Senegal day ten
10.02.2016 - 10.02.2016
Muted sunrise, Souimanga Lodge
Sunrise this morning was a more muted affair, with more cloud cover, but still lovely.
Muted sunrise, Souimanga Lodge
At breakfast I spotted a Yellow Crowned Gonolek, one of the most dramatically coloured of Senegal’s birds. Unfortunately he wasn’t too keen on staying still long enough for me to photograph him, so my efforts were a little disappointing – but worth sharing so you can see how smart he looks in his black, red and yellow plumage!
Not very good photos of a Yellow Crowned Gonolek!
Ngueniene general market
This was our last full day at Souimanga Lodge and our last outing with Cheikh. As on previous mornings he picked us up soon after breakfast, but this time headed not towards the coast to our west but instead drove north. It took us about thirty minutes to reach Ngueniene, a village well-known in this region for its weekly Wednesday markets.
On the way to market
This would be a fairly unremarkable village were it not for the huge scale of its weekly market, which draws locals from miles around – and more than a few tourists. As we drove towards the village with Cheikh we could see many others on the roads, mostly in the traditional horse carts, all converging on this one spot – the women colourfully dressed as always here, and some carts piled high with produce to sell.
We parked on the outskirts of the village and walked along a few lanes between the houses to reach the main market, which was already a hubbub of activity.
Market day in Ngueniene
The market draws people from miles around – to buy or to sell, but also, it seemed to me, to meet and gossip. A visit here is a popular outing for tourists, but still they are hugely outnumbered by the locals and it is a totally authentic experience.
In fact there are two markets here – one for animals and one for everything else – and I mean everything! We started our explorations in this general market and among many other things, we found for sale the following:
Pots for sale
~ fruit and vegetables
~ cooking pots and tripods on which to stand them
~ tools - large knives, penknives, wire-cutters, screw drivers
~ tobacco, and tiny metal pipes in which to smoke it
~ cola nuts, which Cheikh assured Chris were as good as Viagra!
~ colourful traditional fabrics sold by the metre
~ heaps of second-hand clothes imported from Europe
~ trainers, flip-flops and gym shoes
~ (poor) replica football strips - mainly Barcelona and the big names of the English Premier League
~ live chickens
~ dried fish
~ baobab fruit, hibiscus flowers and other juice flavourings
~ herbs and spices
~ mobile phones and accessories
~ children's toys
~ huge sacks of grain and rice
~ little fried millet balls, a bit like churros, which Cheik bought for us to sample
~ colourful woven baskets
~ pottery bowls and other objects
~ animal feed
We saw only a few tourist-oriented stalls - one selling sand paintings and wood carvings and a couple with simple jewellery (I bought a bead necklace for 1,000 CFA - about £1). I also bought two metres of one of the fabrics, to make up into a sarong or skirt (although it is still sitting in a drawer at home, untouched, three years later!). This cost 2,000 CFA, after some hard bargaining by Cheikh.
A range of goods on sale!
As well as helping us to get good prices for our shopping (Chris also bought some new earphones for his MP3 player after our unfortunate encounter with the mouse!), Cheikh insisted on buying various snacks for us to try – not all of which looked appetising! The little fried balls of millet dough were a bit like Senegalese churros, I guess, but rather dry inside and tasteless. I turned down the proffered cup of tea, not being a tea drinker, but enjoyed tasting a fruit, Saba Senegalensis, which Cheikh called madd, its Wolof name. This consists of a large seed which we sucked to eat the pleasantly sharp (to my taste) fruit around it.
I found that I had to be a little discreet to get my photos here. Most people didn't mind me photographing the goods on sale, and some of the men were happy to be in my photos, but on the whole the women preferred not to be photographed. If they asked me not to, I put the camera down, but I have to admit to shooting a few of these pictures ‘from the hip’!
Shoppers at the market
The animal market
After spending some time in the main market, we moved on to the animal market on the other side of the village, travelling between the two on a traditional horse cart. Here there is a much narrower range of goods on offer – just goats, sheep, cows, donkeys and horses. Until very recently, Cheikh told us, all business was done here by exchange – two goats for one sheep, five sheep for one cow and so on. Nowadays people are more likely to use cash, but some trading still goes on.
In the animal market
Cheikh was keen to point out the best animals, especially in the area devoted to cows, and a little disappointed I think that our untrained eyes were not very good at judging them (it’s not a skill much called-for in urban London!) He was firm in his belief that you should never buy a fully-grown well-fattened cow, but instead look for one that was basically sound and healthy, but which would benefit from feeding up. That way you could sell it on for a profit.
In the animal market
While the men we saw were obviously here to sell, it also seemed to me to be a great excuse for them to catch up with friends as there was a lot of standing around chatting going on. I found that they were more relaxed and generally seemed less bothered by my camera than in the busy main market.
Traders and buyers in the animal market
Final afternoon with the birds
After a quick swim back at the lodge we spent the rest of the afternoon split between our deck, where a friendly lizard came to visit, and in our private little hide on the jetty.
Lizard by the plunge pool
This was one of the best spells of bird sightings I had on the whole trip, and I got some of my favourite photos. It didn’t start too well in terms of the latter as, while I was thrilled to see a Beautiful Sunbird (his official name, but yes, he is indeed beautiful!) I failed to get a decent photo – this one has been heavily processed as his colours were invisible against the light in the original.
[processed to show colours]
But it got better. A Pied Kingfisher joined me at the hide and posed happily for ages.
And just as I was thinking of packing up and going back to join Chris who had returned to our deck to read a little while earlier, I happened to look up and see a Little Bee Eater on a branch above my head. He was soon joined by what I assumed was his mate – male and female Little Bee Eaters have the same plumage. Both remained long enough for me to get a number of photos, which remain among my favourite bird photos of all those I have taken, on this trip and elsewhere.
Little Bee Eaters
Another sunbird, this time I think a Pigmy Sunbird, also appeared while I was still lingering enjoying the Little Bee Eaters. My photos were only marginally more successful than those of the Beautiful Sunbird, but it gives me an excuse to mention that the lodge is named for the French for sunbird, Souimanga, as the birds regularly frequent its gardens. Having seen none all week, now here were two in one day!
Pigmy Sunbird (I think)
Other sightings this afternoon included a couple of Senegal Thick-Knees as well as the usual egrets, herons etc.
We spent our final evening at Souimanga as we had the others, with drinks and a leisurely dinner by candlelight on the decks above the lagoon.