A Travellerspoint blog

Senegal

To Mass in Mar Lodj

Senegal day seven


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Sunrise at Souimanga Lodge

Our second morning at Souimanga Lodge, and again we awoke to a beautiful sunrise over the lagoon.

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Souimanga sunrise

Learning from yesterday’s experience with our resident mouse, and Chris’s damaged earphones, we had tried to make sure there that was nothing so tempting within reach. But we didn't think to remove the fruit bowl, and discovered this morning that he had helped himself to more apple. Oh well, there was enough to spare – but we resolved to hide the fruit bowl too on subsequent nights!

The journey to Mar Lodj

After another lovely breakfast we were off on today’s activity. Perhaps unusually for a hotel, one of the offered excursions here is to Mass in a nearby village, Mar Lodj, which is on an island in the delta. Many of the tourists here are French and therefore I would assume many are practising Catholics, so that might be a reason the hotel offers this activity – or it could be in part because it is a fascinating experience for any European or other first world visitor. Either way, as Chris is a Catholic and we often do go to Mass when on holiday (and have had some equally fascinating experiences elsewhere as a result), this activity was a must for us, and indeed had been one of the things that attracted us to stay here.

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CFA notes

Our driver picked us up straight after breakfast. He introduced himself as Cheikh and said that he would also be taking us on the various excursions we had booked for later in the week. We asked about changing money – so far we hadn’t needed any local currency as we’d been on full board at Fathala, but today we would want some for the collection at Mass and later in the week no doubt for shopping in the markets we hoped to visit. So Cheikh suggested a stop in the local village, Fimela, where a shop doubled as a currency exchange.

The currency in Senegal is the West African CFA (Communauté Financière Africaine) Franc which is pegged to the Euro. Many hotels and tourist-oriented establishments accept the latter, and in any case it is easier to exchange Euros than Sterling or US Dollars, so it makes sense to travel with these. Our transaction was quickly and satisfactorily concluded (we were offered 13,000 CFA per €20 note, which was a fraction under the then-official rate of 660 CFA to the Euro, but with no exchange fees or interest seemed a good deal) and of course a few photos were taken!

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Locals shopping in Fimela

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Inside the store where we changed our money

We then drove to Ndangane, a major fishing village in this region. Here we boarded a pirogue for the 20 minute ride across the creek to Mar Lodj, which was an opportunity to see and photograph life in this fishing community from the water.

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Ndangane from the water

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Great Egret near Ndangane

Mar Lodj

Arriving at the island we moored by a sandy beach a short walk from the village.

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The coastline of Mar Lodj island

We were early for the service so there was time for a stroll around the village first. The main ‘sight’ here, apart from the rather attractive church which draws both locals and tourists, is a tree, or rather group of three trees – a kapok, mahogany and palm (although it has to be said that the latter has seen better days!) These have become intertwined, which locals like to say reflects the way in which the three religions of Islam, Christianity and Animism co-exist peacefully here.

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Sacred trees in Mar Lodj

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In Mar Lodj

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Local family on their way to church

Mass at Mar Lodj

The church itself is a striking round building, its design echoing local houses. By the time the Mass started it was packed – mainly with locals but also a sprinkling of visitors such as ourselves.

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The Church of the Holy Family in Mar Lodj

I think anyone, whether a strong believer, or any believer at all, or none, would find this experience interesting, although you have to be prepared for a lengthy service with a long sermon in French. I speak a little, but I found this hard to follow as the accents are different to European French and the microphone was dodgy. I was so impressed by the excellent behaviour of the young children who sat quietly together at the front throughout, neither fidgeting nor talking.

The music and singing was beautiful, and I made a video of part of it, as a few other visitors were doing so and no one seemed to mind.

After the service we lingered outside for a while, taking discreet photos of the locals. I had of course dressed respectfully, but there was no way I could compete with the wonderful dresses worn by some of the local women for whom Sunday best clearly means exactly that.

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Locals after the Mass


On the way back to our pirogue we were invited to visit the local ‘market’, which was really just a group of local women who had spread their goods out in a strategic location on the walk up from the jetty. We didn't bother to look as we had a visit to a much larger market planned for a few days later. Instead we headed back to our boat and retraced our journey back to the hotel.

