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!
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!
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.
Posted in Planning
Tagged casamance, couchsurfing, cycling, dakar, gambia, goat, mali, map, planning, route, senegal, tabaski, visa, west africa
Latest summary stats look like this…
Kilometers cycled- 1278 (794 miles)
Tajines gobbled- 6
Moroccan roundbreads consumed- 23
Shouts of ‘good luck’ from strangers- 43 (inclu one ‘don’t give up’, at the most perfect time of need!)
Our path from Rabat has brought us to face more Moroccan hospitality. Arriving in Mohameddia (about 60 km from Rabat) we stayed in the home of Houda, a dynamic young city worker who offered us cold beers, a cosy bed and philosophical debate. Leaving the comforts of Houdas house was tough and was made harder by the heavy downpours and strong winds that darkened our moods and the sky on route to Casa Blanca.
Wet and splattered with road muck we looked bedraggled pedalling against the grey. We also failed to react to the warning of a large group of pedestrians who waved madly at us and pointed. As we pedalled past, gorping in their direction we disappeared into a pond that had formed on the road. Even we managed a bit of a grin as our shoes filled up with a couple of pints of water.
We’re beginning to feel like full-fledged Moroccan cyclists with superman-style vision for spotting potholes and crazy overtaking. But it has only taken a little adjustment to warm to the highway code here and we are beginning to really enjoy the rules of the road. Drivers give us space, sometimes its not as much space as we’d like but they are pretty generous with the road and seem to take obvious extra care when they see we are tourers. We have become used to faces leaning from windows and yelling to us ‘good luck’ or ‘safe trip’, the friendly cheers seem to come at the best of times, mid-way up a hill etc.
Yesterday we stopped in the small coastal village of Meddouza with the hope of finding lunch. As we leaned our bikes against each other and looked around us in disappointment at the lack of eateries we heard a friendly voice shouting ‘Need anything?’. Wondering over to the smiling man we ask if he knew of somewhere to eat, he offered us another big smile and said simple ‘Here of course, I’ve just made lunch!’. The invitation could not have come at a better time; delicious fish cakes made from freshly caught sardines seasoned with cumin, garlic and coriander complimented beautifully with a vegetable tajine. Naturally served with the quintisensual homemade roundbreads, doughey and warm.
M’hammed entertained us beautifully with stories of his four wives and countless children and grandchildren, we were even lucky enough to hear a song after lunch. In appreciation for his generosity we asked what we could offer him, ‘a song’ he replied. We played him and tune, said our goodbyes and got back onto the road, well fed and happy.
That road led us to Safi, the main fishing port of Morocco’s sardine industry and a waypoint between El Jadida and Essaouira. The city is bustling with the life of the port and the food reflects the citys close relationship with the ocean, the smokey air is thick with the smell of mouth watering fish tajines and brochettes slowly cooked over hot charcoals. Given this and the sweet taste of the 10 pence Sfenj (freshly fried doughnut style fritters they make on the streets here), it’s hardly surprising that we have taken a day off cycling to enjoy the city. Tomorrow we will make our way towards Essaouira (also known as the ‘windy city’ here), but so far this coastal path has hit us with strong winds that cripple our progress, so it is likely we will wildcamp before we reach an auberge. Time to attach the guy ropes we think.
Posted in Cycling
Tagged brochette, casa blanca, couchsurfing, essaouria, fish, hospitality, lunch, morocco, oualidia, rain, safi, sfenj, song, tajine, wind, windy city