The problem of having entered via the border post between The Gambia and the Casamance at Darisalam ( Darsilami ) .. became apparent as I started my journey further South towards Ziguinchor. That border post does
not stamp passports, so I was not officially in Sénégal and this would present problems and costs if my papers were checked whilst travelling further South !
The Senegalese immigration guy was all smiles and welcomed me officially into Sénégal, stamped my passport without asking for a fee and wished me bon voyage. I then had to wait for another bush taxi .. direct to Ziguinchor 104 kilometres away .. to fill up. After a couple of cool drinks and an animated but friendly argument necessary to reduce their usual attempts at charging a sky-high additional price for one small travelling bag, on top of the standard CFA 2400 fare .. we were off.
Ziguinchor, the first European settlement in the area, was founded by the Portuguese in 1645. According to tradition, Ziguinchor's name and meaning comes from the time when Portuguese traders and explorers came to the region to form a trading post and derives from Portuguese Cheguei e choram, "I came and they cry". The local people saw the Europeans and began crying, thinking ( correctly, in many cases ) that they had come to enslave them. Following the end of the slave trade, Portuguese commerce suffered badly and the town was eventually handed over to France on 22 April 1888, in a deal brokered amongst the colonial powers at the Berlin conference of 1886. Under the French, Ziguinchor again became a major trade port and despite once again suffering, this time from the effects of the former unrest in the region, remains an important cargo port, transport hub and ferry terminal for the area.
Not having booked ahead, I took a chance and hired a local taxi to take me to the Hotel Perroquet, where I had stayed on my previous visits, over then years before. Always comfortable, its new owners
had vastly improved the riverside garden settings .. it looked superb and welcoming.
Whilst I was having a cooling drink in the bar .. which is right next to the river .. thinking of where else to try, I was approached by the French ex-pat owner of the Galerie d'Art ( Dimanditi ), which is a little way up the same road ( Rue du Commerce ) that the Perroquet is on. Having overheard my conversation with the most apologetic hotel receptionist, he said he knew of some guest houses
After a very necessary shower, I walked back to the Perroquet for an evening meal, visited the Galerie D'Art and then had an early night. Kafountine had been hot, but with a fresh atmosphere from being on the coast .. in Ziguinchor, it was both hot and very humid, despite having the vast expanse of the Casamance River right on its doorstep. Along with the humidity came the mosquitoes .. be sure to pack some efficient mosquito repellent if you should visit.
The next day I spent some time walking around, seeing and recording the sights with my camera and visiting the local craft market in a somewhat fruitless attempt to find any trade beads to buy. Ziguinchor's suburbs, be they African old style or French modern, are neat and tidy .. but its centre is a mixture of a smattering of European-style modern buildings on tidy streets, leading to older rather faded French / Portuguese colonial architecture amongst traditional African shops and shacks in somewhat less than clean areas. A new-looking entrance to the modern Dakar ferry port is right
Finding the local craft market, I searched in vain for my Hausa bead-dealing friends, who had moved to and established businesses there some years before. But being the travellers that Hausa dealers traditionally are .. and with the tourist trade almost non-existent .. they had moved on to other potentially more fruitful areas. However, reliving my very first experience of a Ziguinchor craft market .. some 14 years previously when I was very new to African travel and had been on a 'rescue mission' to help a very sick Toubab friend stranded in Guinea Bissau .. I bought another pair of souvenir-like but very practical, brightly coloured Senegalese batik trousers and chatted with the remaining craft stall traders. It wasn't long before word of a Toubab seeking beads spread and a few 'I am a bead expert' hopefuls turned up .. either with handfuls of cheap modern beads or promises of taking me to bead suppliers who would definitely have the antique types that I wanted.
Accepting some invitations for a look-see .. I was led to another larger general market and around a succession of pseudo craft ( tourist fodder ) stalls with nothing of personal bead interest but manned by
very friendly sellers who were keen to talk and swap stories of former bead traders, who we both knew but who had long since left to trade in other areas. One of my new guides suggested we take a short taxi
ride to the outskirts of the town where he had seen some beads I might be interested in.
On the way back to the town centre, he suggested we visit an antique dealer, who operated from a private house in another area of the suburbs, the location of which he was fairly sure he knew.
The only beads that were available were a long strand of late 1800's 6 layer Venetian Chevrons ... but the initial price was very high and the jovial Patrice was also a very tough bargainer ! Most of the other
items on show were either enormous or not at all bead, or my type of artefact, related. However, an unusual smoking pipe caught my attention .. small enough to carry and decorated with 10 beautiful and ancient bronze finger rings, which I do retail on my
African Trade Beads Website.
Sharing a tasty evening meal with my host family .. it was time to make preparations for my onward journey to Cap Skirring on the following morning. It would be good to be near the coast again,
spend some time in the fresher sea air and escape Ziguinchor's humidity and pesky mosquitoes.