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Chris on the pirogue leaving Mar Lodj

Birds, birds, birds

We decided to skip lunch as we’d had a decent breakfast and knew that dinner would be another four course affair. So we made coffee in our suite to drink on the deck (once we’d mastered the intricate Italian ‘pod’ system machine) and then spent another relaxing afternoon with a mix of pool time and bird-watching by the lagoon. The stars of today’s show were Spur-winged Lapwings, Great and Little Egrets, Black-headed Heron and Western Reef Herons, Whimbrels and various gulls.

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Herons, Egrets and Gulls

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Spur-winged Lapwings

The day ended with another excellent dinner on the decking among the trees, with more explorations slightly further afield to look forward to tomorrow.

Before going to bed we remembered to move our fruit bowl to the safety of the fridge and hide all cables etc. in our suitcases, well away from the munchings of our resident mouse. But about 30 minutes after going to bed I heard the scrabbling noises and realised I'd left a silk bead necklace, bought the previous year in Tallinn, on the coffee table. I got up to put it away but too late - it had already been shredded! Yet another casualty of our room mate's insatiable appetite!

Posted by ToonSarah 03:47 Archived in Senegal Tagged people birds boats hotel church village africa customs senegal Comments (7)

An island of shells

Senegal day eight


View Senegal 2016 on ToonSarah's travel map.

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Souimanga sunrise

Another Souimanga sunrise greeted us this morning. They seemed to me to be quite different each day – some more orange, some (like this one) pink, some dramatic, others more subtle.

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Souimanga sunrise

We had successfully hidden anything that might tempt our resident mouse and were congratulating ourselves on having adapted to sharing the suite with him as we went back inside to get ready for breakfast. However when we put the A/C on I heard the by now familiar scrabblings coming from nearby. I went over and looked up at the machine, mounted high on the wall. I was just in time to see the mouse disappear inside and the machine grind to a halt – the mouse had clearly come to an unfortunate end. I guess some might say that he got what was coming to him, but I can't help feeling a little sorry for the mouse despite having lost a favourite necklace and Chris's best noise-reducing headphones!

When we went to breakfast we reported the fact that our A/C was broken but were a little bit vague about the reason! On our return later we would find it repaired; the mouse was never mentioned but we did feel a little guilty that one of the lodge employees would have had the unpleasant task of removing his remains.

In Fimela

Cheikh picked us up after breakfast for today’s excursion which would take us west to the Atlantic coast. Firstly however, he needed to stop in Fimela to fill up with petrol.

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General store in Fimela

This slightly longer stop than yesterday’s money-changing one, and on a busy Monday morning rather than a Sunday, gave us an opportunity to see, and photograph, the town and its people. We were finding that in comparison to Gambia we were less hassled here, with most people more interested in going about their daily business than in us.

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In Fimela

A bus drew up as we were strolling around, disgorging its passengers many of whom were laden with goods, presumably to sell in the small market. One lady had so much to carry that her small handbag had to dangle from her clenched teeth!

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Bus and bus passenger in Fimela

Yayeme palm forest

Not far from Fimela is the small community of Yayeme, part of the same administrative district or commune. On the outskirts of this village is an extensive forest of palms where we stopped for some photos. These tall elegant trees are known locally as Ron palms, but their Latin name is Borassus aethiopum. Every part of the tree is used by the locals – the leaves to makes thatched roofs, baskets, mats, etc.; the trunk for timber to build houses; the leaf stem for fencing or for fibres; the fruit eaten.

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Yayeme palm forest

Cheikh taught us how to make a belt by weaving two strands together.

As well as the palms, the landscape is dotted with baobabs and we stopped for photos at the largest of these. Cheikh described how in the past the dead would be mummified and left tucked into the holes in the trunk in accordance with animist beliefs, but added that this practice was made illegal by the first president, Senghor, after the country’s independence.

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Cheikh and car next to the largest baobab

We saw several makeshift tent-like shelters here, the temporary homes of nomadic cattle herders. Their cattle grazed among the palms, and one curious child came out to stare at us.

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Nomads' tent and child

There was something very peaceful for me in this landscape, due perhaps to the regularity and rhythm of the tall vertical trunks. A few local people were walking through the forest, dwarfed by the trees, and I wondered how it would be to follow these tracks daily, absorbing the tranquillity of nature. Or were they just thinking about work they needed to do, or focused on everyday matters of feeding the family?

