Thursday, 5 February 2009

Birds and salt pans

We headed back north again to Park National de Djoudj, a large and spectacular park. Got a guide, who wasn't much use. We did get invited back to his house afterwards though for a bit of food and tea. Was fascinating seeing his mud brick house, only about twice the size of our 2 man tent for a family of 5. No running water or electricity (yet they all seem to have mobile phones - no idea where they charge them!), and the only furniture was a mattress and prayer mat. So, back to the park - We spent the next day without a guide, saw huge flocks of birds. One we couldn't identify that we christened 'Bouncy Birds', as these flocks numbering thousands of individuals seemed to bounce over the terrain. Also took a pirogue (boat) trip. Vast numbers of pelicans all round us, stunning. We also got to see our first dangerous predators, a crocodile and python. Plenty of warthogs around, they were always entertaining to watch.

Headed south again just beyond Dakar ending up in a fishing village called Nianing. We had several attempts at getting assistance finding a camp site, one guy took us to a half built hotel and said we could stay in the grounds for £30! We ended up at Le Girafon (14.34827,-16.93065), not camping, had a little hut instead. Really nice staff and had a fantastic meal, best of the trip so far! Well worth a visit if you're in the area.

Went out for breakfast one morning and asked a guy on the beach if he knew of somewhere. He had a friend with a restaurant (No surprise there!). So we ended up outside someone’s house, there was only one small table so we sat round with the locals. They were very proud of their Cafe Toubab and were quite excited for us to try it. Basically a white coffee with Nescafe and powdered milk - we were very polite. They were also very determined to braid Hannah's hair, said I'd be very proud of my Senegalese wife. Hannah managed to somehow escape with her hair still intact.

We drove further down the coast to some salt pans. In the dry season the locals don't use the roads, they drive over the pans instead as they're far smoother getting an annual resurfacing when the rains fall. We followed suit heading off across the pans. They are really beautiful - a harsh looking landscape with the occasional lagoon or raised section speckled with baobabs and palms. We decided to try to find a nice spot near the coast to camp so followed a little used track eventually hitting a lagoon. For those who don't know, salt pans are a bit like ice, there's a nice hard sun baked surface, under which is a thick sticky mud. Unfortunately the track we were following had clearly been driven by a car weighing less than 3.5 tonnes. We went through the surface and the car rapidly ground to a halt - we were going nowhere with the rear wheel up to the axel in mud. We have had zero experience in vehicle recovery, watched a few videos though! After half an hour or so in the baking afternoon heat we'd used the high lift jack and sand ladders to get ourselves back on the hard surface. Had a peaceful afternoon failing to catch any fish and drinking beer at the edge of the lagoon.


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