Every time i move, i start sweating profusely. i walked out to the beach (on the ocean) for a while, and had so many creepy people coming up to me wanting to sell trinkets (which, i guess is better than gifting me necklaces). then, this bob marley looking guy approached me wanting to sell some kind of drugs. The Gambian accent is weird. It sounds like a mixture of Jamaican & french, even when they’re speaking English. I don’t think i like Gambia. I guess its good that we are leaving tomorrow.

In the evening, we went to a fancier restaurant for dinner, and got decent steaks. After that we went to a bar for a while. I got a gin & tonic. They were playing this bizarre mixture of 80s music, reggae, and west african stuff. then it got weird when a prostitute sat beside me, and tried to pick me up. Nothing that i said convinced her to leave me alone. Eventually, she gave up, but she was sitting beside me at the bar for a good 20 minutes. What a day, when i have people offering to sell me sex & drugs.

Day 19

I slept ok, although the AC was noisy and barely worked. We left at 8am, but only drove for a short while before stopping to get a ‘proper English breakfast’ (when in a former british colony…). By 9am, we were back on the road, through the awful Banjul traffic. Eventually we got out of town, and the traffic thinned out. The road ran parallel and close to the coast, which meant that there was random sand everywhere. Every time a large vehicle passed in the opposite direction it pulled a sand storm behind it, which hit me in the face. Later, huge dump trucks were ‘harvesting’ sand from the beach. They were dripping lots of sea water as they drove, and i was sprayed with this nasty sandy sea water mess as they passed.

a bit after 10am, we stopped in a small village, where matt knew a woman (Alice Demba). She sold vegetables in the market, we met her children, and went to her house for a bit. her eldest daughter spoke good english. Their house was one large room (with a spotless tile floor, and benches made from corrugated aluminum and wood blocks). They said a total of 9 people slept there, but they also had a large vegetable garden.

We rode a few more minutes south and reached the Gambia immigration post. It was as sleepy as you could imagine, with a jolly woman sitting at an old wooden desk, with huge paper ledgers. We were stamped out in 2 minutes. Just beyond that was the water border where small canoes were ferrying people back & forth. I had to change into my sandals to walk to the boat, since there was no dock. We hauled our stuff to the boat, including having to lift the bikes through the water. The crossing took maybe 10 minutes, with a guy paddling the entire way. Then we unloaded everything, & changed back into sneakers.

At this point we had 12km left to the village, Abene, where we were staying tonight. The catch was that the road was all deep sand through the jungle. It started off not bad for the first 2km, then got bad. It was beautiful, dense jungle, but the road was wretched. This was easily the most difficult driving that i’ve done. It was always choice between going slower & getting stuck frequently, or going faster but risking losing control. There were easily dozens of times when i almost fell over, but put a leg down fast enough. Then about 8km in, somehow it got worse, and the sand was even deeper. I fell once, but since its deep sand, its not a hard impact. No serious injury, just a small scratch on my right thumb, and an inch long cut on my left leg. I stopped to clean my wounds, and Matt circled back to check on me just as i was ready to resume. We finally reached the ecolodge at 1pm, and i was exhausted, drenched in sweat, and thirsty.

The ecolodge is super quirky, where nearly everything was handmade. Also, they have tons of animals. There are chickens, ducks, 2 cats, a chihuahua, and a psycho rooster wandering around. Apparently, Abene is famous for their musical drumming, and i could literally here it coming from some direction everywhere i went today. Different drum types, and styles.

the lunch was amazing. They made whole, fresh fish in a tamarind sauce, with carrots, hot peppers & eggplant. On the side was rice, cooked with garlic & onion in more tamarind, and more tamarind sauce in a bowl as a condiment, plus the spicy pepper sauce. It was so good. Immediately following lunch, one of the guys who lives in Abene took me on a tour of the town, where we stopped all over the place during the span of 3 hours. They have this insane huge cluster of 6 trees, half are banyan, and the other half are baobabs, which grew together, and its enormous. I also made stops at the town water tank, outdoor market & school. We visited his house, which is sort of like an dorm, where people have their own bedroom, but share common bathroom and living spaces with everyone else. Then we randomly dropped in on these 6 women, and i went through the insane tea ceremony. Yes, its apparently done in southern senegal too. However they definitely did a far better job. Much less sugar, better quality tea, and more peppermint. They also made milk tea with condensed milk, which was interesting. I mostly sat there listening to them all gossiping (and laughing maniacally) in Wolof for about a half hour.
While i was touring the town, Matt took my passport and drove it to get stamped into senegal. It occurred to me today, that i’m going to end up entering Senegal 4 different times over the course of the trip, which seems kinda crazy. I don’t know why, but i assumed that there wouldn’t be as much Islamic prevalence this far south, yet I continue to see mosques everywhere.Dinner was rice, and chicken in peanut sauce. I saw them roasting the peanuts, grinding them, and turning it into sauce. It was very good.