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Yayeme palm forest

From here it was about an hour’s drive to the coast and our destination, Joal-Fadiouth

Joal-Fadiouth

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Village street, Shell Island

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The bridge to Shell Island

Joal-Fadiouth is a small town / large village on the Senegalese coast just north of the Sine-Saloum delta region. Or rather, it is a large village (Joal) linked to a small one (Fadiouth) both for administrative purposes and physically via a bridge. And it is the latter that forms the main attraction for tourists, and where we spent most of our visit.

The island is also known as Shell Island, and the reason for this is pretty obvious – it is built on layers and layers of shells. These have accumulated over the centuries as the locals subsisted on cockle fishing in the shallows of the mangrove lagoons and simply discarded the shells, or used them as building materials.

Cheikh parked near the bridge which leads to the island. He explained that he would not be able to act as our guide here, as if you want to visit Fadiouth you have to hire one of the syndicated official guides. He arranged for us to visit with Edouardo, who lives in the village and proved to be an excellent guide.

We started our visit with a walk across the wooden bridge, which is about 500 metres long and used only by pedestrians and donkey or horse carts.

The village has no motorised transport – both bridge and all its streets are designed for pedestrians and the ubiquitous horse and cart alone. This makes it a relatively peaceful place, which Edouardo clearly loved – he talked a lot about the contrast with Dakar (which he enjoys visiting for occasional lively weekends but where he would not want to live) and about the magical evenings here with everyone relaxed, visitors all gone home and the lights of the village reflected on the water.

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Building details, Shell Island

Edouardo took us on a meandering walk along many of the village's streets, and on all of them we were walking on shells. With no cars to worry about, and small houses, it seemed to me that many locals live much of their lives on these streets - not just going about their business (working, shopping etc.) but also meeting friends for a gossip or simply relaxing. It also seemed to me, perhaps unfairly, that the women were doing most of the work and the men most of the sitting and gossiping! But I shouldn't judge on just an hour's visit.

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Village street

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On the streets of Shell Island

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Locals in the main square

Apart from tourism the main source of income here is of course fishing. You will see conch meat and other shell fish drying in the sun

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Conch meat for sale

The conch shells can be seen on sale in the sprinkling of tourist-orientated craft stalls, alongside crafted objects such as wood carvings and paintings. We didn't buy anything, but prices looked reasonable to me, and there was little if any hassling to shop.

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Small market in Fadiouth

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Man weaving

The villagers also farm land on the mainland, with the main crop being millet which they use as couscous – we saw women washing the grain in the waters of the lagoon using large calabashes. This, with fish, forms the staple diet here.

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Rinsing the millet

A significant difference between Fadiouth and most other Senegalese villages is that the religious balance here is the exact opposite of the country as a whole, with 90% Christian (Roman Catholic) and 10% Muslim. Edouardo explained how the two religions live side by side in harmony, as they do generally in Senegal. When the church roof was destroyed in a storm a few years ago the whole village addressed the problem and contributed to its repair, with left-over funds later being put towards restoration work at the Friday Mosque.

But older than either of these religions is the ancient belief of animism, which continues to be practiced to some extent today. Christians and Muslims alike overlay their official worship with traditional elements, and a sacred baobab tree stands side by side with an impressive Calvary in the main square. Edouardo explained that at funerals the body is paraded through the streets and brought here to be blessed according to the customs of both faiths.

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The main square
- calvary on the left, baobab on the right

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The calvary

The village is divided into six districts, each with its own patron saint whose image can be seen on the large red and white coloured plaques around the wall of the church, and as a statue at the heart of ‘their’ district. I didn't manage to get any good pictures of these statues however, as they are protected by glass, but we were able to take photos of those around the church. We also caught a glimpse of the main Friday mosque at one end of the village, and passed another small one.

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Church tower, and statue outside

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Inside the church

Another thing that struck us here was the large number of pigs, as of course the largely Christian population is happy to eat pork. These roam freely around the streets – truly ‘free-range’ meat!

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Pigs on shells!

Shell Cemetery

Our stroll around the village with Edouardo had given a good insight into how the locals live in this region, but the main ‘sight’ in Fadiouth is the so-called Shell Cemetery.

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Shell Cemetery with access bridge on the right

The religious tolerance of which Fadiouth is so proud extends to its famous cemetery, which is located on a smaller neighbouring island, joined to the village by another wooden bridge, and which accommodates deceased Christians and Muslims in two distinct but undivided sections. The Christian graves are marked with white crosses, the Muslim for the most part with simple iron plaques, and the latter are notable for being all aligned with the head facing east, to Mecca, while the Christian graves are more higgledy-piggledy in their arrangement.

