This morning we were met by Alex, our guide for the week. First stop was the morning market. We ate the Senegalese version of a cheesesteak and then wandered around the market for a while as Alex greeted his favorite vendors. Properly fed, our next priority was SIM cards. With data in hand, we were ready to leave Dakar.
Dakar ‘suburbs’ sprawl outside the city in an endless sea of construction. We drove through neighborhoods and villages, each one with a bustling market and a crews of men building new houses and mosques. Our destination was Lac Rose.
Lac Rose, or the Pink Lake is a popular weekend destination for the people of Dakar. This hyper saline lake was once a part of the Atlantic Ocean, but was cut off and now sits a couple km inland. The pink color comes from a red algae that lives in the saline water. As the water evaporate, salt crystallizes on the lake floor. Workers, mostly from Mali, dig the salt out of the lake bed, dry it and sell it.
We took a jeep ride around the lake, visiting the workers and then continuing around to the agricultural plots. Our driver stopped to tease his wife and received a chorus of responses from the women working the fields. Their village sits in the sand dunes where people come to go off roading on weekends. When we returned to the tourist area we ate some yassa with chicken, the chicken version of the lunch we had yesterday. This was like a Senegalese vision of spicy fried chicken and we both loved it. After some tea and a bathroom break (Kat was proud to be able to ask for the bathroom in Wolof) we hopped back in the car for a long ride north.
The three hour car ride took us through many other cities but between them were a few new sites: a peanut oil processing plant, a phosphate mine and a cement factory. A few km from Saint Louis, all of the roads had been recently repaved. Although the ride was nice and smooth, we did hit a bump. A police officer pulled us over looking for a bribe (our crime: our car seats seven but we only had four people). Our driver Bala was infuriated by the injustice but in the end we had no choice but to pay in order to move on.
Finally we pulled off at a small village where we would take our truck ride into the desert. Colin had a few things to do for work so Kat wandered off to find some goodies. She returned triumphantly with 8 more meters of fabric – for less than she had paid the day before for 5 meters!
The four of us were joined by a few French tourists and we piled into the back of the pickup truck and headed into the desert. After a short ride we were surrounded by sand. The Lompul EcoLodge consists of rows of white tents tucked between the dunes. We were both shocked and delighted to find that our ‘tent’ even came with a sink, toilet, and shower!
Alex had arranged for us to ride a camel out into the desert to get our picture taken, after which we went for a wander in the desert. We followed the ridges of some large dunes and spent a significant time playing in the warm sand. We finally returned so Colin could do a little work and Kat could work on her daily painting.
Besides the French tourists, there are eighteen young Senegalese from Dakar who are here for a business retreat – they work at an organization that helps non-profits across the continent. After the sun set a group of drummers began to play. Not all tribes in Senegal play the drums but the songs they played seemed to be well known by all of the Senegalese. We were all called up to dance together, but it was really the Senegalese who stole the show. Bala was the most energetic of all.
Dinner was couscous with meat and a special sauce, along with vegetable soup and small craps. A bit of coconut cake closed it out, right as the generator ran out of fuel and it got very dark. We tried to take some photos of the sky, but the moon is too bright. Wait a minute: that’s no moon!