Tag Archives: casamance

It’s a nomad’s life…

You would think that the potholes, wasps stings and bazooka bearing military men would be enough to put us off Casamance but we can’t think of a more beautiful route.

A typical roadside view

Casamance is alive. The fresh air hums with the sound of colourful birdsong and the crickets buzz all day long. The region really is breathtakingly beautiful and we both struggle to avoid hitting the enormous potholes as we gaze out towards the rice fields or catch sight of an amazing bird.

From the road to Ziguinchor onwards the route became much tougher, it’s as though the Senegalese government has forgotten this place. Whilst the Dakar area enjoys newly surfaced roads, the people of Casamance struggle to travel a meagre 30 kilometers to the next village. Cars cannot pass these roads, it’s only the bush taxis and an occasional four-wheel drive that dare tread on the broken tarmac and dusty sand pistes.

Another beautiful roadside view

With a little guilt we have to admit that we benefit from this lack of transportation in the region. With the cars scared away by the difficult conditions, our main encounters are with other cyclists, large groups of school bound children and groups of women travelling to the rice fields. The normal hazards of cycling alongside traffic have faded into the distance and our brakes now respond to the unpredictable crossing of goats, cattle and donkeys.

One of the many rice fields

As we cycle towards the border with Mali we find ourselves reflecting upon the strange life we are living here. Eating and sleeping wherever the road takes us, filtering cool well water at regular stops and relying on solar power for all our electrical needs. Wherever we go we feel the same sense of self-sustainability through cycling. It’s an independent existence we are living, one that tastes of a pretty sweet freedom. It’s a nomad’s life.

100 km into the day, Mikaela finds a restful cycling position
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Sounds from Ziguinchor…

After our extended stay with Jaliba Kuyateh we planned to whizz through Ziguinchor to try to reach Mali sooner. But the music of Ziguinchor kept us and we found ourselves staying much longer than planned! Because of some camera issues we couldn’t take any photos, but we feel the sound recordings will do justice to our time there.

Meeting with Sadio Cissokho, a well-reputed kora player, was humbling, his kora playing is simply beautiful, but considering the musical nature of his family it’s no surprise. The family household is busy with the movements of its resident kora players and the young boys are all learning.

Sadio first played us ‘Maké’ a traditional song about the first king of Suni. Mikaela was keen to learn her first Mandinke song…

The tuning of Maké worked well with a lot of songs we knew and we didn’t want to make Sadio retune his 22-stringed instrument so we went straight into “Jonny was a shoemaker”.

Before making Sadio change tuning, we played another folk song, ‘Seven Little Gypsies’.

Finally Sadio retuned and I set my guitar up for lap slide, and we played on of his own pieces, ‘Nion saba’.

We left the city feeling inspired and with the beginnings of a music project that will bring together folk songs from home with the beautiful sound of Mande music.

Dakar, decisions and the new route…

Time for a brief update from Dakar…

Days since we left the UK- 60
Days when Mikaela has declared she wants to go home- 7 (becoming less common)
Soaps used- 8
Cheese triangles eaten- creeping up to a shameful 100
Offers to buy our bicycles- 35
Advice that we drive next time- 20+
Punctures- Mikaela 1 / Imran 0
Snakes spotted- 4
Living snakes spotted- 0 (thankfully)
Monkeys in road- 18

Our visas for Mali begin on December 5th, thus we have decided to change our route in Senegal. Originally we planned on a quick sprint through the region following the course of the Mauritanian border, but at the border, realising we had more time than planned we changed our minds deciding instead to head to Dakar, through The Gambia and into Casamance where the scenery and culture is known for its vibrancy.

Keen to get back on the road we are now waiting in Dakar for the Tabaski festival to pass us by. Tabaski is a festival of sacrifice, here in West Africa that sacrifice means a kind of goat apocolypse. Everywhere goats are being transported to various destinations where they will serve to feed families as they celebrate this important festival (more commonly known as Eid al-Adha). As a result of this celebration all shops and services close for several days making it a bad time for us to be on the road. The decision to stay in Dakar has not been difficult given the incentive of large quantities of food and mass festivities!

Nearing Tabaski

Currently we are staying between two houses, one belonging to some very hospitable couchsurfers from Tunisia who are studying in Dakar and the other is of Dialimady, the brother of a kora player and friend in London. Dialimady offered the roof to his shared house which given the sweaty night temperatures has brought us some very cool and starry nights!

Dialimady's house

Over the next few days we will celebrate Tabaski before getting back on the road and heading towards the border with the Gambia where we are told the landscape will become greener, the people even more hospitable and musicians abundant.