Thursday, 24 December 2015

Senegal - St Louis, Lac Rose and a Merry Christmas!

The last post ended rather abruptly.. This was because we had finally found Internet and the blog was going up in what ever state I finished it in.. Luckily my editor (my mum at home) did edit my mistakes! 

So the tent.. Having now been on the road for 7 and a half weeks we have come to realise that things go wrong .. Things break.. You may spend a lot of money on something, but it may still break! The tent has been an issue for a while.. The zip holding the cover onto the tent when closed broke (it took a few weeks for it to finally go). We put out a FB plea on the WTNA page and lots of suggestions came in. We went with the best one, but sadly this lasted only one trip and by the time we got to St Louis it had completely gone. Asking the owners they gave us a name of a local reparation shop and off we trooped in a taxi. Getting there he seemed to understand what we wanted, the zip fixing and also two holes sewing as well as some material to strengthen the top of the cover (sun damage). He told us to come back in two days so off we went. Two days later we came back.. The reparations had been done  some better than others. The holes and material were great.. However he had sewn the zip together.. This would be fine but for the zip to work the two sides need to be separate so that one side can slot into the base of the tent and the other on the cover. We have yet to see if it works so that will be a mission! It only cost us £30 for all the reparations, but we will be looking out for a Howling Moon shop to buy a new one.. Why they couldn't make a sun proof cover with a more hardy zip in the first place I am not sure! 

We stayed at the Zebra Bar for 2 weeks, it was a hard place to leave! In between popping into St Louis we spent our time in and around the camp site and surrounding National Park. We did a lot of relaxing, swimming, walking, canoeing and fishing! Fishing is my favourite thing to do now, and we have even caught a few! Charles has caught 3 now and me two. .they are tasty as well! We met a German couple who caught a sting ray so we feasted on that one night! It has been good to supplement our veg meals with fish! The Zebra Bar is definitely a must, the owners are friendly and helpful, the staff are just wonderful and the food is amazing.. For £7 you can get a three course meal in the evening cooked to perfection by their chef. Breakfast there is also nice, omlettes, bread and coffee for £3. The facilities are basic, they run their electricity on solar therefore a constant electricity supply is not possible however you can charge up devices in their kitchen area. There was no wifi which was a shame however we bought an Orange SIM card in St Louis for £1 and top up which worked fairly well at the top of their tower!

After our little holiday stop it was decided to head to Dakar over the Christmas period for visas. We had a couple of issues with this because there are no camp sites in or near to the centre and we would be staying in a hotel car park (around £20 per night), or in a low budget hotel.. Luckily a camp site was found near Lac Rose. We went from one paradise to another, a pool, wifi and lovely owners (cold showers though). Arriving on the Sunday night we booked a taxi into Dakar for 7am.

We started the morning in the dark, waking up at 6am to get ready for the taxi. The taxi however was an hour late not arriving till 8.. Oh well! The journey into Dakar was amazing, horrific driving, lots of people heading to school and work. Buses full to the brim with colourfully dressed people. In England we forget how lucky we are to have a good education system, whilst there were lots of children with pens and note books heading to school there were also a lot who were not.. Wearing dirty clothing and begging whilst traffic stopped. In Senegal if a child cannot provide a pen and paper they cannot go To school.. I am reminded every day how lucky I am to be a teacher in a school which has so much. 

Getting to The Mali embassy was a mission in itself, the taxi driver did not know where it was however three stops later we were there. Getting the visa was easy, fill out a form, pay 50000CFA and come back at 3. We walked around Dakar, going to a very posh shopping mall.. It was like a ghost town and a real contrast to the bustling streets and markets stalls we have become accustomed to! We did see  a lot of Christmas decorations.. They are few and far between. Getting home was again another mission but the swimming pool was waiting for us!

Lac Rose is an interesting place, it is basically a salt factory in the middle of a tourist destination! The lake, at around 12/1, goes a pinky colour.. A pinky, purple murky colour but if you use your imagination it is pink! We spent a few hours walking around, the locals are friendly, but geared up for tourism! Lots of little side stalls with African souvenirs - I managed to get charles to buy something he wanted - you can swim in the lake, it is 50% water and 50%salt so you can float in it! There are some amazing restaurants and bars along the edge! Once you get past the tourism side and start chatting to the locals they are fascinating and interesting! One man told me on Christmas they have a huge party in the village with dancing, food and festivities! However new year is very busy, lots of tourists and lots of celebrating - here is it a bigger festival! 

I am writing this blog on Christmas Eve. The owners are French so Christmas Eve evening is a big celebration so we will feast like Kings..! This morning we went on a trip today to buy alcohol which you can only buy at petrol stations (a Shell garage!). Beer is very cheap, about 60p a can, wine is £2.50 a bottle (made in Dakar and in a plastic bottle.. But mandy and I are not fussy!), and gin is also £2.50 a bottle.. I have not yet tried it so it may be awful! This afternoon was spent chatting to my parents and brother - they are all in London for the three days - but it was so lovely to see them all together .. My brother bought my Mum some Star Wars Lego which they were building, whilst the dog (Zilla) chews through his new toy! Making time for family is definitely important! 

Senegal so far has been an amazing and vibrant place. A completely different feel to Mauritania and almost immediately crossing from the boarder you can sense it. The houses are different, gone the flat rooves and cuboid structures to be replaced by French looking buildings - burnt orange tiles and window shutters a prominent feature. The people are so friendly and smiley, and the women wear the most beautiful clothing. Bright patterned dresses, looking so smart and attractive. In St. Louis every one wanted to talk to you, not hassle but find out who you are and where you are going. Food is cheaper, not as fresh as in Morocco but equally as tasty. There is more to buy, corner shops have a wider variety of food, still tins but a lot more food we are accustomed to at home. I am definitely looking forward to seeing more of Senegal. 

All that is left to say is Merry Christmas, and probably a happy New Year!

 I am not sure where we will be, somewhere still in Senegal for the celebrations and onto Mali after - which holds its challenges in itself! :)