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Shell Cemetery
- Muslim graves in the foreground, Christian beyond

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Crosses, Shell Cemetery


On the highest point of this tiny island (high being a relative term - we are talking about an elevation of only a few metres) is a large cross. From here we had extensive views back to the village and to the nearby old granaries, raised on stilts above the water. These are no longer in use but are kept to show tourists.

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View from the mainland, showing the large cross on the 'hill'

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Shell Cemetery, with Fadiouth and mainland beyond, seen from the highest point

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Granaries


From the cemetery you can either cross by boat back to the mainland, detouring close to these granaries, or retrace your steps over first one and then another wooden bridge, which is what we did.

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Looking back towards bridge and mainland

Back on the mainland we met up again with Cheikh and headed out of town to visit the sardine smokeries.

Sardine smokeries

On the outskirts of Joal the road runs between a series of sardine smoking enterprises. While no one could consider these attractive (the rubbish they produce makes them something of an eyesore) they are interesting to see. The fish are smoked on long racks supported with stone walls, beneath which fires are lit.

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Spreading the fish for smoking

Once blackened they are skinned, the skins being discarded on the ground and making a major contribution to the mess! The fish are then spread out to dry in the hot sun before being packed for transporting to other parts of the country or for export to other African countries including Ghana and Burkino Faso.

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Waiting to be skinned

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Skinning the fish

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Fish drying


I found that some people here were happy to pose for photos, such as the guy above who was spreading the fish out on the smoking racks. Others were less keen, or in one case asked for money – as you can imagine, I didn’t pay, given that none of the others made such a request!

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Children playing between the drying tables

From the smokeries we drove straight back to Souimanga Lodge, arriving mid afternoon.

Afternoon at Souimanga

We had a dip in the pool on our return to the lodge and then spent some time relaxing and bird-watching on our private jetty. Today’s sightings included some Great and Little Egrets and a beautiful Pied Kingfisher who took a dip in our plunge pool and then posed very nicely for me on the wall while drying off!

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View of the lagoon with egrets

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Pied Kingfisher

There were lots of crabs out on the mud exposed by the low tide.

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Crabs at low tide

We also had a visit from a friendly lizard.

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Visiting lizard

In the evening there was the usual nice dinner on the decking among the trees surrounding the main lodge building before retiring to bed in our wonderful suite - now, perhaps sadly, mouse-less.

Posted by ToonSarah 10:57 Archived in Senegal Tagged bridges churches trees birds islands fish fishing shells village africa reptiles seabirds customs senegal Comments (9)

Fishing in Senegal

Senegal day nine


View Senegal 2016 on ToonSarah's travel map.

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Sunrise at Souimanga Lodge

The sunrise this morning was just as beautiful as the previous mornings here, but hazier, and perhaps unsurprisingly I was more restrained in the number of photos I took!

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Sunrise at Souimanga Lodge

Several birds again joined us at breakfast, including a Village Weaver and some Common Bulbuls.

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Village Weaver

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Common Bulbuls

Palmarin

Today we were heading towards the coast again but this time a bit to the south of Joel-Fadiouth where we were yesterday. Our main destination was the fishing village of Djiffer, but we made a few stops for photos on the way. Not far from Fimela we drove across an area where locals gaze their cattle which are of the distinctive West African N'Dama breed.

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Cattle on the salt flats near Fimela

On a tree here I spotted, and managed to photograph, this Senegal Coucal, a bird from the cuckoo family.

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Senegal Coucal

Our route took us across the extensive salt flats of the Palmarin region, known here as tanne, a French corruption of the local Wolof word tan, which means ‘an extent of saline lands’.

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Cheikh by the roadside on the way to Palmarin

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Road across the salt flats

These salt flats have a wild beauty, especially if you are drawn to wide open skies as I am. They are great for spotting birds too. We saw flamingos, pelicans, various gulls, terms, an osprey and several I couldn't identify. We also saw a fox trotting across the sand.

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Fox

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Osprey

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Sea birds above the salt flats

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Gulls

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Flamingos and gulls

Very little grows here, because of the salt content of the soil, and in the rainy season the sea can sometimes cover much of this land.

