19 September 2012

Vacation in Senegal

I just got back from a two week vacation in Senegal. It was a badly needed vacation so that I could relax eat anything my heart desired. I met my friend from college, Clint, and we stayed at fancy hotel in the heart of Dakar. It was right on the coast, with an amazing breakfast buffet, and a gorgeous pool where you could sun tan and hear the waves crashing.
We took a few days to relax and met up with some PCVs in the city. There are a surprising number of volunteers posted in Senegal’s capital. They helped us figure out how to navigate the city and pointed us to important places to go during our trip. One day we went to Ile de N’gor, which is a really touristy island off the north part of the Dakar peninsula. We took a motored pirogue across the short span of water and relaxed there for the day. Another day we hit up the high class mall and went bowling! I never thought I would be able to do any of that in Africa, but it was awesome!

After that we travelled to Thi├Ęs (pronounced ‘chess’) where the PC has their training site. It was very interesting to see how different countries organize training. There we met up with a connection through my Mom and drove up to Saint Louis together. Saint Louis is a cute French colonial town on the border with Mauritania, the Senegal river, and the Atlantic ocean.
In St. Louis we stayed with some PCVs and enjoyed some beautiful sunsets!
When we got back to Dakar, Clint and I decided to tackle the market area. Probably not the best idea, it was an experience. It was during this time that I became very thankful that Cameroon is not a regular tourist destination. It was completely normal to be approached and even when you said clearly in French and English that you were not interested, they continued to follow you and talk, talk, talk. Anyway, we had ice cream that day and I found some cute souvenirs, so all was not lost.

The next day we took a large ferry boat to the infamous Ile de Goree, which was an old slave port. The island was equally touristy. You started with an eerie feeling visiting all these old colonial slavery buildings, but then were quickly shocked out of it due to all of the people trying to sell you jewellery.
Then before the vacation was completely over I remembered that I wanted to go SCUBA diving. We found this really cute dive shop/eco-tourism house right on the water and close to the hotel. I almost forgot how much I enjoy diving. I need to make a point to do it more. I saw some pretty cool things underwater: a star fish as big as my foot, barracuda-type fish, and then a really big long fish that would crawl out from the rocks when we would pass and cry out to scare us away.
The next day we rented kayaks from the same place and kayaked 3.5 miles away to the beautiful Iles de la madeleine. It was a lot farther than it looked and we contemplated turning around a few times before we actually got there. This island is totally uninhabited with no structures on it. A nice contrast to all the built up tourism found everywhere else. Luckily coming back was a lot easier than going to the island or we might have been stuck there. The next few days our shoulders and arms were pretty sore.
We ended the trip by simply relaxing at the pool. One night we went for the best Thai food I have ever had. Another night we went to see a former PCV perform with his Senegalese band “the baraca nomads.” All in all it was an amazing vacation. It is leaving me well relaxed and ready to take on the next 4 months in Cameroon.