Day 20

I didn’t sleep all that well. I was too warm for part of the night, and not warm enough for the rest (they didn’t provide a blanket, or even a thin sheet). Breakfast was nice though, with a scrambled egg with a ton of onions & black pepper. We were driving by 8:30am, and i made it through the sandy portion without any serious difficulties. We stopped in a small town just after 9am for matt to get some paperwork in order to get the Guinea-Bissau visas.

Much of the rest of the drive in the morning was uneventful, through a bunch of small towns. although there were a bunch of police checkpoints where they waived us through, and the road quality wasn’t super great all the time. About 20km outside of Ziguinchur, the road turned into weird sandy bricks, with mud flats all around us. We finally got to Ziguinchur just before noon, and rode directly to the Guinea-Bissau consulate. I paid 20k Cfa, and after a few minutes i had a 30 day visa. Next we went to lunch at this restaurant that seemed to very popular with old french men. I got steak frites, which was actually pretty good.

We drove for another hour west and then reached the town of Ousouye, where we’re staying for the night. As i was removing the saddle bags from my bike, i leaned in too close, and my right leg pressed against the super hot exhaust pipe and got a nasty burn about the size of a playing card. It hurt like hell for an hour. I ran it under cold water and took advil, and after a couple hours most of the pain is gone. It doesn’t look horrible, but not great either.

We rode back into town, to a local tour company, and went on a bicycle tour of the town (with a local person guiding). the tour was fantastic. We stopped all over the place (and the town is very spread out, and rural). They showed us the local Christian & Muslim cemeteries. They stopped at a few homes of animist religion followers, and explained the fetishes that they were using. We met the local blacksmith, and he showed how he was making a knife. We met a few random people, including an older couple who shared tea with us. Probably the highlight was the cashew farm they grow tons of cashews in gambia and southern senegal. The guy who started the commercial operation for this town over 15 years ago gave us a guided tour, showing every step of the process (they need to be both steamed and cooked before they are edible).

After that we rode back to the guesthouse to relax before dinner. Dinner was decent. They made spaghetti with shrimp, onions & potatoes in a spicy sauce.

Day 21

I slept well, and my burn isn’t hurting anymore. The sky was super cloudy this morning, almost as if a storm was forming. But thankfully it cleared after a while. This southern most region of Senegal (the Casamance) grows tons of rice. Its kinda freaky how much it looks like south east asia much of the time, until there’s a huge baobab.

We reached the border just before 10am. Getting stamped out of Senegal was simple. Guinea-Bissau was a huge pain. First we had to register with the police, then get stamped into the country, then clear customs. As soon as we started driving it was so obvious that the standard of living was much lower. The road was garbage, with tons of potholes, fringing at the sides, and the jungle growing right up to the edge. On the ‘sidewalk’ in front of the customs building was a huge, old truck engine. While i was waiting for matt to deal with customs, a minivan stopped, packed with people. The driver got out, a few customs people wandered over, and opened the rear door. There were 2 live goats sitting in the back, their bodies stuffed into rice bags, with just their heads poking out. Everyone acted as if this 100% normal, and then they drove off. Matt was nearly done in customs when the power went out, and the guy had to start over, completing the forms by hand.

Finally we got moving after nearly 45 minutes. It was mostly driving through thick jungle for a while, until we reaches a huge flood plain, where the road was totally destroyed. Massive potholes were everywhere, and all that i could do was weave around them at a glacial pace. We came to several of these stretches of road, and they were awful every time. At a few, groups of young boys had setup a rope, trying to demand a fee. We just kept driving, and they’d drop the rope every time at the last second.

We stopped for lunch at the dirtiest bar i’ve ever seen. Matt actually bought food this morning while we were still in senegal, and just ordered drinks at lunch. The bar looked like it hadn’t been cleaned or washed in any way since it was built 50 years earlier. As we were leaving, matt noticed that someone had tied a small (live) monkey to the side of the building.

There were also 2 bridges (built by the EU), which spanned very wide rivers. Each bridge even had a toll both, in the middle of the jungle. We also got stopped for bribes at several police checkpoints.

We got into Bissau just before 3pm. Its actually a large, bustling city, with tons of traffic and multi-lane roads. The taxis are all insane, weaving & cutting everyone off. One nearly hit me at one point, as it sped around me.