A little further south, on the fringes of the flats we saw an area where salt is collected. The local women dig shallow pools and extract the salt, which is then left to dry in covered mounds or on wooden platforms in little huts, known as greniers (even though they are contain no grain!), to protect it from the rains. Senegal is the largest salt producer in west Africa, producing over 450,000 tonnes every year, much of it through small-scale operations such as these. Here and elsewhere in the country we saw sacks of it waiting by the roadside for collection (much as English farmers leave milk churns).

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Salt flats with greniers

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Salt greniers near Palmarin

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Diakhanor

We stopped briefly at a simple coastal hotel, whose owners were friends of Cheikh, so that we could use the ‘facilities’ and get a cold drink.

Just north of Djiffer we stopped again in the small village of Diakhanor. Like Fadiouth, which we had visited the previous day, this village is unusual among Senegalese communities in being 90% Catholic and just 10% Muslim. Cheikh is a Muslim, and had married a Catholic girl from this village. He was keen to introduce us to her parents, his in-laws. He showed us inside their simple home, from which he and his wife were married, and we met some of the neighbours too.

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Cheikh's mother-in-law

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Neighbours


Like others we met in Senegal, Cheikh was proud of the fact that the two religions co-exist peacefully here. Mixed marriages such as his own are not uncommon, and the two faiths celebrate each other's festivals. I asked about the religious upbringing of his three children and learned that the two boys are Muslim and his daughter a Catholic. He also said that his sister had like him married a Catholic and, unlike him, had converted. It all seemed very easy-going and flexible - long may it continue thus.

Djiffer

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A village living on borrowed time

Djiffer lies at the southern tip of a spit of land that separates the sea from the waters of the Saloum. Its narrow strip of houses is squeezed between the waters of the Atlantic to the west and the lagoons of the Sine Saloum delta to the east.

It is a major fishing village for this region and the activity relating to this is the main (possibly only?) draw for tourists. By the time we arrived it was late morning, and the many colourful boats were all drawn up in front of the beach, anchored by rope to large tires or tree trunks. Each was surrounded by a throng of men waist-deep in water, heaving crates of fish on to their shoulders to be brought ashore. Cheikh explained that they were paid ‘in kind’ - for each nine crates that they brought ashore they would be given a tenth and could sell its contents themselves.

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Landing the catch

On the shore small market areas (little more than stone shelters) provide the focal point for the buying and selling that follows each landing. Some of the best fish are bought by hotels and restaurants, the remainder of the best go for export. The less good and the smaller fish are sold to locals.

Standing here we could clearly see the challenge Djiffer faces due to its location on this narrow spit of land. The Atlantic Ocean to the west is continually nibbling at its sandy shores in an effort to meet up with the waters of the Saloum. Cheikh pointed out trees that were once on dry land, were now on the beach and would soon be in the sea. People living here are doing so on borrowed time.

In another area of the village, just to the south of where the fish are landed, are the fish-drying tables. Shark, conch, sea snails, cat-fish, and many more are laid out here to dry in the hot sun before being packed for transport all over Senegal and abroad. Much of the fish is also salted before drying, to help with the preservation process.

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Fish-drying tables

We met a Ghanaian man stuffing large, almost rigid slabs of shark meat into sacks to be sent to his native country, and he explained how they cook it – cut into pieces, soaked in water for at least an hour (but preferably overnight) to remove the salt, then stewed with tomatoes and onions.

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Shark drying


This was a fascinating place to visit but the smell in this fish-drying area was pungent. I like fish but could only take a little of it, and Chris who doesn’t much care for fish found it really pretty unpleasant!

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Egrets picking over the remains

Back at the lodge

Leaving Djiffer we drove back across the salt flats (without stopping this time) and were back at Souimanga Lodge by mid-afternoon.

There was plenty of time for a swim, and more bird-watching from our little hide.

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Pied Kingfisher with fish

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Common Bulbul

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Grey heron

And of course as always at Souimanga the day finished with a candle-lit dinner on the decking among the trees, overlooking the lagoon.

Posted by ToonSarah 10:44 Archived in Senegal Tagged people birds boats fishing coast shells village houses africa sharks flamingos salt_flats seabirds customs senegal Comments (7)

To market, to market

Senegal day ten


View Senegal 2016 on ToonSarah's travel map.

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Muted sunrise, Souimanga Lodge

Sunrise this morning was a more muted affair, with more cloud cover, but still lovely.

