We finally managed to prise ourselves away from the delights of The Gambia as the crew was slowly going different ways. Theo in his truck to Mali, Tina back to Austria and Alex & Sabrina had already headed off on their BMW F650 GS Dakar bike to go to Senegal. So we thought it was time to move on.
However we managed to get Colm on the back of our bikes for one last hurrah together in the Casamance region of Senegal. And the following day Max joined us in his Nissan Patrol for a couple nights.
The Casamance is the southern part of Senegal which sandwiches The Gambia and is really a much poorer area than other parts of Senegal, the roads and infrastructure have traditionally been notoriously bad, with years of discrimination against the Jola who live in this region by the majority Wolof who control and run Senegal. This is also a region with more Christians (mainly Catholic) than other parts of Senegal and this fact may also explain a small part of why they are discriminated against, though Christians and Muslims coexist very peacefully in Senegal.
Originally a Portuguese colony before being handed over to the French, the area still has some visible heritage going back to this period. Nowadays though this very poor region relies on rice growing and tourism for an income of sorts, though many here only earn about 8 Euros a month! The amazing beaches are still pretty empty and there is certainly a lot more room for tourists and their money in this spectacular region.
We spent our first two nights in Abene, described by the guidebooks as one of the most chilled out places on earth, it certainly lived up to its reputation. A town full of rasta’s who were running small shops, restaurants, art boutiques and teaching the drums! We certainly enjoyed the laid back approach to life and spent time on the beachÂ chilling out!
One highlight from our time in Abene was stumbling across a reggae party on the Friday night. We headed out on both bikes with Max and Colm on board looking for the Friday night party full of Swedish girls that must exist somewhere. After heading to the slightly larger town of Kafountine down the road, we followed the sounds of the night and a drunken rasta on a bike with no pedals to find a really thumping party! Picture 15 to 20 guys beating their bongos together in an amazing rolling rhythm of sound and beats, then throw in some dancers who jump in front of the band and try and set their own rhythm into the on going beat, it was really incredible to be in the middle of this wall of sound! Despite not finding that elusive bus load of Swedish girls, we did find an amazing kicking party and in usual comedy form the only 2 foreign girls at the party were in fact Swedish! Though slightly out of our age range as they were a middle aged duo looking for property to invest in before the impending tourism boom in the Casamance.
We were also able to spend an inspirational afternoon talking to Laurie, a French woman who is living in Abene, she has very little resources or experience, but she has started to teach the local people basic computer skills and runs the only Internet cafe there – with a laptop on a dialup connection (painfully slow for us techies!).
After Abene we all moved on to Ziguinchor, the regional capital, where quite surprisingly we bumped into Antoine and Chantal, a crazy couple who are cycling through Africa, we had last seen them over a week ago at the campsite in Sukuta in The Gambia! It was all the more amazing to have met them as we all rocked up at the first hotel we saw in Ziguinchor that had a bar and a fridge to get a cold beer before looking for cheaper accommodation in town! The road is a small place at times! Check out their website at www.cycletheplanet.com to hear more about their craziness! And you thought what we were doing was crazy!
The next day we rather sadly headed our different ways, with Colm going back to The Gambia to try and get an NGO job, Max northwards back to Austria and Keith and I south to the very bottom left corner of Senegal – Cap Skirring.
We spent an amazing night camping on the beach, far from any civilisation, with only our huge bonfire to entertain us! It was really quite nice to be so far out in the middle of nowhere with the sound of the waves and the full moon and stars above us!
To be continued in another post… we promise priests, beer and a hot dusty road!