Friday, 10 June 2016

Oh Senegal

Look out behind!!
This year the IT conference was held in Dakar Senegal, you know the place where the Paris to Dakar rally used to finish. Unfortunately the route from Paris to Dakar has become a little too dangerous, so while the contest is still known as the Dakar, it has nothing to do with Senegal.

Because of the way working weeks work I left Muscat on the Saturday, giving me Sunday to Tuesday in Senegal before the conference began. Col Yahya and Lt Mohammad made similar decisions.

Senegalese Customs Post at The Gambia border
Check out the load

On Sunday Mohammad and I went to the Sandaga markets and the statue of the African Renaissance. Interesting.  Before leaving for Senegal Katrina told me to buy some of the locally wax dyed fabric, so I did.Mohammad decided that his wife would also like some fabric, so shopped as well.  After we'd finished shopping we continued through the market and that's where we got one of the interesting Senegal experiences.  A stall holder invited me in,  I said "No", he invited again and offered his business card, once again I said "No, I've finished shopping".  Welllllllllll that led to the guy following us down the main road of the market calling me (at the top of his voice) racist. I put up with that for a little while before rounding on him and giving him both barrels. After that he settled down and became quite chatty, accompanying us for a few hundred meters and being quite friendly. At the end he told Mohammad "your friend has a big personality". I think that by calling his marketting strategy he became curious and was just happy to chat. BJ, he bargained down for your Senegal cap!
Monday we made a trip up country to the Fathala Safari Park and a night of "glamping"

Statue of the African Renaissance, bigger than Lady Liberty and built under
guidance of North Korea, the view from inside the man's head is spectacular

A Baobab tree, by no means a big one!
Fathala was 250 kms from Dakar and so a chance to see how the majority of Senegalese lived. Intriguing and interesting.  Mohammad had arranged a driver for us, and as much as the driving was relatively easy I would not have chosen to drive
myself. Interesting to see that most Senegalese live  in thatch roofed houses and that money is probably not a real issue in most of their lives. Houses were inside walled enclosures, with thatched roofs providing weather protection. Didn't see any sign of electrical power, but everybody seemed to have a charged mobile phone.

Giraffe in hot pursuit of the safari vehicle


Monkeying around at the watering hole
Anyway, approaching mid afternoon we got to Fathala and ran into Nestor, a South American in Senegal for the same conference and went on the same safari around the wildlife park. Lots of animals, three of the big African big 5 in the park,  We loved it, Giraffe, Buffalo, and so on - see the pictures! The real treat was on Sunday morning when we went for a 40 minute walk with the Lions. Yes Lions, no fence, no safety net -  real to goodness LIONS!!!! Can I say AWESOMENESS
He's behind you
Going back to Dakar from the park was a bit "special". We left the park in plenty of time and made a 5km detour to the border with The Gambia. That was our mistake. First up we got stopped by Police, who insisted that our driver remove all of his window tinting - they may or may not have been trying to get a bribe from him. Then we went through to the border looked around and hit the road again.
Flighty little critters these

All of which meant that when we got to the ferry crossing we were queuing for the second ferry. No problem. Well when the ferry docked the Captain decided it was lunch time. So off he went to eat and everybody just kept on waiting, and waiting. When he eventually came back, he decided it was also time to refuel, which he did - with a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Sigh. So we continued waiting and waiting. Eventually all was well and we got going. All up we were waiting to take the 20 minute ferry ride for more than 3 hours.
Local transport

No comment needed
Ahh well, wasn't much of a hardship as there was a small market area at the landing, people selling mangoes, assorted other foodstuffs and locally grown cashews. It was a hive of activity. All the way to and from Dakar, wherever there was a town the road was lined with mango stalls. Stopping to buy some was an experience as the car was instantly swarmed by ladies, a few per window, all trying to attract attention to their mangoes and make that sale.
Mangoes anyone?

The rest of the week was spent in conference, until on the final morning the president of Senegal decided that he and his entourage were going to stay at the hotel, for some sort of regional African Government meeting. Private guards and police everywhere. Conference delegates with bookings kicked out of the hotel - one even to the local French naval base!

My favourite moment of that was while the foyer was shut down a European delegate, on being advised why the foyer was shut down said rather loudly "In my country we have a King, And He rides a bicycle!"

Anyway the conference went well, Col Yahya sat up front and gave his talk, I ended up being drafted in as an emergency facilitator at one of the workshops. Got to see a bunch of people I don't see very often and heard a lot of interesting talks and presentations. At the Gala dinner there was a performance by Senegal's biggest international artist, Yossou N'Dour who had the international hit 7 Seconds Away. It was fun, so much that I even got up and went to the dance floor! Don't panic though, coz I didn't dance. Thanks Senegal.

Friday afternoon was slated to be a tour to "Ille de Goree" a slave trading center. We all had to book to go during the conference. So I made it to the collection point on time, and was chatting with Lou (the American delegate). All of a sudden we were grabbed and told quick get onto this bus. So we did, it was the VIP bus,  Lou was at the front and I was down the back. To cut a long story short as the doors slammed I noticed that Lou had been removed from the bus and replaced by somebody else. That was the last I saw of Lou. Turns out there were many times the number of people than the available bus seats.
Ille de Goree - which apparently means safe harbour, and was a very active slave trade location.
We took off, under Police escort (an ambulance) to the port. Pulled in, everybody out was the call, so we did - oops sorry get back in, so we did. Drove around the port, stopped everybody out, so we did - oops get back in so we did, except that one of the busses had dumped and run. On we went to where we were supposed to board the boat. Then we waited while one bus went and retrieved the dumped contingent.

So finally a good hour and a half late we set off for Goree, which I found quite depressing. We were escorted around the island, by police, guess that meant "you can rip these tourists off but not too badly!"  I ended up buying "rather tasteful" shirts and pants for the boys. They may forgive me one day!

Ille De Goree was a slave trading center and has  a museum dedicated to the slave trade on it. People can be such pricks to each other.
At the Museum of the slave trade, which is in the main slave prison
In the end we got back to the hotel at 830 and all the people I had planned to dine with were long gone, having missed the bus and given up on the tour, I guess they went for dinner at a reasonable hour.

Early the next morning I flew out of Dakar, bound for Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and then Muscat. I landed in Addis at 9pm,  due to board for Muscat at 925. Sadly my flight had been cancelled. So after some argument with the Ethiopian transfer desk I was eventually checked into a hotel with meals. I had a free day in Addis and a 24 hour delay in getting home.  I could complain, but what's the point, another country to explore.

So I did and got to see "Lucy" the 3.4 million year old skeleton, and the last of the descendants of Emperor Haille Selasi's royal lions. And then it was time to go back to Muscat and the start of Ramadan.
I can guess why my flight was cancelled, may have had something to do with the fact that I had a bank of three seats to myself for the flight...........

So now its back to work, with catching up to do.
Emperor Haille Selassie's crown
Peek A Boo

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