Sunday, 27 February 2011

Music in Ngaule

From the beautiful town of Podor at the Senegal River, a bicycle ride took me to the fishing village of Ngaule.
Houses in Ngaule village.

Fishing boat in Ngaule.

There's a lot of music being played in this area and Ngaule is famous as the home of the well known musician Baaba Maal. While I was staying with some nice people in a small mudbuilt house, one of them, Borgo Sarr, played this beautiful music:

Monday, 21 February 2011

A really special traveller

A few weeks ago, Martin Naef travelled here in the region. He took pretty much the same route through the Sahara as I (travelled east on the other side of the Senegal River though). Right now, he's in the Congo helping to get a university for blind students off the ground. Martin is blind himself. A great inspiration for me to read what he's writing about his trip (and the other things he's written, on his homepage). His homepage and the section about his trip in Africa are in German and there's an interesting section about his life in English, too. Worthwile reading!!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Richard Toll

The first town in Senegal where I stopped was Richard Toll. Richard was a French colonial official who had a garden ("Toll' in the local language, Wolof) here, hence the name. My intention was to spend one night here and then continue to the next town along the river, Podor, but then I met Bakary. He works as a taxi driver in Richard Toll and I immediately liked him. He introduced me to his friends Sila and Mamadou with whom I've been spending most of my time in the last week. Our favorite place is in the shade of a tree near the Folie de Roger, an old colonial mansion which is one of the few tourist attractions of Richard Toll.

Friends in Richard Toll

Not many tourists find their way to Richard Toll; however, two groups of tourists have been arriving each week since a ship cruise along the river has been started a few years ago. My friends try to sell them souvenirs like musical instruments and selfmade jewellery and are thinking about opening a small tea stall.

Tourists at the Folie de Roger in Richard Toll

I find the gardens behind the gardens behind the Folie de Roger even more interesting than the old building. Inspired by the vast garden area there and the beautiful garden that Michelle, an American Peace Corps Volunteer, keeps near the hospital, Sila, Mamadou and I have started to cultivate a garden plot that Sila has left unused for several years. Today, we might plant lemon grass and beans around the maniok that is already there.

Vegetable garden behind the Folie de Roger in Richard Toll

Leaving Mauritania

Rosso Mauritania, the border town on the northern side of the Senegal River, has a rather bad reputation. It did therefore not come as a surprise when I saw several guys jogging behind the car as soon as they saw me on board the shared taxi. Immediately when I got off the car, I was surrounded by hustlers pulling at my clothes and my backpack and shouting at me. Everybody wanted to change my money, show me the border or sell me something. It was quite overwhelming. After a long 15 minutes, with only the two most persistent "guides" on my heels, I found a shopowner who looked trustworthy and who gave me a good exchange rate. He was really nice, offered me a cold drink after the transaction and asked me to take a rest in his shop. When I stepped out into the street after some time, the atmosphere had changed completely. The hectic, bustling and chaotic town had transformed into a quiet, peaceful place. I was stunned. I had already braced myself for a tough walk to the border gate but was now walking undisturbed along lines of people who prepared themselves for prayer. It was early Friday afternoon, time for the most important prayer of the week. People prayed in the open on roofs, between vegetable stands in the main market and in front of the border gate. Also the border guards were praying so I sat down in the shade and enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere. Even after the prayer was finished this atmosphere persisted and I was admitted through the gate to see the Senegal River. Half an hour later, I crossed the river on a wooden boat to enter Senegal.

Looking across the Senegal River from Richard Toll, Senegal at the Mauritanian side

Through the desert

On the way from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott in Mauretania

I decided to cross the Sahara rather quickly this time. The most important reason was that I'm really looking forward to getting into tropical regions. Nevertheless, it was impressive in the desert. The landscape kept changing from plateau mountains to sand dunes to grassland. I was surprised about how many plants I saw, most probably due to some rain that had fallen in the previous weeks.

At the ship cemetery in Nouadhibou