Skirting around the centre of St Louis
with its crowded streets, we passed the end of the bridge leading to its island and followed the coastline, enjoying views of the old and historically interesting buildings in the distance. A future visit is planned to see these sights in much more detail. St. Louis was the former capital city of Senegal with a very interesting past.
We entered the enormous city of Dakar as dusk was falling. Personally I dislike Dakar ... preferring the bush any day. A few million people crowded into many kilometres of urban sprawl. Every truck, bus
and car seemed to be followed by a choking cloud of black diesel fumes and the noise is incredible. Everywhere there were herds of sheep and goats for the Tobaski sales and the traffic jams were constant. It
took nearly an hour to get from the outskirts to the central taxi-garage .. with the heat, noise and many interesting smells ... it was and still is, no picnic !
Negotiating an affordable local taxi fare to find my travelling companion's family home, we crawled through the back streets, constantly having to stop and reverse for buses, horse-drawn carts and
other cars in roads so narrow that only a few centimetres separated passing vehicles. The roadside street vendors had to keep moving their displays, to avoid their goods and themselves being run over.
On arriving where the family should have been, we discovered that they had recently moved.
Streets and houses don't have numbers that are commonly used, so directions are almost impossible to follow ... old
neighbours were questioned and eventually a 3-4 year old child was loaded into our taxi and proudly directed us to the right place. The rather extended journey resulted in our driver getting the original
extortionate fare demanded, in lieu of his patience.
Our unannounced arrival, common in Africa where private phones are rare, was met with great jubilation from old friends I hadn't seen for 3 years. A room was cleared and specially prepared with
the best bedding material, showers ( hot water ... yippee ! ) were organised and the modest amount of money we gave to one of the ladies resulted in a gigantic meal of chicken and salad .. sufficient to
feed all this compound's large extended family and half the street as well. None was wasted ... salad crops, being in good supply and very cheap, were a welcome relief after the almost total lack of anything
green in Mauritania.
Family news was caught up on and a large bag of sweet biscuits were purchased at a local shop ... as a treat for the many children. I was led into the back streets by some of the older children,
to make a complete fool of myself joining in with a large crowd of drummers and Jola women ... dancing and singing in the darkness. Great concern was expressed by my companion over the dangers of a lone Toubab
in these back streets .. which can evidently be somewhat lawless.
But with my young guides tightly hanging on to my hands and proudly displaying their new Toubab friend ... despite my dancing antics ...
everybody was well entertained and all was well.
All "borrowable" items were removed from outside the bedroom doors, despite the outer area of the compound being secured behind a locked metal door and shards of glass sticking out of
the top of its exterior wall. Instructions to lock our bedroom doors were followed and we settled down to sleep, after yet another long and exhausting, but fascinating day.
Our friends and the people we met in Dakar were superb ... but I much prefer the freedom of movement, the openness and honesty of the majority of people and the lack of dangers in towns and
villages in the bush. Cities are cities, wherever you are in the world.