The capital of Islamic Republic of Mouritania, Nouakchott it is bourder between two distinctive Africa, these two Africa seem to exist with minimum tension but never the less go along. Established after independent, nothing of particular in this city apart of primitive system fighting again modern system; extreme poverty with middle class, bitten up donkeys with bitten up vehicles and few new and expensive one, Illiteracy with half way to or literacy. In the middle of this there is good numbers of international organizations, foreigners, embassies, etc who I assume do their best to deliver this community into bright future. At certain point I wonder if this country didn’t had natural resources on demand could probably left alone just like venus or mars.
It is conservative and religious community, at least in front of each in certain things but behind the scene it normal humans with his lust, greed and beauty. In my arrive I wish to live the city as soon as possible but I end staying for 14 days, I find lot of fascinations solitude and simplicity. It remind me a good story of ‘100 years of solitude’.
On my lazy days in Nouakchott, I will sit in front of cafe in the evening watch busy bustling life. In one scene there were a white man enjoying his shisha pipe, looked quite relax feeling the circulation of the smoke. This enjoyment didn’t last few minutes before interruptions; hawkers enthusiastically they will demonstrate their merchandise, after several honest refusing effort with no success he turn to like the show. Cripple of different sort will pass by to demonstrate their physical disability but hardly took him out of his relaxation. Woman with young babies in their backs makes him deep on his pocket to give away his coins.
This is country which declare slavery to be illegal as recently as 1970’s but ironical there is lot of sense of freedom than can be imagined. Slavery is like cast though legal abolished some slaves accept to be slaves as life fate some took their freedom but can’t stop enjoying the link of family and security linked to the master family. Some masters are addicted to this exploitations, in several cases I will see folks drive in front of shop/store and honk and ask for their needs while sitting in their cars. I some cases the shopkeepers will leave me or with other customers to deliver service to the man on the vehicle. Police and military especial of arabs descendent will do the same as I pass by with bike, they will wave and call me to follow them under the tree shade. Being so tired under the burning sun I can’t find my sense of obedience neither respect to the authority some will let me go some will run to me charging like buffalo.Though most claim to enjoy the sense of freedom I think in this kind of system the price is paid with ranks, the low your the more you pay.
I didn’t realize how the immense Sahara swallowed my spirit and energy until I was back on the saddle again. Cycle out of Nouakchott with the landscape coved by grasses and trees which kept grew dense as I pedal south, this gave me a feelings like I was startling once again with new energy. Father south I pedal along dense wetland of Senegal delta inside Dawdling National Park. This place is full of life, so many birds, time to time warthogs will run in front of me with their erected tails. I end up laughing watching these short fat creatures with wart running for a while before realize they can reach very far and decided to hit the bush. There are so many warthogs that I though it could be better to change the name of the park and call it ‘ warthog national park!’ That was my suggestion to park conservator MR. Zein who host me for the night at park’s headquoter.
There are few fishing villages, people show minimum curiosity to a man on the bike, when I shop for a chat they will address me formal because I speak French with them.
I cycle the long bridge across might Senegal River with child excitement of another achievement, it is the bridge to familia environment, it is bridge to the familia Africa. At the small border post of Diama, the office after check my passport instruct me to wait, when the queue finished he wanted me to pay 20 Euros. This irritated and unwelcome officer said it formality but the tone was betraying him. I took a time to explain to him that this visa took me a while to get and already cost me 50 Euros, there were no information that I have to pay extra to be registered into his books. He said for his authority he will no let me in the country, I can try to go through Rosso a 70 or 100km north west. I sense that this man is trying to use the remoteness to get money from me, i suggest making calling to the authority in Dakar. I call my friend who use this border ofter to ask if he has to pay for this fees, the answer was NO. I went back to officer agree to pay with receipt. He said no receipt, I can pay 10 Euros and leave peaceful. I told him that is impossible but I can agree with him that he refuse to let me in the country, he turn to be more hungry and throw me my ready stumped passport. No smile no welcome to Senegal!
