Does Batman smell like this?

By Colin McFadden
This post is part of a series called Senegal 2018
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We woke up a bit early in Dangane, hoping to catch the sunrise.  The horizon was cloudy, so instead we watched the birds swooping out over the marsh.  Three kingfishers came to take a bath in the pool, and numerous other birds were in the bushes and branches overhead.  Kat was feeling much better, and happily stalked the birds.

After breakfast, we hopped in the car and set out for Joal Fadiouth.  Just out of town, we stopped for a cafe touba in a small town.  Then it was on to the oldest and biggest Baobab tree in Senegal.  The Baobab is one of the symbols of the country, and they’re very proud of the trees.  Baobobs are hollow, and at one time were used for burying the dead.

This tree is said to be 850 years old, and is something like 35 meters in diameter.  While you can’t walk straight into it like you can at some trees, there’s a small hole you can crawl through.  Inside, there’s a small colony of bats living on the roof, with the requisite sounds and smells.  It’s an odd space.  Kat was in heaven.

From the baobab, we continued to Joal Fadiouth.  This is actually two villages – Joal on the shore, and the shell island offshore, Fadiouth, connected by a half-kilometer pedestrian bridge.  The island is made of at least 9 or 10 meters of shells.  The buildings are mostly made of a mix of shells and concrete.

We had a local guide to show us around the village, which is occupied by a mix of Christians and Muslims – more Christians than Muslims in this case, which is clear by the number of pigs around. The island has a second bridge, connecting to a smaller island that houses only the cemetery.  Again, this cemetery mixes both Muslim and Christian graves, and has a small hill with a great view of the area.  You can also see a set of granaries on stilts, which protect the grain for the village from fire and rats.

As we were leaving the island, Kat spied a long bit of thread running down the street.  Unable to resist, she followed it down and around a corner, where she found two men at a loom making textiles.  Initially, they were hesitant to being photographed, but once Kat convinced them she was genuinely interested (and bought a bit), they opened up and were very welcoming.  Always follow loose threads!

From Joal Fadiouth, we went into Mbour, a large-ish city south of Dakar, and home to the second largest fish market in the country.  We stopped at the market and saw all manner of sea creatures, including conchs, starfish, plus fish (fresh and dried) galore.

After a walk around the market, and with the sun getting pretty hot, we unloaded at our hotel on the beach.  Kat was feeling a bit rundown by this point, having perhaps jumped into the day a bit too vigorously in terms of food and walking.  She settled in to paint in a comfy chair, while I went out walking in search of a sandwich, not realizing it was 2pm on a Friday, and thus most shops would be closed while people prayed.

After wandering up to the nearest major crossroads and not finding much in terms of street food, I got some water and started walking home.  Down a side street, I saw a “fast food” restaurant that looked to be bustling.  Popping a head in, I saw every table occupied and was thinking of continuing on.  Instead, a group of two men and a woman beckoned me over and encouraged me to sit down and eat the food they already had – some Ceebu Jen (rice and fish).  They didn’t speak any English, and I don’t speak any French or much Wolof, so we mostly just smiled and laughed.  But I was amazed at the generosity and friendship they showed.

Back at the hotel, we went for a short walk around town with Alex, where we saw some boys doing blacksmith work on the street.  We explained that back home, Kat has to do it inside because of the cold.  We poked around in the tide pools offshore a bit as well.  But by late afternoon, Kat was feeling downright awful again, so we took it easy and let her rest, with a boring dinner at the hotel.  Apparently, when all the guides say that you need to take it easy on the food front when recovering from travel sickness, they aren’t kidding.  Who knew?

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