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The Diary
The Solidarity
Delivery of medicine - 25 Dec 2007 (Senegal) (Senegal)
We give Sister Laura (a doctor) the medicine donated by the runners during the Marathone d’Afrique competition organized by Zitoway. Sister Laura is ...
St. Anthony’s Primary School from Padova– 25 Dec 2007 (Senegal) (Senegal)
The school is attended by children from Christian and Muslim families, and is run by S. Francesca. There are 225 children. A nursery with 75 childre...
Distance adoption and support - 25 Dec 2007 (Senegal) (Senegal)
Father Joseph’s small mission accommodates students who travel from the surrounding villages. Most of the students here attend the missionary school w...

St. Luois – 2 Dec 2007

I can’t believe I’m on this iron bridge with my own car! Last year I crossed it on my first Marathone d'Afrique, thinking then about this trip to Africa. This evening Adriano and Davide will be here. We stay at the Ocean campsite where we have dinner with Ross and Heidi.
Menu: Rice with Balsamic vinegar, modena ham and Italian style “giardiniera” made by Laura’s mum.

St. Louis du Senegal

It is an island between the river Senegal and the sea.
It became famous for flying pioneers who flew across deserts and seas delivering the post (Mermoz and Antoine de saint Exupery and many more). The “Post Hotel” where we stay hosts a small dedicated museum.
A small colonial city with music, restaurants and life.

Marathone d'Afrique - 3/8 Dec 2007

Meeting our friends who organize the Marathon is always emotional. We catch up and have a good laugh. We collect all the medicine from the runners and some money raised. The race was emotional, thanks to the enthusiasm of the locals. Hard work mixed with relaxation and lots of fun.
Our sincerest greetings to all of them, competitors and friends alike.

Hotel La Residence - St. Louis

We spend a night in this beautiful hotel in the heart of St. Louis. Very hospitable with the equally convivial hosts, Jean Jacques and his wife.

National Park

An ornithological park of great importance. You shouldn’t miss the boat trip, it is a definite must do! So much to see: pelicans, cranes, herons, storks, cormorants, terns, fish eagles, small crocodiles, warthogs and more.
We sleep at the park campsite among the millions of insects…

First solidarity token

We visit Father Emmanuel’s mission(Father Emmanuel is from Lodi in Lombardy). It is here that we leave our very first Elfo token worth 150 euros. GPS N16°10.180' W16°18.575', if you wish to pay a visit.
The mission has a ceramic laboratory.

Pink Lake – 11 Dec 2007

Its name is Retba Lake but it is well known as The Pink Lake. The reflection of the sun gives a pink colour to the water. It is a lot saltier that Dead Sea and swimming in it, gives you the sensation of being “suspended”… On the shore, “salt fishermen” dig to collect the crystals that are piled up on the beaches.
We have camped in the Palal Hotel garden. GPS N14°50.121 W 17°14.960. Amongst the tourists there are many souvenir sellers….

Dakar – 12 Dec 2007

We arrive at Dakar during the chaotic mid-day traffic. Two and a half hours to travel 30 km. there are no signposts anywhere. You go over pavements and find any alternative to move on: and we have also had a puncture.
We go to the Mali Embassy for the visa: it costs 45000 CFA for 2 Visas and we collect them within 48 hours. GPS N14°41.270 W17°28.208.
Here you find the supermarket “CASINO” GPS N14°41.126 W17°27.231 and a good tyre repairers.
We stay in the industrial district of Bel Air, in the garden of the Monaco Plage Hotel: a relaxing place with sandy beaches. It’s not very easy to find; follow the road through the industrial port and don’t be put-off by the area.
After queuing for an hour you get to Almadies Point, the most western point of West Africa. It is situated in the richest part of Dakar, and surrounded by the most beautiful villas and hotels

Goreé - 13 Dec 2007

You can get to Goreé island in half an hour by ferry. It is known as a centre of allocation and dispensation of slaves captured in Senegal. We visit the small slaves’ house, the museum for women and the sea museum …(poignant stuff…) Despite its history, there is now an air of serenity about the place. Colourful and full of artists, the heat and the chaotic traffic replaced by cool streets and no traffic. We decide to stay for lunch and enjoy a hot spicy dish of chicken with peanuts (mafe).

