Rosso to Dakar
Day 9

Promptly at 8.00 am we waited with bags packed outside our hotel for the "Cheshire Cat" to reappear .. 8.30 - 8.45 came and went and still no sign. Back in the "GMT time zone" again.
15 minutes before the ferry departure time his smile, closely followed by himself in a taxi, zoomed round the corner ... scooped us up and headed for the ferry terminal.

Amidst a profusion of apologies and excuses for his lateness, he explained the significance of the BBC badge he was still proudly wearing. Evidently on more than one occasion he had assisted BBC camera crews on arrival in Rosso for the filming of various documentaries.

He was therefore proudly known by all and sundry as the (un)Official BBC Correspondent from Rosso ... who knew everybody in the area and was liked by all. THE ideal chap to find for strangers' assistance ... and so it turned out ... passport control, money exchange and declaration,
ferry ticket purchases, a privileged position alongside the ferry captain on his bridge and guidance through similar immigration controls, taxi seat purchasing for the onward journey to Dakar .. a  place to have breakfast whilst the taxi filled up and a stream of interesting facts about everything and anything, were all competently carried out on our behalf.

This a great help especially helping us to avoid the African 'queuing'. This being a free-for-all between hundreds of people ... with the largest, fittest and loudest getting served first ... whilst pickpockets are helping themselves as your attention is diverted in the crush. Our friend's attention to our personal security, whilst negotiating our smooth passage through all the formalities, was exemplary. The BBC are obviously in good hands when they visit and our leaving of Mauritania was every bit as good, unproblematic and helpful as our arrival.

Breakfast over... a loud blast on the taxi's horn to announce its departure, a present for our "Cheshire Cat" for his invaluable assistance and we were on our way to Dakar, the capital city of Senegal. Well eventually, after half an hour of negotiating our way out of a very crowded taxi-garage ( involving 3 push starts .. "The battery has a problem !" ) and having our bags, papers and permits closely scrutinised, after only 100 metres, by a second wave of Gendarmes and Customs ...
and finally ... we were off.

The heat in Senegal and for the subsequent two weeks in The Gambia, was even more intense than in middle of The Sahara. Taxi windows had to be closed to stop the scorching air coming in and any exposed skin was soon a bright red, even through the window glass.

Large, cultivated but bare fields with evidence of being used for grain production, went by for kilometre after kilometre ...  good level roads but nothing much of interest to see. For the traders amongst us .. endless unpacking of baggage containing leather shoes, plastic key rings and childrens' toys etc. being transported to Dakar and beyond for the Tobaski sales. Dependant on the varying "devotions to duty" of the officials involved at the numerous checkpoints ... was the intensity of the level of the counting of each piece and the length of the discussions afterwards. A lot of time was taken up waiting and sweltering in the 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 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.