Senegal, some claim the name meant ‘the pirogue’ but not clear from which language is driven. In any case Senegalese can be associate with water and boats, with long coast of Atlantic and many deltas even those who came from main land learn and master water quick. It is hardly to pass two days without having meal with no fish. Fishing industry employ may people but also these huge pirogue become the means to find new opportunities across the ocean when fish become scarcity. Stop at one fishing neighborhood as I cycle through Dakar, I chart with folks, mostly about my curiosity of these young people throwing their life into ocean for one hope of better life in the other shower. Surprisingly people didn’t seem to find it a big deal at all. I was told that it is only option for may as there is no more opportunity here. The elders and religious leaders would conduct prayers and offer blessing as the young mens set off on open fleet to immense ocean. Now it is business whereby people own sever fleets and charge hug sum of money.
Farewell, cycling days for Mandela…
On 6th the day I had to cycle out of Dakar before I left my comfortable bed (Thanks to Nathalie and Helene for such amazing help). My new cell phone a donation by Tigo Tanzania beep indicated new message. In that morning I had several messages from friends announcing the depart of Mandela. I was shocked with news though wasn’t surprise, I’m not happy either sad because I think it was near his time to depart. I have write about Mandela in the previous blogs as the roll he played to me as an inspiration since I was a boy in the village. May have been said but I think even himself he would prefer actions.
As I was cycling in Senegal for two days with national flags half a poll as tribute to Mandela, I ponder the roll of this individual to may Africans. Though Senegal is far even with boundary of language didn’t seem to stop the legend of this man. And for the farewell I told myself I will cycle for Mandela in these days.
I cycle out of Dakar though traffic congested and extreme polluted urban Dakar. Along side the chains of villages the end of hot day brought me at another urban of M’bour. Watch sun down at Atlantic coast and enthusiastic football players. Very notable Senegal evening activity is football/soccer playing, young till mid ages have unbeatable spirits of footballing. Ball is played everywhere, in the dust, sand or tarmac or concrete fields. At schools seem like they play anytime wherever opportunity present itself. Boys and even girls dress sportily often with jersey bearing names of famous players, Mess is common one. Also in Senegal is where I see people with personal motivation for physical exercise; running, push-ups, weight lifting (reciling is popular here) and last but not on the list is walking.
Next day after breakfast of omelet sandwich with condensed milk by roadside, my common Senegal breakfast and sometime lunch I pedal gently climb from the ocean to mainland. On the busy road leading to Mali with no shoulder fifty kilometer of head wind end at Fatik where I turn right toward the Soloum delta. Sharing the road with horse, donkey and bull chariots and running children I arrived at ferry cross to Foundiougne. The ferry was broken so was replaced with emergence military floatia supported by two boots on the side. In every cross the engines needed some repair which took a while, solder wonder around and mingle, seemed to enjoy the social life. Waiting for about three hours watching this show I decide to choose pirogue instead. Five minutes the pirogue drop me on the other side, I managed to find accommodation at lovey Baobab camping site.
If I had education…
In the evening I had a chart with Amadu (31), a father of three children. Amadu came to talk with me when he saw me reading a book, he told me he couldn’t go to normal school because his father send him to learn Quran. He spend his childhood and pre-adult in this school which are established by religious leaders who are known as ‘Marabour’. The payment for school is for children to wonder around begging for thing; food is common but money is preferable. Amadu left to look for a opportunities to support his family while other remain to be servants. Though he is ambitious he end up working as gardener because lot of opportunities require certain training.
I have seen so many children in the streets with a port begging. It quite disturbing situation to see these young people who are not receive adequate education to confront their environment. Mean while the religion situation of Senegal is quite complex, the muslims which is main religion here are most belong to certain establishment of local leaders. I often see pictures of these leaders in the car,houses,neckless, etc. Some of these leaders become rich and powerful with great numbers of followers in this case they also have huge influence in politics. It seem like there is mix of African animalistic with Islamic here, most of people were a charm or put several of them in their door, business places, in the vehicles, etc . These charms are blessed by religious leader. There lot of belief in bad spirits (vudoo), people associate decease their have with vudoo.
The funniest thing is seeing heavy loaded military caravan who are common in Casance region with big charm in the their cars. Machine guns, lunchers, etc can’t go beyond big charm, which I assume cost more!
From Foundiougne I pedal the bumping and dust twenty five kilometers before join half tarmac, half pot holes and and half sand road to Toubacouta village. I spend night here with young Senegalise and French who work for Oceania, the NGO which doing amazing work of mangrove habitat restoration. We discus deeply the challenge of conservation and need of sustainable development. Walking back from almost clandestine bar, under the clear lighted sky with moon and stars after big bottles of Gazeli beer (63 mil miter!) we agreed that there is huge need of green evolution whereby the new economy will be ‘Green Economy’ which will possibly encompass all social classes.
In the next morning I rod to Kerang border post, after smooth exit in Senegal, I was received with arrogant custom offices at Gambia side. Despite the fact that there bunch of them hanging around they wanted me to unpack my bike and bring all bags inside just to be told ‘OK pack up, No problem’. This is for us who appeared to be ‘shoes string budget travelers’ and peasants for those with car and looks like they can give something officers give them personal service.
There were no one answer for Gambia visa for Tanzania, embassy at Dakar said I need visa. I call the border post where visa is cheaper than at consulate and they said no problem. But at arrive seem like no one has clue, after passing the passport around to several officers . I was told that I need clearance latter signed by Gambia president. What a privilege? but at the other hand means this is mission impossible and if possible the price will be high in terms of money or waiting days and communication. The options was go back to Dakar and took boat to southern Senegal or detour 200km and try free transit of about 20km across Gambia to Senegal. I gambler with transit I worn marginal after defeat the attempt of getting 1000 CFA from me as payment for stump.
This is the same thing happened in the entree to Senegal. I have seen corruption mostly in African countries but this one here in west Africa is almost normality. Officials often give quite suggestive service or reception, unusual enthusiasm or passiveness of law and orders claim ‘No problem’ which means you can pay me for facilitate this. In other cases they will make scenarios to buy time then people especial foreigners they have to pay for the time if need quick and fast. For the case of Gambia is like information is belong to single person who then will exploit this opportunity. It is likely that they got this position from relative or so.
I think corruption is like decease which haven’t named scientifically yet, consume individual sense of worthiness, character, proffesinalism, etc. Then it move to others, corrupted police and other officials appeared to be quite ill people corrupting from poor peasants and people who they were to assist.
This system kill everything, for Africa where personal act as individual who receive education is so important people with corruptioniss burry the last hope. Though I didn’t see much of Gambia but the stories and atmosphere of corruption from top bottom in the leadership reflect the progress of the country. As the continent Africa facing big challenge of eradication poverty and bring about quality life, corruption remain a deep mud which slowing down everything else.
I made it to Ziguinchor now, the town of Casamance delta. Already sorted with Guinea Bissau visa which seat record as fastest visa in this trip, less that 10 minutes with requirement of photo and 20,000CFA. Enjoying home comfort from Augustin, a businessman and community development activist. Augustin, invite me at his village where he run a camping and small hotel in the beach (www.casamance-ecoparc.com)