Dakar – moving on

Penultimate full day in Dakar before catching the ferry Tuesday evening for the overnight sailing to Zinguinchor and on to Kafoutine for a few days.

Its been an interesting few days – Dakar is in your face. There is constant noise, be it taxis, the blaring loadspeakers on roadside stalls reciting verses from the Koran, or just the sheer volume of people. In the evening in my room, I can hear a constant hubbub of people and its rarely quiet before midnite.

A thick skin is a prerequisite for a foreigner in these parts, but a smile and good humour will see you through.

Even with my lack French, I’ve coped – the only time I’ve had anyone blatently refuse to comprehend was today in the Post Office. She was not going to understand my request for stamps, even though my request was perfectly ok (in both French and English – which she spoke). Resorted to the use of fingers lol, much to the amusement of the locals.

Dakar, like many places in Africa will have a stall selling everything and anything- paws, claws and jaws, to that part for your vintage car! However, “le papiere de toilet” is a different matter – thankfully Kleenex tissues saves the day!

Saturday evening/Sunday morning – I managed to catch the respected Senegalese musician Pape Cheikh in concert at the popular Just4U restaurant/niteclub. Dakar nite life starts late, with the gig kicking off at 01:00 and finishing just before 04:00, the group playing solid with no breaks – great evening.

Sunday –  after a late start, off to Isle Goree, the former slave island just off the coast from Dakar. The island played a small part in the slave trade before its abolition.

The weather has been good, although less hot than expected. Typical day time temperatures are in the mid to upper 20’s. It’s noticeably chilly in the evening with the need for extra layers.

I hope to be able to add an update once I arrive in Kafoutine.


Dakar, Sénégal

Settled in with family in HLM, in Dakar and will remain here until next Tuesday when I take the overnite ferry south to Cassamance and up to Kafoutine to stay with Kath at The Kora School for a few nites.

The trip north from Banjul in The Gambia was a bit hairy… took some 14 hours, starting with ferry from Banjul to Barra, then an hours drive to Sénégal border and transit Gambian &Senegalese customs & immigration.

Then the inévitable wait for the Sept Place to fill. Eventually off at 16:00 for a 6 hour drive to Dakar (240km). Roads a mix of good pavé but too often resorted to dirt track in preference to potholes – more a case of potholes joined by strips of tarmac! 

Sunset at 19:00 and not even half way…rule is to avoid travel at nite, still no choice as driver races lorries in dark to get around potholes. After an eternity approched Dakar, by this time extremely concerned as hadn’t been able to contact my host Beya. Eventually through calls to UK made contact.

Arrving at Pompier garage at 22:30 was a bit scary, especially as Beya wasnt contact able. Luckily driver helped and got it sorted.

Have received amazing hospitality from extended family who have made me very welcome. Despite my rubbish French, getting by.

Dakar is the home of the yellow taxi – its noisey, chaotic, smelly, dirty but fun at the same time. If you can accept all th shortcomings, you’ll enjoy the experience.

Last nite was a chance to savour some of the nite life…summed up nicely by a sign at the entrance – Entry Free, Consummation Obligatory! 

Enough said. 


En route to Dakar

Shaun has now started on his next leg to Dakar. He called earlier, very excited as he had just ridden pillion on a motorbike with his very large rucksack, camera bag and no doubt not having a free hand to hang on with! He was just about to get on a ferry and was looking forward to another hair raising bike ride on the other side (not). He is clearly having the time of his life… so jealous!

The Gambia

Monday 20th January 2014

Two days in Banjul before heading north to Dakar.

Luckily managed to secure a room with a family on arrival, with Ismaila acting as a guide for the duration. Good start as its ly intention to avoid hotels where possible.

Tuesday started with trip to Senagalese consolate for visa. Despite pre registration on line, still needed more formalities…biometrics &another photo. Collected late afternoon, I arrived late, but just managed to get passport back! The biometrics are in sharp contrast to the procedure at the border the following day when the details were hand written into scruffy ledgers!

Spent rest of day travelling around and had the great luck of meeting the fabulous kora player Sona Jobarteh and her son Sidique. Sona hails from a griot and is unique in being the first female player of the kora.

Banjul – arrival

Shaun has arrived safely in Banjul after a good flight and into hot and sunny weather, certainly a welcome break from the rain back at home.

He has managed to find accommodation with a local family and in true vagabond style, now shares a room with Ishmail and is sleeping on a very thin mattress directly on a concrete floor! He is managing to keep the mosquitoes at bay for the time being.

Ishmail has proved invaluable and has shown Shaun around, helping him with the visas and introducing him to Sona Jobarteh… Shaun met Sona in London and i can imagine he was a little ‘star struck’ as he sat having lunch with her at her family home.

An excellent start to an amazing adventure!

Shaun has arrived in Banjul!

20th January and Shaun lands safely in Banjul. Apparently it’s hot and sunny!. He has managed to find accommodation with a local family and in true vagabonding style is sleeping in a small room on a very thin mattress directly on a concrete floor, he also has the pleasure of sharing this with a local lad called Ishmail!
Ishmail has proved invaluable however and has helped Shaun get the visas he needs and also arranged for him to meet Sona Jobarteh… Shaun met Sona in England and was no doubt slightly ‘star struck’ as he sat and had some lunch with her.
Great start to an amazing adventure

Welcome to a Vagabonder’s Tale

Welcome to Vagabonding Africa.

An occasional blog for family, friends and other interested individuals as I travel through the nether regions of West Africa.

My trip starts on 20 January 2014 with a one way ticket to Gambia (my birthday present to myself), continuing onto Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and onto Cote d’Ivoire – or at least that’s the plan! From Cote d’Ivoire, I have the choice of turning left and continuing up to Burkina Faso and through Mali back to The Gambia, or continue on into Ghana…time and money will most likely dictate.

This trip follows up on my child hood dream of going to Timbuktu which I achieved in 2005. That trip was inspired by Richard Haliburton’s book “The Flying Carpet ~ The Record of a Great Adventure”. A truly memorable trip, flying to Bamako (the capital of Mali) and then by a creaking Russian plane onto Timbuktu where I spent a memorable few days. From there I traveled up the river Niger by pinasse to Mopti, Djenne, Segou and back to Bamako. On the river trip, I also stayed in Niafunke in the hotel of the legendary Malian musician Ali Farka Touré (died March 2006). Unfortunately he was away at the time…

I’ve had itchy feet for several years now and have been attempting to get back to West Africa. After a couple of false starts (due to life/work), I’m finally on my way again…but this time I’m going vagabonding and have no real timetable or itinerary.

The trip will be done as basically as is practicable, staying in local accommodation rather than hotels. Travel will be by public transport where feasible – I was hoping to be able to take the train from Dakar in Senegal to Bamako in Mali, but the latest news if that these have stopped running. The train from Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso is currently running though.

Shaun Walbridge