Saly Portugal – 15 Dec 2007

We travel down along the Petit Cost and we reach Saly Portuga,l where we say goodbye to Paolo (from Ivrea) and Sally in their lovely hotel: HOTEL Grazia Maria.
We camp in Ferme de Saly campsite: shame it is shabby and not very clean. The place would be really nice as it is located next to an eucalyptus wood by the beach.
Anyway, there aren’t any other campsites in the area. GPS N14°25.613 W16°59.753

Rahel e Giulia

We meet Rahel and Giulia, two sisters from Switzerland, on their way to south Africa with their campervan. They seemed to be a little demoralized by the constant requests for money and gifts.

Joal Fadiout – 16 Dec 2007

We visit Fadiout island. Inhabited by fishermen, it is formed by shells and it is reachable via a footbridge. All in all, not very engrosing apart from the interesting mixed Muslim and Christian cemetery.

Palmarin – 16 Dec 2007

We are in the Sine Saloum delta. The panorama is original: a desert of sand and salt with scattered baobabs….quite funny….they remind us of the Ents from Tolkien trilogy, which have met up for a chat.….

Djidjack – 16-17-18 Dec 2007

We stop here for a few days. We like this place by the beach; it is clean and warm. We take the opportunity to work on the Land and to have a run along the beach. We sleep at the foot of a baobab, this partcular tree consecrated by old Djidjack, a wise man who lived 475 years ago. In this village, his spirit is highly regarded. Jean Paul and his wife Graziella, managers of this Camp, pay homage to old Djidjack; every Monday they pour wine on the tree roots, in mark of respect.
We strongly recommend this stopover. GPS N14°01.425’ W16°46.140’

A Football for Fimla -19 Dec 2007

We buy a football for some kids in the village of the ex-President Leopold Senghor. As we approach a junction (we are driving at a walking pace), an old man approaches us holding aloft a primitive looking axe: he is babbling away unintelligibly and at first he appears quite threatening. We soon realize that he’s just trying to sell it to us, and not bang us over the head with it….The old man’s intensity, coupled with the small cost for the tool (less than 1,5 euros), spurs us to buy it immediately. And so, we have another completely useless object to carry…well,…you never know!..

Foundiougne – 19 Dec 2007

In this place, the river looks like a big lake. We take a ferry to reach the village. It is here that we meet Pino, a well known Italian who has lived in Foundiougne for 8 years. He left Italy, where he worked in the fashion design business, and he has no intention to go back. He now runs a restaurant.
Boarding point: N14° 07. 853’ W16° 28.047’

Difficult solidarity

On advice of a friend and Elfo partner, we look for ONG centres in Mbour and in Sokone. We ask everyone: fire brigades, doctors, hospitals, other organizations…nobody seems to know …we are just directed to a bank (the Cassa Popolare du Senegal).
We see schools and centres for the disabled, but they are empty, therefore we do not want to leave contributions without assurance.
We decide to wait and donate Elfo funds on other occasions.

Heading inland – 20 Dec 2007

The scenery is interesting but not very varied. As soon as you slow down, many children and women surround you shouting “Toubab!” (white) and ask for gifts and money.

After a few days this behaviour can become irritating, especially as it doesn’t allow you to get on with your visit. When we get to Missira, we will take the road to Kaolack. Tomorrow, the roads will be more difficult, due to the many large potholes. This is the toughest part of Senegal, the largest and the most isolated.
Many have warned us of the presence of bandits, who block the road with trees and rocks where it is most damaged. Armed with Kalashnikovs, they leave you in your underpants (if you are lucky) and disappear with your car. Usually, they act during the night, seldom in daylight. Their favourite days are Mondays and Tuesdays, as on those days, there is a big market in Mali and travellers carry money and goods.
Tomorrow, we will leave early to cover 130 km to Koungheul. In the meantime, we are part of the flurry of activity of Tabaski, the Muslim festival that takes place tomorrow.

