Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ceci n’est pas une poubelle

It is soaring hot when we leave the Senegalese capital. The sun is burning on our helmets while we work ourselves through the traffic chaos of the suburbs, southwards into the delta of the Sine and Saloum rivers. The tracks4africa GPS maps are very basic in Senegal, so we have to rely on our 1/4.000.000 Michelin 741 map and the help of friendly locals to find the small dirtroads leading further south. In Joal-Fadiout we leave the tarred road in search for Ndangane or Palmarin, whichever will prove easiest to find. Just after the village, we pass some extensively signposted mangrove rehabilitation projects that are so badly littered that they remind us of René Magritte (ceci n’est pas une poubelle!). 

We find a nice camping spot in the garden of a hostel and take the bikes for a nightly ride to the fishing village of Djiffer, “land’s end” between the Saloum estuary and the Atlantic. Children and youngsters flock together and direct us to the local diner. We are being served rice with bits of dried fish. The Senegalese eat more fish than meat, but most people can only afford the smelly and funny looking dried fish that line the streets of any fishing village.

At first relaxing, the constant waxing and waning sound of the ocean’s waves and the lingering heat of the day keep me awake all night long. Nicolaas goes for an early morning run along the beach and through the swamps and the neighboring village, while I try to catch some more sleep. By the time we’re mounting our luggage temperatures are already raising. Clothes, bags, windscreen, everything is sticky from the ocean’s breeze. The soil in the regularly flooding plains is very salty, and droughts have exacerbated this in recent decennia. I cannot help thinking of our Tenere’s reputed (Italian) corrosion sensitivity.

We go back north, upstream around the delta, and reach Foundioung in time for the 3 o’clock ferry. On the southbank the tarmac is slowly decaying and turning into a bumpy gravel track. Failing infrastructure symptomatic of a failing government?

The Keur Bamboung campsite proves to be a gem amongst ecotourism projects. The location on an island towering over a mangrove reserve is magnificent. Our arrival by motorized pirogue at sundown, the grilled oysters for dinner, the basic but charming cabins, the guided walk through the mangroves at low tide (up to knee deep in the water, ankle deep in the mud, trying to avoid stepping on a crab), the canoe trip through mangrove-lined channels and tunnels and last but not least the wonderful swim in the slightly salty (estuary) water… it is a dream come true. Project leader Jean tells us enthusiastically about how the surrounding villages are taking part in the maintenance of the reserve and rehabilitation of mangroves elsewhere, cleverly understanding that the mangroves are a rich source of young fish (for more information on this great project, see And being a biker himself, Jean offers us an even warmer welcome...

For more pics, see album "Ceci n'est pas une poubelle".


  1. Isabèèèèèl... maak 't de mensen eens gemakkelijker en maak hier en daar eens een paragraaf... dat leest net iets vlotter... (enfin, dit is kritiek vooraf, ik heb 't nog niet gelezen... misschien leest 't als een sneltrein en was deze opmerking onterecht... :D finaal verdict volgt later... :P )

  2. klein detail... ik zal er niet over struikelen omdat uw verhaal zo beklijvend mooi geschreven is... maar R. Magritte's meesterwerk is genaamd: ceci n'est pas une pipe ;)

    Ik wacht vol spanning op de foto's... hoewel ge heel kleurrijk kunt vertellen :D

    dikke kus!

  3. Even een rechtzetting, natuurlijk ken ik het schilderij... de foto maakt misschien iets duidelijk: allusie op het surreële van dat bord bij een vuilnisbelt dat zegt dat dit een natuurgebied is... toch bedankt voor de tip :)