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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!

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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.

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On the way to market

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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Friendly stall-holder

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Stall-holders


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’!

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Shoppers at the market

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Traders and buyers in the animal market

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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.

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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.

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Beautiful Sunbird
[processed to show colours]

But it got better. A Pied Kingfisher joined me at the hide and posed happily for ages.

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Pied Kingfisher

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.

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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!

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Pigmy Sunbird (I think)

Other sightings this afternoon included a couple of Senegal Thick-Knees as well as the usual egrets, herons etc.

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Senegal Thick-Knee

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.

Posted by ToonSarah 08:42 Archived in Senegal Tagged people animals birds lizards market shopping village africa customs senegal Comments (9)

A long day’s journey

Senegal day eleven


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Just before sunrise

With an early departure from Souimanga Lodge necessary today, we were up before sunrise and were treated to a rather different but equally beautiful view of the lagoon from our deck.

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Red-billed Hornbill

But there was no time to linger over photo-taking, nor to take a walk along our boardwalk to the hide to admire the views from there. Instead we quickly finished packing, left our bags outside the door to be collected shortly, and went to breakfast which the lodge had helpfully arranged for us to take ahead of the usual time.

There was just time at breakfast to take one last bird photo, as a rather handsome Red-billed Hornbill sat in the trees above the decking while we ate.

Back to Gambia

After breakfast we were picked up by our driver, David. On our drive here we had taken a short-cut, crossing the Saloum at Foundiougne, but for this return journey we took a different route. David had heard that there were long delays on the ferry so chose to take the longer way around by road.

We drove first to Fatick, where we stopped for a short while as David needed to pick up a spare tyre (having used his spare to replace a punctured one on the drive up the previous day). This was the only place in Senegal that we encountered any significant hassle, with a lot of the local children (who should properly have been in school) crowding round to beg. I found that pointing my camera towards them was an effective deterrent!

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In Fatick

From Fatick we could have taken the main N1 road south east to Kaolack but David chose a more circuitous route on a better road rather than subject us to its bumps and pot-holes! This took us through a lovely landscape of wide salt flats dotted with palms and big skies. Our only concern was the rather large number of overturned lorries we saw at the side of the road; David explained that they are often badly over-laden.

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Lorries from Mali on the road

When we finally reached Kaolack we found ourselves in the middle of a giant traffic jam. It lies at a major crossroads, with lorries from landlocked countries such as Mali passing through on their way to Dakar and the sea on the east-west N1, and the main north-south routes through the country, N4 and N5, converging here. Add to that the fact that there is a huge market on the southern edge of town, and there was some sort of convention on in town, and the result was gridlock. We must have taken well over an hour to drive a few hundred metres through the town, despite David attempting to go around the jams on the back-streets. At least in this busy town there was always some activity to watch on the streets around us, although having forgotten to charge my camera batteries before leaving Souimanga Lodge I was frustratingly unable to take any photos!

Eventually we reached the far side of town and could get moving again. There were no more major hold-ups, but we did have to negotiate the 25 kilometres or so of dusty, bumpy, unmade road on the N5 between here and Same. By mid-afternoon we were at the border in Karang; the crossing went smoothly and on arriving in Barra our luck improved, as the queue for the ferry was short enough to guarantee us getting on the next boat. The ferry journey was uneventful, and I squeezed one last photo out of my dying battery.

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Refreshment seller waiting to board the ferry

Return to Kotu Beach

Despite our good fortune with the ferry timings it was late afternoon by the time we docked in Banjul and completed the short drive from here to Kotu Beach where we had spent the first night of our trip and were to spend the last. Altogether the journey had taken us almost nine hours and we were very glad to arrive, even though it had been for the most part very interesting.

Our room at the Kombo Beach Hotel looked identical to the one we had stayed in on that previous occasion, although this time we were in block three rather than four and had less of a view.

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In the bar

We had a drink in the bar where we had eaten previously, but for dinner this time we discovered the Brasserie, an a-la-carte restaurant on the premises and overlooking the beach. We had a much better meal here, with the scallop starter being the star dish. It was very pleasant to eat with the sound of the waves crashing on the shore as the background sound track, and a relaxing end to the day after that long drive.

Posted by ToonSarah 11:11 Archived in Senegal Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises birds traffic hotel village roads africa gambia senegal Comments (2)

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