Country 150 – I never imagined myself visiting 150 UN countries, but I finally did it! Now, I only have 45 more to go. Wow, that is a big number and the countries become more and more difficult. Anyhow, I wanted to take a picture of myself with a big 150 in the background, but that has not been easy traveling through Africa.
I hope you enjoy my blog on Senegal.
St. Louis, Senegal
I got in from Mauritania that afternoon and waited for my couchsurfing host Ibrahima at the Flamingo Bar. The bar had decent wifi, a nice pool, expensive meals, and I drank my $2 USD diet coke as I waited for him. He came about 30 minutes later and we went to his neighborhood.
I realized why Ibrahima never told me to come directly to his neighborhood, since it would have been impossible for me to find and there were no addresses (I think). The taxi dropped us off near his area as we passed an entire stream full of garbage. It reminded me of Haiti, almost as dirty as Cap Haitien.
I entered his modest house, which was a small compound with three huts. There were lots of kids from the neighborhood hanging out there and I met Ibrahima’s sister, parents, and cousins.
I dropped my bags in Ibrahima’s hut, which had nothing in there except a thin carpet on the ground and a mosquito net.
We went towards the old town to do some sightseeing. St Louis was a city in Senegal that used to be the former capital of the French in Africa. We walked around the old town together and below were the main points of interests:
- St. Louis Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site – lots of restaurants, hotels, cafes, and more
- Hotel de la Poste – a famous hotel just as you cross the river
- Pont Faidherbe (a bridge)
- Fisherman’s Island – cross the second bridge from St. Louis Island to get there. I do not recommend walking around there without a local
- Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary for bird watching – I did not go there, but heard it was great for bird watching – obviously if you are into birds
Most of the old buildings were on Ndar Island, a piece of land in the middle of the river. The island was small, only about one kilometer in length and 200 meters wide. We walked from one tip to the other without any problems and took us roughly 15 minutes.
After our walk, we went back to his compound and his mother cooked dinner for us. Dinner was a bowl of couscous/rice with some protein and we (eight or nine of us) all shared it together. I had a spoon, but half the people were eating with their right hand. You don’t want to eat with your left, since that hand was used for other things.
The stay at Ibrahima’s place was interesting and I experienced the Senegalese way of living. It was difficult for me to live like a Senegalese, since I was born and raised in the first world, but I felt really bad seeing their living conditions. Despite having almost nothing, they were relatively happy. All the kids always had a smile on their faces and they wanted to play. I felt lucky that I was raised in a first world country with a good education and I have everything that I can imagine, while there are some people in the world that have nothing. At the compound, they had one toilet shared by ten and there was no running water. The toilet was literally a hole in the ground and I did not dare to smell. You can probably imagine what that was like and hundreds of flies and bugs that flew around. In order to take a shower, I had to fill up a bucket and use that to wash myself in a separate shed. They all drank water from the water faucet, since they have no other choice, but I did not dare drinking from that.
It may be easy to feel sorry for them, but when I experienced this for one night and two days first hand, it was difficult and sad. Sometimes, life is so unfair and we should thank for what we have.
Traveling to Dakar from St. Louis
The next day, Ibrahima took me around town again and after lunch, I was ready to go to Dakar. He arranged a special door to door taxi for 10,000 Franc, which was supposed to take only four hours, but it ended up taking six. This was Africa. I got used to that phrase, since whenever something went wrong, people blurted that out.
The other option is to take a shared taxi. In such case, there is a Sept place to Dakar for 5000F and 1000F for each luggage. The journey takes roughly four hours to the bus station in Dakar called Gare Routiere Beaux Maraichers about five kilometers outside of Dakar. You will have to negotiate a taxi to get to your final destination and it will cost anywhere from 2000 to 5000F. You may want to ask around how much it costs to your destination. I went from Dakar to the Gare Routiere on a separate occasion and it cost me 2500F for a 25-minute ride. You have to negotiate well since the taxi drivers will quote outrageous prices based on your skin color.
· Currency – West Africa Francs (it can be used in several other countries in West Africa).
· Money Exchange – I changed money at the exchange places and the rate was around 650F for 1 Euro. There were plenty of ATM machines.
· Internet was available at most places in Senegal. Senegal was a very developed country for Africa.
· Language – There were numerous local languages, but I communicated in French. Most of the educated people speak French and the locals speak Wolf and Creole.
Where to stay
I stayed with my couchsurfing host in St. Louis and one night in a hostel in Dakar. The hostel (Dakar International House) was proper and very good for African standards.
Where to eat
There were plenty of restaurants available in Senegal. I did not try the street side food, but ate often at small local restaurants and kebab places. Fast food was very popular there. Most places had a lunch special for around 2500F. If eating out, you better budget anywhere from 2500 to 6000F.
- Brush up on your French before going there. English was not widely spoken.
- Traveling by local transportation takes a long time and it was not convenient. If getting on the sept place, the best seat is the front seat. You have to get there first or pay more to get the front seat. It will be well worth it. They always charge you extra for the backpack. Don’t fall for outrageous prices, since they will try (probably some foreigner just nodded and paid).
- Everything needs to be negotiated so try to get at least three or four quotes.
- A lot of kids will beg for money or people will come up to haggle, just ignore them or tell them that you don’t need their service.
- Drink bottled water and don’t even try the sink.
I visited in July 2017.