Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Gambia and Dakar, Senegal

Sat. April 21  Dakar, Senegal Yesterday we were in The Gambia.  Banjul, the capital is on a small island and only has a population of about 60,000 people.  The Gambia is 90% Muslim, 7% Christian and 3% animist.  Jul is the local beer (joy with Jul).  The Muslims here apparently do like their beer!  People do not want to be photographed.   On our way out to a nature sanctuary we stop at a cattle and goat market.  There, I encounter the tallest black African I have ever seen.  In his long robe and head wrap he is a most imposing figure.  He is the boss of the market.  The people at the market are nomadic, and have brought their animals from far away.  The mangers for the goats are quite ingenious.  Stack 2 or 3 tires up and fill the center with browse. The Abuko Nature  Preserve is very small, only about 200 acres, but is a beautiful riverine forest.  The trails are well maintained, and it is lovely to walk in the woods for about an hour and a half.  At a small pond there is an abundance of bird life-- purple heron, malachite kingfisher, violet turaco, egrets,  night heron, African jacana, and a palm vulture.   Later in the walk we spy vervet monkeys, and later still red colobus monkeys.  There are dense thickets and vines on the trees making it difficult to get a clear view of the monkeys.  As we emerge from the park there is a small market, and the people follow us to the bus holding up carved wooden figures  and jewelry.  I manage to escape with. Using only one small item through the window as the bus is pulling out.  The price drops fast when you are leaving! Our next stop is Lamin Lodge, a rickety wooden structure.  On our way we pass thatched pavilions where women are shucking oysters.  Over a shaky bridge to a dock where we board a boat to tour the mangroves.  There's an upper sundeck  lined with cushions, yes this is the life for me, reclining on the deck,and someone to bring me a beer.  Because it is the middle of the day there are few birds to be seen, just a cormorant and an osprey, but it is lovely to be out on the water.  When we return to the dock there are some monkeys in the mangroves, and many mudskippers in the mud, as the tide has fallen. Another day another country.  We docked in Dakar around 6:30 AM.  We had our own private ferry out to Gore Island.  There was a slave house here, and another "door of no return."  Senegal did not have an enormous slave trade,  but they have capitalized on the tourism.  Gore Island was charming.  When it was French, it was mostly Catholic, now it has about 1200 residents, 800 of whom are Muslim.   As we were on the first ferry of the day, the island was delightfully uncrowded.  This morning was foggy and uncharacteristically  cool , being in the low 60's.  There are no cars on the island, and it is charming.  Gradually the fog lifted, and we could see the high rises of Dakar in the distance.  By the time we left at noon, the island was crowded with school children, and Muslim pilgrims of a special sect who were all dressed in white, and there for a special ceremony.   On the ferry back to the mainland they had beer and snacks for us, and then the usual buffet lunch aboard the ship.  I am usually eating salad for lunch, as there is so much food at every meal. This afternoon I will be taking a city tour and visiting a city market.  We have been advised that the Senegalese are "not shy," translate that to the vendors will be really pushy.  Tonight we are having dinner ashore at the best nightclub in Dakar.  I will let you know how that goes.  

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