I pedal 35km of humid through the nice no traffic tarmac road along villagers and acacia trees. Children waving enthusiastically, shouting ‘Cadeau, Cadeau!’ but break into big laugh when they can close pointing to my cycling short.
I arrive in the islands of Saint Louis go though it central market which is typical black Africa urban areas. I wonder a bit into the islands, cross it bridges which cross from suburbs to old town and then to fishing slums. I was told that there is no toilets in the clusters of slums, folks use baskets and pore the west into the charnels and ocean. The evening view from slams with it bustling fishing activities, colorful pirogues, children playing football, mosque calls and drum betting; leave this place so lively and unique total out of it misery.
It is here in Saint Louis I lost my iphone, the tools which have been use for almost two years now for maps and other useful apps. The phone fall from my pocket in the lonely restaurant, I walk outside come back within two minutes the phone was gone. The waitress who remove the glass I was using claim never see me with phone though I was in this place for more that two hours and use it.
West Africa has got music…
A day of cycling from Saint Louis brought me to Kebemer, I turn right to Lompol village where there was music festival ‘Festival du Sahel’. I join other four friends and we board jeep truck drive through deep sand and acacia to to deliver us into golden sand dunes. There were nomads tents to retire in if one is tired from the music. The festival had musicians, bands and family crew from different western Africa countries and one from Brazil.
The festival was opened around 9pm, the open was quite dramatic and breathtaking. Under stars in the half illuminated night with gently breeze brook deep chanting and echo flute. The flute was joined by drums from different corner of calm and tentative crowed. These different set of drums grew strong and closer, a sort of light house or watch tower light illuminated the man and woman into Sahara/Sahelian costumes with drums and other music instrument while doing the kind of trace dancing, total absorbed with the bits and rhythm.
The atmosphere was that one which transcend words, the rhythm seem to produce chemical equal to some kind of drugs travel very quick into neves and veins.
Senegalese know how to use their drums their body particular woman who’s some part of their body doesn’t seem to be connected to the rest. Music seem to play big roll of daily life of people here, it very rare to board local transportation which has no music system. Any part seem to be not part without local music which make people go bit crazy. It is like when drums are bitting stimulate and awaken the brain of people.
I am very grateful to FIBA (Foundation International Pour la Park National de Bandarge) and PRCM (Regional Program of Coastal and Marine Conservation of West Africa)
for giving me invaluable opportunity to address the participant and stakeholder of their seventh forum. Shared the podium with influential folks in the realm of environment high studies, political and governance. Young with no neck tie and suite I was bit unconfident not mention intimidated by nearly four hundred listeners.
In the few minutes begin of my speech I could just hear myself but soon I was taken with the words I uttered and there was the end of the talk. I wasn’t sure what to expect so I thanks and wanted to get out of the stage but I had to hold on a bit due to the clapping, I was more thankful not only for clapping but that the message was received.
The forum was of particular interest to me from the opening speech of Senegal prime minister, she emphasize on the need to protect the environment and natural resources as alternative to many challenges include food insecurity. She also explain the need of eduction in the field of environment and sustainable development as important tool especial for the youth.
Although I have never imagine spending so much time into these fancy hotels with air condition rooms, for the duration of five days I participate into may presentations tireless. As for me I have been talking and writing but also take on this challenge to demonstrate the need of action towards conservation/sustainability, education and participation of youth, it feel lonely and distance mission at certain point. But being here listen and see what are actions have been taken with stakeholders from different conners; artisan fisherman organization, woman organizations, donors, academics, governments, etc. Offered lot of courage, reenforce the hope and effluence my optimism.
It was also opportunity to learn new challenges, the development of conservation/sustainability philosophy and general understand of stakeholders especial those who are main effects such as fisherman, woman, etc.
The biggest achievement I saw in this forum is launching of a book which will be used with school children to learn about the science and other aspect of their coastal and marine environment. I think this is something luck in most developing countries as for my case I never learn formal about my surrounding environment.
Now in Dakar will round up with meetings and get back on the road, I finally modified my route instead of heading to Mali where situation is unpredictable. I will stick with the loop of coast. This will give me chance to fulfill invitations to places like Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Sierra-Lionne, etc.