Day 22

Last night was rough. There’s some sort of nightclub below the hotel, and they were blasting loud music until around 3am. But that was the least of my problems. I fell asleep, completely exhausted around 10pm. Woke at 1am, and i had a pounding headache & horrific diarrhea. I also felt mildly nauseated. I was kinda low on drinking water, so i debated whether to save it, or drink it all immediately. If i was really ill, i knew i’d need a lot though, but the headache was making me even more miserable. I laid in bed for a bit, took some advil, and cursed the music. I left myself just enough water if i decided to start taking immodium. Somehow, i managed to fall back to sleep after a bit, but the noise woke me many times.

I was up for the day at 7:30am. I didn’t feel great, but at least the headache was gone. I was gassy, and decided that i needed to get more water. I wandered around looking for somewhere that was open. This city doesn’t seem to get moving (on a saturday, no less) until 9am. Finally found a place, and bought 2x 1.5L bottles for 1000 Cfa, which is a fair price. Ran into matt and told him what was going on. We decided that i’d shower, then meet him for some breakfast. I figured, better to know early on whether i’m still messed up, so i can start the antibiotic, than losing half a day or more without knowing. We walked around the block, and got steak & egg sandwiches, then got ready to hit the road.

The drive back out of Bissau took forever. They have 6 lane roads, but closed half for some political rally, and then diverted the opposing traffic into 1 of the remaining 3 lanes. This meant crawling, tightly packed traffic, weaving around vehicles. Also, they har traffic lights at most intersections, but they were all turned off, creating more chaos. Once we got out of the city, things moved better, and we made good time, despite the crappy road conditions. Just after 11am, we pulled over in a small town, for a fuel refill from a guy with random bottles of fuel. We stopped for lunch at 12:30pm at the same place as yesterday. The remainder of the ride to the border went incredibly smoothly, and we hit the border at 2:30pm, and reached the hotel in Ziguinchur just after 3pm.

The remainder of the day was relaxing at the hotel. I had a few beers, and then gin & tonics. Dinner was fillete du lottek which matt said was monkfish from the river. It was served with this sauce that tastes like a super rich chowder, and was fantastic.

Day 23

I slept well, and had breakfast at 8am. Matt walked me down to the ferry terminal just after 10am. First i picked up my ticket, then i had to clear airport style security. Except they had some issue with my bag. When no one was able to speak english to explain, they gave up and let me pass through. I ended up in a large waiting area until 11am when they allowed everyone to begin boarding. That involved 3 separate rounds of people checking my passport & ticket. Also they insisted on putting my helmet with other luggage for some reason.
Finally, i got to my cabin, and found this older guy already occupying the lower bunk. I greeted him (bonjour), and he sort of mumbled the same back to me, but it was clear that he wanted nothing to do with me. After that i explored the ship a bit, found the dining area, and the bar. a lot of the people who only had a seats rather than a cabin started putting down rugs and lounging about in random hallways or corners. But it was a lot of just waiting & wondering when we would depart. Even though we were supposed to depart at 1pm, in reality we didn’t get under way until a bit after 2pm. We spent the first 3 hours following the Casamance River out to sea. The other guy decided to nap, and was snoring like crazy the entire afternoon. Just before 5pm we were nearly at the coast, and then we docked to take on more passengers and cargo.

after maybe 30 minutes, we were back underway, and the waves picked up considerably. Once on the open ocean, it got rough, and people were vomiting everywhere. My strategy was to lay down as much as possible, but my stupid cabin was like an oven. I made my way to the top deck, and laid down on a bench for a couple hours. I seemed to do ok up there with the wind. At 8pm they started dinner, and i debated whether that was a good idea. But i was super hungry at this point, as i never had lunch. I took a chance, & got what was described as chicken with bbq sauce. It was not like any bbq i ever had, and was extremely salty. It came with plain rice, and i ate all of it, then went back up to lay down, praying that the food would stay down. After an hour, it was after 9pm, and i was actually getting chilly. I went back to my cabin, and thankfully it was no longer warm. I went to bed, and sort of slept for several hours. The stupid bathroom door refused to stay closed, and kept creaking with every wave, all night long. I was up from 1 until 3am. Then slept poorly for a few more hours until we docked in dakar just after 5am. Thankfully i managed to not get seasick the entire way.

Day 24

My last day in Dakar was mostly spent lounging in a hotel, catching up on sleep and relaxing. I left for the airport just after 6pm, in some awful rush hour traffic. The airport was busy at that hour, with most of the Europe bound flights departing in the evening. I got my boarding pass, stamped out, and cleared security without any issues. Then I waited hours before the flight started boarding, which wasn’t helped any by the fact that it arrived nearly an hour late. We departed almost an hour late, but managed to make up all the time, and arrived a few minutes early into CDG. Another round of navigating the airport, and the flight home went fairly smoothly.

Here’s the rough route that I traveled:

Hundreds of other photos from the trip are posted HERE. You can read about the first half of the trip HERE.

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