Here they are! – 21 Dec 2007

Here they are….they’re coming, huge overloaded trucks. They’re trooping through the empty streets of Koungheul. For today the Tabaski Festival has completely emptied them. They’re advancing slowly and are burdened heavily. We had met them 20 km back some four hours ago. These massive trucks are trying to avoid the deep potholes that litter the roads…we wave to one another… acknowledging, for a brief moment a common struggle. I feel embarrassed and unworthy to be among them. Our fatigue and frustration is for just for a few hours….their tortuous journey to carry bread, pales our jolly jaunt into pathetic insignificance. I have so much respect for these workers, who have to wrestle these overloaded battle weary trucks daily, over these terrible road conditions…Not only are they drivers, but are also improvised mechanics and tyre repairers…You’ll see them resting in the shade of large trees, drinking overheated water. Their trucks have red number plates and they’re usually travelling from Burkina Faso …or they are returning from the port in Dakar….the load must arrive and it will! …Slowly but surely. We decide to stop and stretch our legs. The driver of passing truck flashes his lights and raises a thumb…”everything all right?”.he asks. “Yes, thanks..everything is ok!”… we move on..

Koungheul – 21-22-23-24 dec 2007

We stop in Koungheul for a few days. Not far from here, we’ll visit an historic site with mysterious monoliths. The weather is torrid (we are told that the hottest season is actually another one!) and only in the morning the climate is chiller.
We are guests of Father Joseph, Father André (both from Senegal) and Father Pier Francesco’s mission (form Palermo).
In the same city there are a primary school and two medical aids manage by Franciscan missionaries. We leave some financial support.

Christmas Day

This is our Christmas: we spend Christmas Eve at the mission. In the tradition of the Wolof people, Mass, is celebrated during the night. The choir, accompanied by drums, is exceptional.
A fond farewell to the nuns who surprise us with a splendid midnight table…and one to father Joseph, who welcomed us with warmth and enthusiasm.
It is the morning of the 25th and we leave towards Tambacounda. That evening, we have dinner in Hotel Ninki Nanka’s garden: Panettone with Greacle, Block de Patè, Cheese Jam by Rubiani (a friend) and Gazelle beer.
Hotel Ninki Nanka. GPS N°13 45,830’ W13° 40,00’ This hotel allows camping on the roof and in the garden. It is new, clean and managed by a French and his Senegalese partner.

Kidira Boarder Senegal-Mali - 26 Dec 2007

From Tamba we travel on a very well asphalted road and reach the boarder. Custom checks are quick and painless. What a difference if we compare this one to the entrance into Mauritania! Policemen and custom officers polite and swift.
On exiting, we were only subjected to two controls: passport by the police officer and Carnet de Passage by Customs.

Our Impressions

Senegal is a country with distinct characteristics. For example, the colonial coastal area, associated with the advent of airmail, flying postmen and their pioneering past, contrary to the sorrowful history of the slave’s island. On the delta of the Sine and Saloum rivers with their surrounding scenery and particular birds, your first impressions can mislead you into thinking that this coastal area is how things are, but, this is just one side of Senegal. By sharp contrast, everything changes inland. Suddenly, the land becomes arid and dry. There are carts drawn by donkeys or small horses which offer the most luxurious means of transport.

Terrible roads, sweltering heat, mosquitoes, and the night-time bandits…..
People are warm and friendly on both the coast and inland…Some ethnic groups like the Peul are remarkable…Everyone is eager to greet you and shake your hand .
It is a pity, that it seems everyone here, is always after your money by one way or another, or is trying to sell you something. There are some people who adopt the direct approach. They simply come right out with it and ask you to give them some money…and then there are those who try, over a few days to gain your trust before asking you. A sad consequence of this, is that you can become suspicious of anyone, who might simply want to help you, say hello or give you information. It can all seem a little intense. This is a common observation, and not just by foreign travellers but is also confirmed by many who live here.

Policemen and Gendarme are, usually, polite. This is in contrast to the northern area along the boarder with Mauritania and on the coast to Dakar, where, unfortunately, corruption and the continuous excuses to obtain money from foreign drivers (including lorry drivers) is evident.

Everywhere in Senegal, all baobabs trees are cherished and treasured, big or small, blossoming like the ones during this dry season or not.

Sign posts, curiosity and beer